As a music fan with an above-average interest in releases (they make me review them sometimes), there is something really special about a Drake drop. Normally, I’ll wake up on a Friday morning and slowly peruse the new releases as I battle my hangover with some Vitamin C supplements, picking tracks to listen to based on a cool-sounding name or an intriguing feature. New music from Drake, however, is different. By 11:59 p.m., my roommates and I were all huddled in my stuffy basement apartment in anticipation. Those who had gone out returned before midnight to honor this momentous occasion. The gummies had been popped. We were ready.
I can confidently say that this scene was being replicated in rooms all over Ann Arbor, and, by extension, all over the country. The cultural phenomenon that is a hip-hop release of this profile always sets social media ablaze, frequently causes crashes on streaming services (Spotify, to its credit, was pretty consistent this time, save for one glitch that I’ll get to later) and fuels discourse for weeks. When social media is talking about an album, reactions are normally pretty split, but this was some of the most positive initial online feedback I’ve seen in a while.
Some of the warm reception can be owed to its brilliant rollout. Aided by the runaway success of the Drake-21 Savage collaborative single “Jimmy Cooks” on the former’s most recent studio album Honestly, Nevermind earlier this year, the album was first teased through some blink-and-you-missed-it messaging in the song’s music video, which dropped on 21 Savage’s 30th birthday on Oct. 22. Savage, born Shéyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, posted the video on his social media, with a caption indicating the date, “10/28.” The labels then confirmed the LP’s release a week later, and by this point, the social media powder keg had exploded. While the album was delayed a week by head engineer Noah “40” Shebib’s COVID-19 diagnosis, a two-week rollout is still pretty fast. On Wednesday of release week, the cover was revealed: a close-up of Japanese model Qui Yasuka (Suki Baby). Naturally, this attracted some controversy, which always adds fuel to the release hype for an album. Additionally, Drake and Savage ran the vanity pseudo-event gauntlet, making (fake) appearances on NPR’s Tiny Desk, Vogue’s In The Bag and even a Howard Stern interview to promote Her Loss.
On Thursday night, the album landed on streaming services, and my basement exploded with sound as the speaker my friends got me for my birthday roared to life with the album’s intro, “Rich Flex.” From the second the 40’s iconic “six-six-six” producer tag hit and the drums kicked over the angelic vocal sample, we knew we were in for some rambunctious fun.
Let me interject with a qualifier here. A Drake album cannot be evaluated in the way that other music is. On a standard project, I am listening for lyrical depth, technical prowess and a cohesive theme, but expecting that from Drizzy is nothing but a method to hate. Drake albums can be measured through two lenses. 1: Do the instrumentals slap in a packed SUV? and 2: Does every song have at least one thing you would caption an Instagram fit pic with? If these boxes are checked, it’s unfair to not be satisfied with a man whose gambling debts are forcing him to drop two or more albums a year.
Not only did Drake and Savage satisfy these criteria, they did something even more important: They made a lot of good music. “Rich Flex” is pretty solid, but on the next couple songs, the duo really gets it going. “Major Distribution” starts with a misleading Drake croon and sentimental piano flourish, before descending into a sinister trap beat. Drake is in peak quotable form, as he talks shit about his drawing power, likening himself to Latin trap’s biggest star with, “Bad Bunny numbers, it’s a robbery / 500 million just for Aubrey.” Savage is inspired by Drake when he compares himself to another label-loved popstar in his own verse. “On BS” flawlessly continues this mood, as the two tag-team with glee in a way Drake listeners haven’t heard since 2015’s “What a Time to Be Alive.” Drake keeps the quotable lines coming, with the oh-shit inducing “I blow a half a million on you hoes, I’m a feminist,” causing several of my friends to make the stank face.
“BackOutsideBoyz” makes use of some nicely layered Lil Yachty ad-libs (who, by the way, has his fingerprints all over this album), before sliding into the impossibly smooth “Privileged Rappers.” The beats on this album don’t try to be too ambitious or be something they’re not, but they’re all high quality. That’s what happens when you have more than 40 producers working on your project. At this point, Savage is really hitting his stride. When he drops the outrageous, “She say she hungry / I gave her dick for brunch,” my roommate is so overwhelmed he needs to get up and take a walk. He returns with his face in his hands right as the 808s in “Spin Bout U” kick, which is a perfectly fine song that we enjoy.
The most polarizing song on the project for our group was “Treacherous Twins.” I loved it, but no one else enjoyed the sample, synths and hook as much as I did. The Daft Punk homage, “Circo Loco,” was a really fun one. This was mainly because the “One More Time” sample got the basement re-engaged, and the supposed Megan Thee Stallion diss piqued our interest. Hearing him diss Kanye felt kind of nice, and better than both of those was hearing him body the interpolation of the “One More Time” hook. This momentum continued with the stellar “Pussy and Millions,” even as the energy among my companions began to fall off. The standout moment of the song is the album’s only credited guest appearance, a Travis Scott comeback verse. When is Utopia coming out?
Around this time, the album gets into solo track territory, and each artist provides a pretty good offering. On “Middle of the Ocean,” Drake steps in to wax poetic about the journey to his present level of obscene A-list global stardom over a string-heavy, two-part étude. Then, Savage gets a crack at the lauded Drake Album Timestamp Track, and absolutely knocks it out of the park with the brilliant “3am on Glenwood.” This is by far the most personal and vulnerable song on the whole project, with Savage offering reflections on friends he has lost (namely, Skinny and Johnny), and how he wishes they could experience success with him — “Won a Grammy and I couldn’t even show it to him.”
Like every major commercial album in the streaming era, Her Loss is a little bloated at 16 songs when it really should be capped at 12 or 13. However, an album with this many celebrity disses, Instagram captions and fun little moments of interplay between the duo won’t do anything but take over rap culture for the next couple of months and remind everyone what Drake is capable of when he has another artist as a tether to keep him focused.
Daily Arts Writer Ryan Brace can be reached at email@example.com.