Drake’s album Certified Lover Boy is here.
Whenever a popular album drops we review it track by track just as it comes out for our First Listen series. In the midst of album wars with Kanye West and months of promotion, Drake’s Certified Lover Boy is finally here.
Certified Lover Boy is not nearly as lovey-dovey as the name and album artwork would imply. There are plenty of songs for women to drink mimosas to on this album, but there is also a bit of early 2010’s Drake and some hip-hop royalty. There is something for everybody on Certified Lover Boy, want radio hits? Listen to Knife Talk , Way 2 Sexy, or You Only Live Twice. Want to hear Drake rap for 2 minutes uninterrupted? Listen to The Remorse or 7am On Bridle Path. Want music to vibe out to? Try IMY2 or Love All. Then pretty much every other song on this album is for the ladies.
Expect Certified Lover Boy to break all sorts of streaming records in the coming week. Personally, I don’t think Donda or Certified Lover Boy will be winning the Grammy for Best Hip-Hop Album this year, but the album wars have been fun.
Here is a track by track analysis of Certified Lover Boy upon first listen.
This album begins with a sample of Masego’s Navajo, which is sampled throughout Champagne Poetry. The five minute song picks up pace about halfway through, adding a piano element and faint gospel singers.
An intro record is supposed to set the pace for the rest of the album, if Champagne Poetry sets the pace for anything – it’s lots of rapping. Off the bat, the album is starting to feel like early YMCMB Drake.
Drake expresses remorse that without an album from him, clout chasers haven’t “known how to get their clout up” without him. This is a cocky track – wherein Drake calls himself “daddy” – if you can get past that, it’s a pretty fun song.
The song ends with Nicki Minaj talking shit at the end of the track, before Drake starts singing into the outro.
Girls Want Girls (with Lil Baby)
Girls Want Girls is a slower track, which it was interesting to hear Lil Baby rap over. This is a quintessential Drake track for the ladies, this is mimosa music.
In The Bible (with Lil Durk & Giveon)
There’s some fat on this song – Lil Durk appears to give up and hum for the last 4 bars of his verse and then let the beat ride into the bridge. This is a five minute song that would’ve been stronger as a four minute song, but still has value.
Giveon sings masterfully to end the song. Giveon’s full, powerful voice – compliments Drake’s softer voice. This is another one for the ladies, more mimosa and brunch music.
Love All (with Jay-Z)
Love All is where the album starts to pivot away from singing and towards rapping for Drake. The central theme of this song is essentially that Drake feels unflappable at this point. He has everything he needs, except loyalty.
Jay-Z spits a very slow and methodical verse devoid of much substance, but he sure sounds cool.
Fair Trade (with Travis Scott)
Travis Scott has a production credit on this track and his influence is clear on this song. If you listen closely to the background you’ll hear Travis Scott’s signature synthesizer sound – it starts around 11 seconds into the song. The drum kit used on this song is also reminiscent of the Houston sound.
This song is when “rapping Drake” pops back out for the first time on the album since the intro. Earlier in the album, Drake mentions that his lyrics are used as Instagram captions then on Fair Trade he drops a great on “I’ve been losin’ friends and findin’ peace. But honestly that sound like a fair trade to me.”
Heavily featured on this track in the background is Canadian singer – Charlotte Day Wilson.
Way 2 Sexy (ft. Future & Young Thug)
If anyone can make “Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred cool – it’s Drake, Future, Young Thug, & Kawhi Leonard. We all know what we’re going to get out of a Drake & Future track.
Lines like: “I’ma fuck her friends and send her back to Metro housin” and “I get cash wherever I fly, got bitches sexin’ on me.”
Surprisingly, Kawhi Leonard is dancing in a boy band lineup alongside Drake in the music video for this song. This is yet another example of Drake showing off his sense of humor, which he’s done in many older videos.
This song is a perfect example of the “Drake bait and switch.” Drake lures in males listeners by writing a first verse about having a gun in the studio and saying things like “give you this bread, you run me some head.” Then by the end of the song Drake’s singing about Zara heels and how the stripper he’s been rapping about has new life goals. Drake does this all the time, it’s his signature form of storytelling.
Drake will take you from rapping “we used to do pornos when you would come over but now you got morals and shit,” to singing “mom and daddy didn’t really get along, shawty.”
Drake has done more work to humanize strippers than any living artist.
