Drake’s third album is taken up with, well, with all the themes we’ve come to expect and, right off the top, as usual, he gets points for that. Not a lot of rappers out there exploring inferiority and the emptiness of fame and melancholy. So, good on him for that, though, again, as usual, he does branch out with some angrier tracks. As usual, the music is slow & mellow, almost ambient at times, with minimal beats and big spacy sounds. In case you haven’ t noticed, I’ve used the words “as usual” twice, and also said “again” and “we’ve come to expect.” So, this isn’t some big departure or big step forward (neither is it a big step backwards, to be fair) in Drake’s career. Another thing that’s a holdover from previous outings, though, is Drake’s fantastic facility for lyrical brilliance and he has a really interesting, somewhat unique flow. I listened to the deluxe edition and it was too long certainly, with an extra two tracks on an album that was already a bit draggy. When the album works, it really works amazingly well. The best track is probably From Time with some genuinely magnificent work from Drake on verse about his parents; the section of the song about his father in particular is close to the best stuff he’s ever done, I’d say. Too Much is good; Connect is a sad meditation on love and relationships and the image of searching for love pictured as a batter standing at the plate, swinging at the pitches, hoping for that amazing feeling of connection is really brilliant; and radio hit Hold On, We’re Going Home is really good and, talking about Drake and the way he covers subjects few rappers do, this is the only song I can think of about retreating from the club because it’s just too raunchy and raucous for the good-hearted folks of the song. But I should say that I still feel like I’m predominately listening to Drake for his great potential. And I can honestly say I would like to have seen more of potential actually flourish by his third album. The first single from his upcoming album, Energy, is good, but once again . . . it feels like Drake has the potential to be more than good; I feel like he’s got a masterpiece in him and by the third or fourth record, it needs to be showing up, at least in flashes. Maybe I’m being a little harsh; this album is good, no mistake. But if I’m judging it harshly, it’s only because Drake himself said, “last name ever, first name greatest.” Probably not, but he could be in the conversation, if he’d step it up just a bit. 3 stars.
tl;dr – Drake’s potential is taking a long time to flourish into actual greatness and this album is more of the same in about every way; still, even at only good, not great, Drake is of interest. 3 stars.