You got to love it when artists experiment or expand beyond a comfort zone, where they deliver ambitious sounds that shift the parameters of what’s to expect as fans. Drake consistently does so, but we’ve never heard him embrace a genre fully and construct an album out of it until his surprise 7th studio album, Honestly, Nevermind, where he delves into the world of electronica, with influence from dance, Jersey Club, and house music. It’s a refreshing direction that avoids some lyrical Drakeisms, like name-dropping locations as a flex, which adds to the intrigue even if it reaffirms Drake’s limitations as a singer. It underwhelms the tracks with lush production from Black Coffee, DJ Carnage, 40, and Vinylz, to name a few. Drake may not always keep us on our tippytoes with complex lyricism in the singing-heavy tracks, but the melodies keep us in a groove, especially with a few rap verses to switch it up.
Teasing us with a clean 37-second intro, Drake delves into what the sound of Honestly, Nevermind will be. The drum machine starts to orchestrate mid-tempo hypnotism with catchy rhythms before the overlays of trancey synths. It’s a recurring motif that gives the best production on the album the best characterizations, like the shift in percussion styles from the ore house-focused “Falling Back” to the Jersey Club-focused “Texts Go Green” and “Flight’s Booked” or the dance-infused “A Keeper.” There’s a constant evolution in each track–whether apparent or subtle–in the second half, Drake enthralls on both ends. Unlike the first half, Drake’s limitations don’t halt him, and its inclusion of slick rap verses offers proper diversity. When “Sticky” plays, the momentum shifts, and the consistency mounts on with tremendous force.
As “Sticky” closes, Honestly, Nevermind continues its slick transitions within and between tracks. Drake flips from a stone-cold Hip-Hop banger to a House-Dance banger in “Massive,” which sees Drake fully engulfing the production and giving us remarkable melodies and sequencing. It fits the characteristics of the kind of House style it wants to embody. Instead of blending it with the other sonic complexions, Drake and producers, Carnage, Klahr, and Zastenke bring a constant rhythm with significant gaps between verses to let the sound breathe. It continues to retain that momentum before shifting back into some lush hybrids. However, these hybrids don’t contain slightly detaching Drake vocals; he blends into the rhythm, giving us a connection we can attach to. He’s crisp, delivering great melodies and making up for the abundance of perspectives about relationships with women, amongst other subjects. It levels my view of Drake’s ability to create meaningful singing-centric verses.
Drake’s talent for creating extravagant and catchy choruses is unbound–sprinkled throughout the album, he creates a gravitating pull that makes you vibe with the production. Despite the not-so-captivating verses, they fade into a range of melodies, specifically beneath some jarring decisions. In the first half of Honestly, Nevermind, producers Black Coffee and DJ Carnage have a great base they are working from, but their choice of adding rusty bed springs of a $50 Motel bed on top of it drowns out Drake’s writing. In “Calling My Name,” the production starts slow; it’s plain for a dance record, but it shifts in the second half with livelier and more gravitating sounds. Unfortunately, it left me wanting a little more, as it only runs for 2 minutes and 10 seconds. It felt like there could have been more both Drake and the producers could have done to round it out and give another banger.
Drake is riding it solo–save for the final track–an antithesis of Certified Lover Boy, which is flooded with features that it lacks some cohesiveness. But Drake riding it solo has made the issues on Honestly, Nevermind more apparent; however, it doesn’t hinder how it’ll ultimately affect you. It’s an album that guides the listener through a distinct era where he’s evolving his production and vocal choices. It allows the album’s only feature, 21 Savage on “Jimmy Cooks,” to feel fresh and impactful, especially as a closer. The two flourish on the trap-heavy sounds from Tizzle, Vinylz, Tay Keith & CuBeatz, relaying bars that encompass their dominance in the rap game. Drake plays with his past using a double entendre in the title, which acknowledges his time as Jimmy Brooks at Degrassi. It adds to the brevity getting delivered throughout.
Honestly, Nevermind is another definitive turning point for Drake, one where he embraces and grows with the sound of today, giving us an essence that usually never misses–think “Passion Fruit” or “One Dance.” It’s vibrant, oozing moods ranging from the loungey to more dance-vibey while retaining a sense of identity. It makes it an album that’s better than it should have been, especially after Drake’s myriad of mediocrity between Scorpion and Certified Lover Boy. And for that alone, it’s given us something that feels slightly groovier through a different lens, making it a more replayable Drake album.