'Certified Lover Boy' Is Certainly a Drake Album, for Better and Worse
Published Sep 07, 2021Certified Lover Boy is anything but a love letter. Rather, it's a kiss of death to past lovers and friends who, at one point, were held in high regard but now have passed the point of no return in Drake's eyes.
The self-proclaimed 6 God — a title earned by not only having the key to the city and being the Toronto Raptors global ambassador, but also by being a music mogul in a country that is not known to champion rap music altogether let alone its hip-hop superstars — yet again addresses a few public mishaps, like the birth of his unplanned son and a rumoured falling out with Rihanna. His reflections here are slightly more fleshed out than on 2018's Scorpion, but he doesn't present any new findings or realizations. Instead of giving hopeless romantics and fans of melodic raps the second coming of Take Care — filled with the pains of star-crossed love — Certified Lover Boy is instead an anti-climatic soundtrack for when you drop your ex's belongings off at the curb.
To open the project, Drake follows his almost-foolproof formula in allowing listeners to hear his most intimate thoughts while setting the scene for stories that transpired within the years leading up to the album (think "Keep the Family Close" from Views or "Tuscan Leather" from Nothing Was the Same). Opener "Champagne Poetry" flips singer-saxophonist Masego's "Navajo" (which riffs on "Michelle" by the Beatles) on a simple instrumental with haunting gospel chants, as Drake confronts ideas of guilt surrounding his parents' divorce and the untimely deaths of multiple Toronto rap artists. This thread — of losing trust after overextending his generosity and resources — appears a few times on CLB, on songs like "Love All" (the latest in Drake and JAY-Z's roster of collaborations), "Fair Trade" and "No Friends in the Industry." In context with Drake and Kanye West's recent feud — including a series of subliminal disses and the sharing of personal details — lyrics like "losing friends and gaining peace" and "my brothers been my brothers, man, you n****s ain't no kin to me" are crystal clear. But whether it's either genuine rap beef or a gimmick to sell Certified Lover Boy and Kanye's recent Donda, these moments don't mesh with the album's overall theme.
It wouldn't be a Drake album without several accounts of romance with all sorts of women — many who seem to have built a rapport with the "lover boy" throughout the years, and others with who he regrettably shares fleeting, hedonistic moments with on "In the Bible" and "Pipe Down." Champagne Papi does not shy away from his need to party, and also doesn't make excuses for the women he entertains despite being involved with someone else on "Fucking Fans." With lyrics like, "Hard for me to justify the women I was into / Especially when the whole entire world wished they had you," it's easy to speculate Drake might be speaking about Rihanna. These sentiments display more of who we believe Drake to be — a lover of love who is sometimes swayed by the cutthroat realities of show business and being the sole provider for everyone he knows. As he stoically raps on album closer "The Remorse," "Certified lover boy, I'm not the one for cuddling or none of that / Y'all music gets watered down when you love 'em back."
The greatest takeaways on Certified Lover Boy are Drake's cultural references: his latest time-and-place track "7 AM on Bridle Path" (referring to the tony Toronto neighbourhood that houses his 21,000-square-foot mansion) features the clever bar, "You telling them I run the country / They'll say Trudeau." He reveals his affinity for college women and Houston on "TSU" and he loves women so much he considers himself a lesbian on "Girls on Girls" (featuring Lil Baby), a track that feature loads of one-liners to provide Instagram captions until his next project. CLB is a serviceable enough Drake album, but he has a number of prior projects that showcase his dynamic rap abilities and frenemy quarrels at a much higher calibre. (Republic)