Does anyone want to hear Drake, the rapper pop star whose hit song, “One Dance,” is the most streamed song ever on Spotify and Apple Music, complain that the rap game is “all lies” and “all filthy?” Apparently so, because on Sunday, October 23rd, on the eve of Drake’s 30th birthday, he used his OVOSoundRadio show to premiere a new song on which he professes those exact grievances, and two hours later he was trending on Twitter, enjoying five times the number of mentions as any NFL team.
“Two Birds, One Stone” is one of four songs that were released during the broadcast and it features one of those rare, reflective monologue verses that spill out of Drake every year or so (think “5AM In Toronto,” “The Ride” or “30 For 30”). Its beat is airy with minimalist drums and Drake’s tone is conversational, like he’s merely clearing his head, helpless to a natural rhyme scheme. Some of the song’s three-minute verse sounds sincere, such as Drake’s acknowledgment that he’s indebted to a higher being or his reminiscing on his parents’ relationship, but other parts, particularly his attacks on other rappers and basking in his success, are tacky and too familiar.
Still, “Two Birds, One Stone” is an exciting song that features Drake’s most technically impressive rap verse of the year. The other new songs — one of which is a remix, not an original — are less personal and more pop-aimed, but equally solid. “Fake Love” is a bouncy sing-song in obvious parallel to “Hotline Bling” and “Sneakin,” which features 21 Savage, Atlanta’s most recent trap music titan, is guaranteed to be a speaker-shaking, strip club anthem. “Wanna Know (Remix)” lets Drake exercise his softer style and spotlights Dave, an emcee from London who has already earned attention from the endorsement.
There is no room to debate Drake’s ability to make hits, but his formula for going viral — an exclusive contract with Apple Music, partnerships with relatively underground artists who are about to explode and disses directed at other celebrities to stir up extra attention — is starting to seem a little bit “extra.” Drake employed the same strategy last summer, using a string of singles to distract from allegations that he doesn’t write his own lyrics, and his latest album, Views, is the magnum opus of Apple Music’s marketing schemes. I don’t need another masterminded assault by Drake on hip-hop’s Top 40. I want innovation and progress from the world’s best-selling artist.
On the hook for “Fake Love,” Drake whines about fake people who are showing fake love to him, straight up to his face, and on “Sneakin,” he boasts “I don’t need love, I’m the G.O.A.T. / I just hit the beat and float.” The lyrics are ironically hollow for an emcee of such high esteem, especially as he attempts to regain some of hip-hop’s respect after sinking into a bubblegum pop vacuum. Drake songs are typically the most exciting releases in the rap sphere, but he’s starting to get monotonous. He makes me feel like a naive consumer.
Drake began the action-packed episode of OVOSoundRadio by announcing his new project, More Life, which is due out this December and has been deemed a “playlist” despite the fact that it will feature original music. Some of the songs that he played on-air will be a part of the project, but it was also described as having been made “with the fam,” so it’s expected to feature Drake’s friends, such as Kanye West and Gucci Mane, or label-mates like Majid Jordan, dvsn and Roy Wood$.
More Life will surely shock aux chords everywhere, prolong Drake’s reign atop the charts and inspire more Apple Music subscriptions, but hopefully it does more than stack sure-thing hits. When Drake released “Marvin’s Room” in 2011, or “Hold On, We’re Going Home” in 2013, he was taking risks that left him vulnerable and pushing creative boundaries. Right now, it seems like he is merely repeating a proven recipe. That tactic will only work for so long.