After a lukewarm reception to the dance-oriented Honestly, Nevermind – save for the 21 Savage-featuring closing track, of course – Canada’s biggest hip-hop star decided to double down and release a full collaboration project with the Atlanta trap titan. Make no mistake though, this feels like a Drake album, and it’s his best one since 2015’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. Despite some typical Drake detractions like sleepy and overlong R&B diversions and some highly questionable lyrics where he continues to demonstrate his insecurity and unlikability, the fire, energy, and charisma that’s been missing from Drake’s raps for the last couple of projects returns in a big way. It might be because he recruits one of the most hard-hitting and cold-blooded artists in the game to help bring it out of him. And while Drake has been known to serenade the ladies, he’s toned that down a little bit on this project in order to trade some creative bars with 21 about their continued dominance. Drake seems hungry again, which makes Her Loss a win.
21 Savage previews all the flexing that the duo does on this project, appropriately, on a song called “Rich Flex” with an introductory speech about the giants walking around the world, not caring where their feet land, while Drake’s opening “21, can you do something for me” has already seen its fair share of memes. Truthfully, the project’s opening run contains some of its best tracks – 21 starts with his classic desensitized demeanour and punchlines that catch you off guard, while Drake drops what might be the most impressive verse of the album after a cold-blooded beat switch on the back end. His play with letters is the most creative thing he’s done in a while, while 21’s interpolation of Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage” was a great move – though dimmed by Drake’s unnecessary and unprompted attacks on her later on. “Major Distribution” succeeds so much because it feels like the artists borrowing the best things about each other and trying them on for size. After a short-lived opening of tender piano and Drake crooning, sounding better than he has in years, the piano melody is impressively flipped to sound a little more eerie. Drake brings out 21’s whispery flows, while 21 drops some so-cheesy-they’re-great Drake-style puns about OneDirection. The track “On BS” finds them having even more fun, trading bars while doing some more singsongy flows. Most of the bars showing up in IG captions are from this one, as Drake revives his legendary charisma. Solo Drake track “BackOutsideBoyz” dims the energy a little – the triumphant trap beat and synths emulating a horn section are pretty fun, but Drake’s melodic flows are a little disjointed and he reverts to being his toxic self with some spiteful and petty bars directed at fellow artists.
It just goes to show you how lacklustre Honestly, Nevermind was when you hear a track like “Privileged Rappers.” Not because it’s good, but because it sounds a lot like “Sticky,” which was a highlight on a bad album and becomes a lowlight here. Drake’s barely-awake flows, repetitive lyrics and insistence on the most basic of rhythmic patterns makes it sink into the background, despite 21 Savage fitting the low-key energy a little bit better. “Spin Bout U” is a gem in a pretty dismal run, surrounded by tracks like “Hours In Silence” and “Treacherous Twins.” Both contain unfortunately minimal contributions from 21 Savage. The former contains some of Drake’s queasiest romantic lines and nearly four and a half minutes of some of his all-time worst self-indulgent meandering with no discernable melodies or rhythm. He croons “wham bam thank you ma’am.” And why does it sound so off-putting when Drake calls someone his “treacherous lil’ twin?” 21 adapts to the calmer vibe again, but he only gets a couple bars in. “Spin Bout U,” on the other hand, is shaping up to become one of the bigger hits, and for good reason. With a 90s R&B sample in the back, a truly catchy melodic hook from Drake and a super involved layered trap beat that once again proves that the style isn’t creatively bankrupt, it’s bolstered by bars where Drake unexpectedly addresses the Supreme Court and 21 delivers the Drakiest line that Drake never said – “F**k your main page, what’s your Finsta? I wanna know the real you.”
The track “Circo Loco” kicks off the back half with a sample of Daft Punk’s “One More Time,” Drake dialling up the charisma once again over a trap version of the classic. Other than the aforementioned Megan thee Stallion bars which truly dim the proceedings of the most obviously goofy, fun and party-oriented track here, this is one that’s easy to return to. The back-to-back tracks “P**** & Millions” and “Broke Boys” feature some of Drake’s most fiery performances in a very long time – and it’s even better because he builds up to it from his sleepy flows on the former. The soulful piano in the back as he hits us with some melodic flows complements 21 sounding like he’s in awe of getting brought into this more opulent-sounding world, while the bass hits get even dirtier as Travis Scott comes through with a solid verse. “Broke Boys” actually sees some grit creep into Drake’s vocals, and his whispery responses to 21’s bars are equally menacing. Between this track, the last one, and the following “Middle of the Ocean,” Drake is kind of mastering the beat switch – it was awful the first time it hit big on “Life is Good,” but they’re a lot more immersive now. Enough to keep me engaged with a 6-minute Drake solo track that I wrongfully assumed would be a mess.
The project winds down with a couple solo tracks and experiments – the most obvious of which being “Jumbotron S*** Poppin,” where Drake recruits Playboi Carti’s producer F1lthy and makes it clear what he’s trying to do with a couple references to Carti’s work and a moment where he devolves into nothing but nonsensical sounds. “More M’s” is the last team-up between Drake and 21, and it’s over a Halloween-type Metro Boomin beat to make it feel like one of the only tracks that’s truly in 21’s wheelhouse more than Drake’s – but he still shuts things down when he drops in with a “6 God lurkin.” Drake’s tradition of lowkey, confessional tracks adorned with a timestamp continues on “3AM on Glenwood,” which is curiously given exclusively to 21 Savage. It’s not really his thing, but he holds down the fort before Drake closes it out with what he does best – a whiny, pouty track about being rejected called “I Guess It’s F*** Me.”
Despite a couple of the distasteful moments we’ve now come to expect from Drake, a full project with an artist quickly becoming one of his most reliable collaborators met expectations for fans hoping for a return to form after his last two low-effort outings. Now with three projects in barely over a year, we can only hope that he takes a bit of a break and returns with this same energy.
Favourite Tracks: Major Distribution, On BS, Broke Boys, P**** & Millions, Spin Bout U
Least Favourite Track: Hours In Silence