With a title like Certified Lover Boy and an album cover that is twelve pregnant female emojis, you’d question if this is reality. It is. Unfortunately, this reality contains one where Drake becomes a parody of himself instead of bringing his consistent wit and unique social commentary to the forefront. What we are ultimately delivered on Certified Lover Boy is a 90 minute mess full of corny Drake songs and some solid and focused Drake.
Certified Lover Boy is bold. Drake uses unique samples and delivers some baffling lines. It is the first album by Drake where the only lead-in single didn’t make the cut, and oddly it should have compared to other songs on the album. From the random Life After Death Intro sample on “Love All” to the Right Said Fred sample on “Way 2 Sexy,” CLB keeps itself on a path of obscurity. It continues with the music video for the latter, as Drake, Future, Young Thug make a video that makes less sense than the song. The artists alternate through eras like the 80s and 90s, as well as other pop culture references — Los Angeles Clipper Kawhi Leonard makes an appearance, and he is doing what fans would expect he’d do.
In the song “Girls Want Girls,” Drake tackles his toxic masculinity by implying that women from Toronto are a tight-knit group, and it makes it hard for Drake to pursue at the club. Like Drake, we’ve heard the “oh I’m gay” or “I only girls,” but Drake and Lil Baby keep the pursuing consistent. They try to imply their common ground with common traits like the love of pussy and more. It doesn’t help that it halts you at the end of the chorus as Drake implies he is a lesbian.
It sort of continues on the song “Papi’s Home,” one of the better songs on Certified Lover Boy. However, it is one of the few songs where you start to get confused by who Drake is directing these raps to. It begins with these braggadocios bars about his career compared to the competition, and it ends with a beautiful soliloquy with backing harmonies from Montell Jordan. His son is the target as he reassures him for a better future with love and care. Listening to it once through, it doesn’t come across that way; fortunately, it doesn’t deter you, like “Girls Want Girls” and “In The Bible.”
Certified Lover Boy shares one thing in common with Donda, and that is the plethora of features. Ironically, the best songs are when Drake is performing by himself. Some features stand out, like Future and Young Thug on “Way 2 Sexy” and Rick Ross and Lil Wayne on “You Only Live Twice.” The latter is a new path for Drake after the YOLO era, “You Only Live Twice” is a monstrous song.
What works for Certified Lover Boy is that Drake accepts himself, and he rides it out. A lot of the music details aspects of love, betrayal, personal worth, and promiscuity, though it is more prevalent in the second half. Like Donda, CLB has a great album stored inside a bloated mess of corny and focused songs. Fortunately, the messiness is in the first half, where it’s hard to understand what Drake is trying to embody, except for the opening song “Champagne Poetry.”
The second half of Certified Lover Boy has better features and songs, which has Drake focused on his career and life. After a slow first half, Drake took me by surprise with the intricate and aggressive “No Friends In The Industry.” What follows isn’t always aggressive; however, the intricacies between production and construction give most of them a better footing. “No Friends In The Industry” is about his relevance within social groups as he realizes who is around his orbit. He isn’t taken aback and has a clear understanding and focus on what he wants to say. His delivery and flow are better than most of the songs in the first half, as we get that wit and slick and truthful commentary that was predominately missing in the first 11 songs.
Certified Lover Boy isn’t devoid of great samples on the production. “Knife Party,” featuring 21 Savage and Project Pat, is a personal favorite. It flips the Three 6ix Mafia song “Feed The Streets” into a sample that helps boost the identity of the production, which is chopped and slow and reminiscent of the predominant style of the area. 21 Savage sounds a little more natural with his flow than Drake, but Project Pat steals the show, despite only being on the intro. I’ve never heard these artists over this kind of production, and though they deliver with finesse. Ultimately, you’re left wondering why they wouldn’t include Project Pat more.
The first half of Certified Lover Boy contains a lot of the corniness one expects from Drake, and it surprises me when he delivers the opposite on the second half with the songs “Race My Mind” and “Get Along Better.” The glossy and twinkly piano keys add a different element to Drake’s smooth-talking flow on “Race My Mind,” which makes it an easy song to return to and enjoy to the max. The same goes for “Get Along Better,” where Ty Dolla Sign delivers an elegant contrast to Drake’s confliction with a past lover and his directness with the verse.
At the end of the day, it’s hard to make sense what Drake was going for this album. It’s a trove of loosies that could have been left in the vault, since within the ninety minute runtime is a fantastic album if constructed better. However, I’m not Drake and making this was his choice, despite most choices being bad ones. Certified Lover Boy starts strong, before middling into boredom. You can skip most songs after “Papi’s Home,” and find what comes after “Yebbe’s Heartbreak” rewarding — for the most part.