N 2 Deep (ft. Future)
An abrupt guitar beat accompanies Drake as he does his favorite thing, sing about Houston. This song is the first of many where Drake brings a rap line and doesn’t finish it by saying “Got a little candy in her pocket. She gon’ take off like a—,” allowing the listener to finish the bar with “rocket.” He does this later in the album.
This is a five minute song that should be two separate songs – at the 2:25 minute mark, the beat completely changes from a HoustAtlantaVegas-style song to a classic trap beat featuring Future.
“You said you belong to the streets, but the streets belong to me,” is definitely the strongest opening line on the album to this point. “Why does your ex think we’re beefing? Is that man alright?” This song is filled with quotables, as Drake transitions from rapping to singing to damn near screaming. “How much I gotta pay for you to pipe down?”
I found it very surprising that a song named “Pipe Down” on an album called “Certified Lover Boy” that features a dozen pregnant women on the cover art was not at all about “laying pipe down.”
This is an absolutely beautiful change of pace on the record. Grammy-award winner Yebba sings a short ballad, which also serves as an interlude for the album.
No Friends In the Industry
Bars are back. No Friends in the Industry is reminiscent of the 2018 Drake sound, similar to Nonstop. “And I’m like Sha’Carri, smoke ’em on and off the track.”
Despite the tracks name being No Friends In the Industry, there are no overt disses in the song, only vague trash talk.
Knife Talk (ft. 21 Savage & Project Pat)
This is where the hits start coming. Project Pat’s intro into 21 Savage’s verse using Project Pat’s flow is one of the smoothest combos in music this year. 21 Savage does a great job going back and forth with Drake; he sings, he raps, he does it all.
Knife talk seems to be a hat tilt to 21 Savage’s British-connections. For those who don’t know, there are no guns in the UK, so they do knife crimes.
7am On Bridle Path
On Drake albums, there are occasionally songs that he makes just to vent. Musically, 7am On Bridle Path is an incredibly simplistic track. It’s just Drake rapping over a simple drum beat, some synth, and light angelic vocals.
It’s assumed that Drake is addressing Kanye in this song, but he never says anything too specific to express that.
“Have somebody put you on a Gildan, you play with my seed. Trust me, there’s some shit you really gotta come see to believe.”
Race My Mind
This is another song that’s truly two songs in one. Race My Mind begins as a sing-songy Marvin’s Room style song, then pivots into more of a rap song. Listen closely and you’ll hear Biggie in the background towards the end. This is an incredibly cinematic song, I can imagine someone running through a hallway in a big-budget film to the ending minute.
Fountains (with Tems)
Fountains is another song where Drake attempts to step outside of his comfort zone. He partners up with Tems, a Nigerian artist and singer, which explains the traditional Afrobeats sound on this track. To be honest, Tems stole the show – I was more captured by her parts on the song than Drakes. The song is smooth and made me want more Tems.
Get Along Better
When the album name “Certified Lover Boy” was announced, I expected 15 songs that sound like Get Along Better. It’s a good enough song, definitely not the strongest on the album – it’s missing something.
Ty Dolla $ign is on this track singing back-up vocals on the outro, which is frustrating for fans of Ty Dolla $ign features. All song I was waiting for Ty to pop up and take this song to the next level, but instead it just lingers on.
You Only Live Twice (with Lil Wayne and Rick Ross)
This song would’ve been amazing in 2012, this song would’ve been amazing in 2015, this song would’ve been amazing in 2018, and this song is amazing in 2021. Any song featuring these three artists is going to be a classic.
From Rick Ross starting the song with “no, I’m never gangbangin’ in my blue Chucks,” to Weezy closing out with “pill popped, house in Hidden Hills on the hilltop, her ears popped, she lick my lollipop and my teardrops, Tunechi.”
IMY2 (with Kid Cudi)
If any of the Drake and Kanye beef is real, this has to hurt Ye. This song really sounds like a Kid Cudi song that Drake picked out the drums for. Kid Cudi does his classic sing-humming. This is the song on the album for the stoners.
Fucking Fans is the third song on this album that is longer than 4-minutes and completely changes halfway through. Drake and PARTYNEXTDOOR sing their way through Drake’s past mistakes for the first half, then Drake elaborates in a longer than usual rap verse where he talks about how he was “out here fucking fans” and how he “was shameless.”
To end the album, Drake raps his ass off. Very similar to 7am On Bridle Path – Drake vents about money, his status as an artist, relationships, and all things Drake. The album ends win the line “For the young Gs out here starting from the beginning. Nobody praying for you when you winning, don’t forget it.”