There’s a long-lasting theory among some Drake critics that he doesn’t have that one “classic album” that music purists can sink their teeth into when talking about his career. Certified Lover Boy probably won’t satisfy the group looking for that level of acclaim. Especially if they don’t count mixtapes So Far Gone and If you’re Reading This It’s Too Late, which are indeed classics. Or if they aren’t open to considering Take Care and Nothing Was the Same, which both have arguments of their own towards the “classic album” debate.
Classic album ratings are so hard to configure in music, especially in hip-hop, where the rules are arguably the most stubborn of any genre. But the rules that are comparable exist within immediate praise or condemnation of projects without full listens or context. Not to mention the overall artist bias that can bring bad faith opinions or narratives.
It’s unclear how well CLB will age. No matter if you currently love or hate the album, it deserves its time to mature. And with the ongoing debate surrounding Kanye West’s new album Donda and the personal drama attached, it may take more time than usual to really make something of Drake’s latest project.
Music is subjective enough that no one can tell YOU how good or bad something is. Songs grow on you, they fade, but ultimately your ears, spirit, and experiences determine what you value and are drawn to most of the time. The point is, we’re not here to tell you how good CLB is, we want to leave some facts and let you decide from there. Besides, Drake deserves more than just a traditional review anyway.
So let’s get into some of the most important notes about Certified Lover Boy:
CLB followed the “Drake formula.”
Everyone has their own things you know them for when projects drop. With Drake, there are a few that always show up.
This tweet kind of describes it best, before we go into our observations.
Drake didn’t blow me away on CLB, but he got the job done. I was also hoping this would be THAT album. And although it JUS came out, Ima give it sometime. But he did everything I expected he would. But he kept that formula the same; gift and the curse when it comes to him
— Low (@LowKeyUHTN) September 5, 2021
- He’s going to play to every style of fan that loves him. Which means he’s going to sing, he’s going to rap, and he’s going to be arrogant, introspective, and vulnerable, all at the same time.
- 99% of the time you’re going to see a Lil Wayne feature, Rick Ross, and some semblance of Nicki Minaj. We almost forgot to mention Future and Jay-Z.
- You’re going to be introduced to an artist that you maybe have never heard of that is extremely sonically pleasing. Yebba and Tems say hello this time.
- The production and samples are going to be phenomenal, bringing back a song you forgot about, or have to search for and find.
- There’s going to be some type of Memphis or Houston inspiration.
- There will be songs that you immediately know are “radio singles,” along with viral music videos that will make you laugh and rewatch them 34 times.
CLB gives a less distracted and all-around confident Drake.
There was just really nothing for Drake to prove this time. He wasn’t fighting child-hiding allegations, he wasn’t responding to other artists unless he simply wanted to. We mentioned Kanye earlier with clear songs and shots delivered towards West (“No Friends In The Industry” and “7 AM on the Bridle Path”). But it wasn’t something that felt as if it hovered over the album as in past Drake projects that consisted of beef with other artists.
He wasn’t fighting with himself, nor was he looking for acceptance from others. As mentioned earlier, Drake followed a successful formula with a wonderful team and got the best out of each person who stepped onto the album.
Seriously, Jay-Z may have delivered his best feature in recent memory. Wayne was Wayne, Rick Ross, and Future both continued their all-time runs teaming up with Drake, and you even got some amazing Kid Cudi time. Travis Scott as well.
Did we miss anybody? Lil Baby is still elite, and Project Pat made a cameo setting the floor for 21 Savage to tear it down. Lil Durk turned comedic honesty into a good verse, I mean we could go on and on. But none of the features really missed.
It isn’t the time to rank CLB yet.
As mentioned earlier, instant rankings and ratings with music are never the wave to ride. Time determines the ultimate setting when it comes to album ranks. You’re sure to have listened to something you loved on the first listen years ago, that you grew to distance yourself from. On the alternative side, there are albums you may have hated once that you grew to love and respect.
So to take arguably the biggest artist in music and immediately try to determine the value of a project or compare it to others, is unfair to something that takes years to create. The truth is, this wasn’t a project to shift rap’s landscape or convert fans from the legion of Drake’s critics. But it is filled with fresh collaborations, exciting artists, subtle individual experimentation, and an album pattern you knew you were walking into.
If you take away all of the distractions and preconceived notions, CLB is worth several listens. Not sure what else you can ask for in 2021. Let the classic albums define themselves.