New Drake album Honestly, Nevermind proves he’s well past his prime

Not so long ago, Drake had a lot to say. You might remember the origin story: A lanky Canadian Degrassi Star relocated to Houston in 2009, where he gave his mixtapes a proper squirt of codeine and smashed the doors of Trey Songz and Lil Wayne until he had a record deal to call his own.

Drake had the bold belief that he could reforge the music industry in his wildly unorthodox image; He took the stage in letterman jackets and polo shirts and wrote lines about loathing fame and missing his dorm room. He even posed in a jeweled chai necklace and a Toronto Blue Jays cap on the cover of mood.

Drake headlined the Club Paradise Tour in 2012.

Kyle Gustafson/For the Washington Post via Getty

It actually worked, against all odds. In the early 2010s, when the solipsistic stereotype of the millennial was just beginning to solidify, Drake rose to become our undisputed avatar. I was a 20-year-old second grader at a huge state college when Look out came out, meaning I represented Drake’s exact target audience. He sampled a voicemail message left by an angry ex-flame in “Marvin’s Room” and baptized a generation of isolated, terminally self-conscious oversharers. Drake snorted towards the Pantheon and we were lucky enough to be part of the ride.

So you can probably understand my dissatisfaction last Friday after Drake released his amazing seventh studio album, Honestly forget it, at midnight sharp. The 14-song, 55-minute record officially kicks off the rapper’s Caligula era. Something has gone terrible wrong here. Drake has traded in the tool kit that got him this far for a whispery Ibiza-style EDM tincture that vanishes instantly.

Lots of people make fun of it Honestly forget it Sounds like the stock hypebeast muzak you might listen to ZARA in a changing room, all rave piano and smooth drums. But for me it’s more of a crazy lack of mood 808 & Heartbreak. Drake barely raps throughout the run, instead relying on the honeyed singing voice that has garnered him megaton hits like “Hotline Bling” and “Hold On, We’re Going Home.” But unlike those songs, nothing on the album is capable of registering the slightest emotional feedback. It’s meant to be neutral music – pleasantly fleeting, aggressively low-stakes – with all of Drake’s hubris characteristic of Drake surgically removed.


Drake’s seventh studio album cover, Honestly forget it.


My mother would probably like it. Honestly forget it is certainly the first Drake album that might slot into their algorithm-derived Spotify playlists, and that might be the point. After more than a decade of dominance, Drake no longer courts our filthy allure. He enjoys soaking up the torrents and cashing his checks. I was a fool to hope for another classic Drake record. If I had been paying close attention, I would have known it would end like this.

I saw Drake live during his Look out Tour back in 2012. He was already wildly, unfathomably famous—we were in a packed basketball arena. But the reality of that fame hadn’t fully cemented itself. Drake was in his early twenties, still feeling the parameters of his genius, and towards the end of the show, just before the encore, he offered a thoroughly humble monologue. Drake told us he knew he would fall down one day. The records wouldn’t sell forever. How could they? Like all of us, he will eventually be old, washed and out of touch. So thank you, he said, for coming because nothing lasts forever.

At the start of a decade-long Billboard reign, Drake was already concerned about the inevitable end. This neurosis has always driven his best songs. This is a man who suffered from the pressure to succeed long before he was successful himself. Drake was never able to relax and enjoy the ride and he was dying for us to understand why. What is Aubrey eating? The wistful memories of a healthy, civil tryst at home? He’ll tell you exactly which Hooters she works for. A ridiculous diss that might interest him – and only him? He airs all your dirty laundry in public. An ex-girlfriend he almost certainly treated badly? He’ll build a song out of their outrageously legitimate complaints. Drake knew he lived a compelling life and he was happy to give us all the gory details.


Drake on the 2016 Summer Sixteen Tour.

Paragraphs Griffin/WireImage/Getty

You can’t blame the guy for retiring; those of us who grew up on the internet are inevitably ashamed of our own paper footprints. The first crack in his portfolio was probably the one from 2016 views, a stuffy, sour album that marked time and revealed no fresh juice on the Drake persona. (Frankly, you can argue that views is worse than Honestly forget it but that’s a setting for another column.)

But for me, the demarcation point came in 2018 when Drake found himself in a disastrous feud with Pusha T. Pusha learned ingloriously that Drake had recently become a father, which had not yet leaked to the TMZ-educated public. He used that detail as the lynchpin of “The Story of Adidon,” a supremely brutal diss track, and served up Drake’s first true celebrity embarrassment. (“You’re hiding a kid, let that boy come home/Deadbeat motherfucker plays border control,” yeah.) The rapper had embarrassed himself many times on his own terms, but this was different. Someone else had wrested control of Drake’s tightly cultured narrative. That wasn’t the deal, and I’m not sure he ever fully recovered.

I think that’s the reason for Drake’s last two studio albums, 2018 Scorpio and last year Certified lover boy, landed with a bang. Both records produced plenty of hits – Drake never has and probably never will lose his ear to a beat. But the characteristic messy intimacy was conspicuously absent. Drake’s most recent chart topper is “Way 2 Sexy,” a song so patently and deliberately stupid that it samples Right Said Fred’s single of the same name. In the “In My Feelings” video, released shortly after the Pusha-T debacle, Drake performs a dizzying alternate timeline in which he remained a struggling rapper well into his thirties – a perpetual fuckboy with no money to support his lifestyle to support and therefore no high profile cattle to worry about. He actually looked pretty happy!

It must be a relief to leave all your earliest artistic inclinations in the dust without financial penalty. In many ways, Drake is more successful than ever. He’s become the master of all greedy trends in the music industry, regularly releasing 20-track behemoths and meandering B-sides collections specifically designed to smash as many Spotify leftovers as possible. With his collaborations, he’s become increasingly mercenary – honing a ruthless nose for virality – to the point of inventing TikTok trends as a whole. (“Toosie Slide” was the low point of the entire pandemic.) Neither of these tactics makes Drake an outlier: record companies know how it’s done, which is why we have to endure Scorsese-length Migos albums. But I miss that brief period when Drake dared to see himself as the voice of his generation. He himself has always been the most interesting part of his art, but he doesn’t want us in the house anymore.


That brings us back to Honestly forget it a Drake album where Drake is practically invisible. As Jayson Greene noted on Pitchfork, the rapper seems to disappear into the Balearic ether, flitting through the brief bubbles with a sigh or whimper and distilling his vivid amorous confessions into a few sugar-sweet motifs. Honestly forget it won’t spark any rumors or intrigue because in 2022, Drake likes to treat music like a day job. Again, no one can blame him for escaping the Crucible. Drake is a 35-year-old single father, and one of the most euphoric things about getting older is realizing you no longer have the ability to wear your heart on your sleeve. And anyway, the album is already setting new streaming thresholds; he should have no regrets.

Still, I can’t help but trust that old, boisterous, thin-skinned Drake, the guy I’ve fallen in love with, is hiding in the benthic regions of his brain. We caught a glimpse of it over the weekend, as the rapper sifted through the muted critical reception of his latest project. “It’s all good if you don’t get it yet. It’s all good,” he said at a release party for Honestly forget it. “That’s what we do. That’s what we do, we’re waiting for you to catch up. We’re in here though, we’ve already caught up.” This is the guy I know and love — not crazy, actually laughing — the new one With scores brewing to settle, I can only hope that he can once again use that dark pettiness for another classic, and the sooner he hits his midlife crisis, the better. New Drake album Honestly, Nevermind proves he’s well past his prime


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