Over the past few days, as I’ve been mentally digesting “Her Loss”, a collaborative album between Aubrey Drake Graham and 21 Savage (born Shéyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph), one phrase has kept repeating itself over and over and over again in my head: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!
As you might have guessed, those words aren’t Drake lyrics. In fact, those words are over 200 years old — but they’re timeless. Because even today, men make the mistake of failing to realize that conceit coupled with an unwillingness to change is almost always ruinous.
Entitled “Her Loss,” many had high hopes for a collaborative album between a pair of rappers who, despite stylistic differences, have a history of complimenting each other well.
21 Savage is known for performing in a monotonous deadpan — you can almost always imagine that whatever he’s rapping, he recorded with a completely straight face. Within the rap genre, 21 Savage is frequently categorized as a trap and gangsta rap artist. For Drake, on the other hand, there’s a long-standing debate as to whether or not he’s a rapper at all. He’s known, almost infamously, for being emotional. He sings and occasionally he raps, and the topic is almost always women.
Despite their differences, the two have come together numerous times over the past five or six years to deliver hits. In June, 21 Savage was featured on “Jimmy Cooks,” the final song on Drake’s dancehall album, “Honestly, Nevermind.” The pair deliver pleasantly competitive verses on top of a Playa Fly (former Three 6 Mafia member) sample. Distinct in their own rights but perfectly balanced, it left you wanting more which is why a collaborative album between the two seemed like a natural progression.
Despite high hopes, the album falls woefully short. The project feels more Drake than it does 21 Savage. Everything — from the beats, the track titles and even some of 21 Savage’s own lyrics — felt like it was engineered to fit into Drake’s typical style of art rather than a presentation of something fresh and unified.
Drake got more play time. A quarter of the songs don’t even have 21 Savage listed as a secondary artist. And the singular song that 21 Savage performs on his own is entitled “3AM on Glenwood”— with five songs of his own sporting that same title format, everyone knows that time and location is a distinctly Drake way to title a song.
On “Hours in Silence,” Drake raps and 21 Savage sings the chorus. For an artist like 21 Savage, the singing — and even the lyrics he was singing (“You know that Savage love you”) felt wildly unnatural. To make matters worse, the production watered down 21 Savage’s laments, making it feel like you were listening to him from under water. That’s the essence of the whole collaboration — doing the most to make 21 Savage fit in places where he just doesn’t.
The album is not without its highs. “Spin Bout U ” stands out as a track where Drake and 21 Savage meet in the middle, offering verses on a topic where most rappers would have something to say: threatening violence against other men in the name of protecting a woman. On what felt like the most impressive track on the album, “Pussy & Millions,” Drake and 21 Savage are joined by Travis Scott. As a whole, though, the album is marred by songs that seem to have no real purpose. This coupled with sloppy sequencing and the lack of an overarching narrative in the project makes you feel like you’re listening to something disjointed. It’s an average album with a few outstanding tracks.
But perhaps the worst thing about this album is all the mess. It truly felt like everyone imaginable caught strays — the project was peppered with disses and subliminals. Some of them have put Drake in hot water. All of them were by and large, unnecessary.
Drake takes shots at Ice Spice, DRAM and even Alexis Ohanian, Reddit co-founder and husband to Serena Williams. Williams and Drake were rumored to have dated in 2015.
The most controversial slight came on “Circo Loco” where Drake inserts himself in an ongoing legal dispute between Canadian rapper Tory Lanez and Megan Thee Stallion. In a highly publicized incident, Lanez allegedly shot Megan Thee Stallion in the foot after the two were engaged in a dispute. Lanez has since been charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon, a charge he has pleaded not guilty to. Drake seems to imply that Megan is lying, saying “This b**** lie ‘bout getting shot but she still a stallion…”.
The line caused almost instantaneous backlash from people who see the bar as not only making light of a serious incident, but of yet another male rap artist tearing down a female colleague. Megan Thee Stallion was quick to respond on Twitter: “Since when tf is it cool to joke abt women getting shot!…Ready to boycott bout shoes and clothes but dog pile on a black woman when she say one of y’all homeboys abused her.”
Speaking of clothes, Drake once again on this album took an opportunity to diss longtime rival Ye West. Drake says, “Yeah, I got the stripes, but f*** Adidas.” This is a slight against West who, until very recently, had a very successful brand deal with the athletics company. It harkens back to Drake’s line on the 2018 Travis Scott track “Sicko Mode”, where Drake quips “checks over stripes,” one of a number of subliminals towards West.
Realizing that Drake had essentially made the exact same diss five years apart left me feeling like I had been watching an artist for years only to see them fail to grow — artistically or personally — in the slightest.
And when all is said and done, it boils down to one begging question: Will this man ever grow up?
For the last few projects, Drake has seemed disillusioned. He has seemed disingenuous. And above all else, he has seemed immature. Not in a cute and fun way, but in a way that makes you cringe when you Google his age — “He’s 36??”
When Drake dropped his sixth studio album “Certified Lover Boy” about a year ago, he was 35. Even then, there were a lot of questions about his seemingly perpetual state of arrested development. A year removed from that, he’s closer to 40 than he is 30. The immature subject matter, lack of substance and overall unseriousness is getting difficult to watch.
There’s no age limit on being a successful artist. No one is asking Drake to sit the game out on account of his age. But when you’ve reached an incomparable level of success in the way that he has, there is an expectation that you take the time to craft something important — a magnum opus, if you will.
At a similar age, Lil Wayne released “The Carter V” in 2018. While it was the fifth in a long series of albums, it was different in that it spoke to something deeper — specifically, how Lil Wayne wanted to be remembered. Last year, also at an age similar to Drake’s age now, J. Cole released “The Off Season.” Again, this album was different from J. Cole’s other projects in that it wasn’t highly political. He set aside people’s expectations for his music and created what some have called his best album this decade.
And Drake, despite massive streams and chart topping hits, has yet to release anything of significance — anything that has even the possibility of becoming a classic in over a decade. Yes, he’s massively successful. And yes, he’s amassed riches untold. But I’m afraid that if he doesn’t change something soon, we’ll be looking at a man with a ruined legacy. A man with nothing to show but old songs bragging of his riches and success — a crumbled likeness of all he had the potential to be.