The 6 God has come down from his high Toronto tower after being pushed in the dark by villain Pusha T. Like Batman after getting his back broken, the hometown hero had to retreat to lick his wounds and come back to the light to face the enemy that was Twitter timelines and his own crafted persona. Facing jokes and cracks about his personal life, meanwhile still putting out chart topping songs, Drake was already receiving mixed reviews. So on the night of June 29, the whole world stopped and waited to get a glimpse and flash behind the persona, and pressed play. With his back against the wall, fists up with his mic in hand, we can definitely say that Drake delivered…somewhat.
With four studio albums, six mixtapes (four being for sale), and two EPs, people were already wondering what Drake had left in the tank, even before all the controversy started. After it was over, they wanted to know if they were going to get an album they could clown or one that would finally solidify and justify him as the reigning king over the hip-hop mainstream. The only conclusion is that he succeeded at doing both. Almost in the same way that he succeeded at making one complete album that happened to be separated and scattered across two.
Like the hero he thinks himself as, Drake came back to tell his story of “Survival”. Using his bars to explain his story and anguish since his last project. He sounds paranoid, concerned, almost falsely confident but still giving the best performance that he can – even stopping mid bar in the cold environment of his self reflective comfort zone. After that, the persona which he has been crafting for many years comes into full effect. Floating on the production and being the menacing batman that scares away the competition on the charts. But it stops soon afterward when the mask comes off for a second to deliver one of the highlights in the album of “Emotionless”. Letting the light shine on what we expect of Drake in his personal life and even delivers the first album’s first reference to his child. The sample with Mariah Carey’s holy vocals in the back make way for him to deliver his gospel.
But once again, it was only a glimpse as the mask gets pulled back on. Even if he gets emotional again, like on later cuts of “Sandra’s Rose” or “Is There More”, it isn’t done with the same reverence and urgency. He gives us some hard bars but the real moment of almost sadness in his voice only exists on these tracks. The rest is rap bravado that has the catchiest of hooks and melodies. You want to sing along to them whether you like it or not. It’s one of Drake premier talents. Even if you want to hate him, after you hear a few songs on the radio, he’s already in your mind and looming over you at parties.
On side B, Drake gets less personal and instead we get Batman’s false identity. If the first disc is what you play when you think you’re saving the city in night time, then side B is what you’re playing when Bruce Wayne has arrived fashionably late to his own party. Two completely different sides to the man, the myth, and legend that happens to think his story is far from done.
All the songs are doing something different to the listener but they all find a way to pertain to women. They straddle the line of playboy, misogynist, gentleman, lover, and friend. Nothing is truly real but they all seem like familiar situations you’ve either been in or around. Some tracks romanticize and play off the current environment of Twitter on the mega hit that is “Nice for What”, while others are the exact antithesis to it in forms of “Summer Games” and “Final Fantasy”. All of them bordering on smooth talking with cocktails in hand, bedroom romance, melodies of self-torturing pain of love and hate, or drunken dialed horror. All of them fit within that category except one song – also the album’s real magnum opus.
“March 14th” is a true culmination of Drake’s personal family cuts all over the years. It’s a masterpiece of an album closer, but in it we hear Drake possibly the most vulnerable and tear-inducing he’s ever been. Each bar tells the story of him and the creation of his son. The one fear he might’ve had his whole career, no…his OWN life is playing out right in front of him – becoming what you were most afraid of. And unfortunately, because of his biggest arch nemesis, the world gets to see it all playout in front of him. He can’t take it back. The emperor has no clothes. Subjected for the laughs and you can’t be in on it, because you are the joke. “Emotionless” is a gem, truly, but this is the diamond buried in the rough. We also realize why it might be the closer to side B over A. To do so, you gotta play side B first and then Side A.
Ironically and self consciously, as we know Drake to be, side B is the reason we get this song and the reason we get side A. If you want the real story, you’re gonna need the backstory. It’s the consequence of his actions. It’s his tower crumbling down and with it we see his two personas merging. Finally Batman and Bruce Wayne, don’t have to live on opposite sides of the earth. He doesn’t have to please everyone anymore. He’s been doing it for 10 years. After this, we can only assume Drake does one of two things. Either he continues along trying to be the two different people we were taught to see but are now exposed, or he comes out as the new artist that finally lets us have him in all totality. Hopefully next time it’ll be shorter, more concise, and quite possibly an 8 out of 10.