A part from his more rap-centric LPs, this Dance era of Drake’s sound is ultimately more than meets the eye. Mainly reaching back into his Afrobeat bag found on previous offerings in “Passionfruit,” “Signs” and “One Dance” — which emulates the aura surrounding his new effort — the OVO head honcho’s singing truly takes centerstage on his seventh studio album. With a greater focus on his vocals and deferring his usual hip-hop/R&B vibe — aside from trading verses with 21 Savage on “Jimmy Cooks” — Drake might’ve just changed the game on a whim, opening a new musical pocket for hip-hop to tinker with.
Drake ushers in a new lane altogether with his surprise album — lacing his hypnotic, ear-worming voice through thumping 808s and glossy synths found in House production. While he isn’t the first to try this (i.e. Diddy and Guy Gerber’s 11 11 and Vince Staples’ Big Fish Theory), his pulse on the culture is undeniably influential — in turn sparking a new meta for music’s ever-changing landscape. Carefully captained by OVO sonic engineers in Noah “40” Shebib and Oliver El-Khatib (with help from acclaimed dance producers in Black Coffee, Alex Lustwig, Govi, Ry X, Carnage and others), Honestly, Nevermind isn’t the afterthought most people perceived upon first listen, because frankly, melodies have always been Drake’s strong suit.
While regarded for his pen and presence as a legendary rapper in his own right, remnants of Drizzy’s swoonly-sung debut mixtape So Far Gone ooze all over Honestly, Nevermind — not only showcasing his vocal finesse once more, but proving it never grows tiresome. Sure, some will write off Honestly, Nevermind because of its lack of depth and Drake’s inability to say anything profound. However at this stage of his career, he is purposely going against the grain to test the sonic waters of whatever he pleases — still reaping the rewards of Billboard praise (debuting at No. 1 with 204,000 first-week units) regardless of what his music sounds like.
For the simple fact that it’s Drake — the notorious sonic chameleon who’s trendsetting nature has laid the framework of the culture time and time again — is why Honestly, Nevermind demands your attention. Think to yourself, what would reactions be if J. Cole or Kendrick Lamar made this album? Would it be too jarring? Too much of a left turn? His pursuit to maintain relevancy, stay on top of trends and never pigeonhole himself to one sound has ultimately led him to a level of artistic freedom uncontested by his peers.
He doesn’t care that he’s not making rap albums because he’s making music for himself, despite neverending critiques and ceaseless backlash. In other words, Drake doesn’t care what you have to say because he doesn’t have to anymore. Public opinion isn’t dependent on his success; his greatest musical achievements are already behind him. It’s freeing knowing that Drizzy can do and make whatever he pleases, and he seems to know that too.
There are downsides to this, though, as Drake’s legacy remains in question for the ghost-writing debocle with Quentin Miller, using a handful of The Weeknd’s reference tracks for Take Care and is continually stamped with the proverbial “culture vulture” namesake. While he may not care of peoples’ perception of him, his footprint as one of hip-hop’s greatest emcees will forever hold an asterisk to some degree.
Nevertheless, fans need to accept that Drizzy’s discography is only getting more versatile — truly undefined by a specific artistic class. Honestly, Nevermind may not be the conscious lyrical exploit that fans wanted to hear, but still is a great album comparative to his recent work. “We want the old Drizzy back” disgruntled Twitter users lamented on the night of its release (June 17), when in reality, the “old Drake” will never be back. He isn’t what he once was or is going to be, as his unhinged evolution has led him to become a pure multihyphenate above all else. Music is interpretive, and gifting a slew of summertime vibes for years to come is what Drake interprets as the lane change he needed to make.
One of his most popular tracks “Hold On, Were Going Home” alluded to Drizzy’s direction on Honestly, Nevermind — leaning into the groovy, move-inducing synthwaves he’s dabbled in throughout his career. His “Lover Boy” persona shines through on cuts like “A Keeper,” “Currents” and “Flight’s Booked.” The way Drake uses his voice as a glue for the instrumental is captivating in itself, as “Sticky” is perhaps the most forward-thinking track on the entire record. Seeing Drizzy blend its constant kick drums with a barrage of bars, “Sticky” showcases Drake’s effortless flow over intricately airy synthesizers and trap hi-hats. It’s a blend that hasn’t been typically heard especially from a G.O.A.T. like Drake, who has gracefully developed into an uncanny pocket of his sonic repertoire.
Amid the initial perception surrounding Honestly, Nevermind, Drake knows that he’s ahead of the curve and everyone else is “just catching up.” The culture is shifting due to his impact, because if we’re being honest, Honestly, Nevermind is as inescapable as “Sticky” — stuck in your head without even trying.
As more artists expectedly attempt to rap over House waves in the weeks (and perhaps days) that follow, it won’t be a surprise to see everyone dancing the night away to Honestly, Nevermind for many summers to come.