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Nov. 29, 2022

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Drake releases club record

‘Nevermind’ shot through with artist’s typical malaise

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Drake’s been out raving, and this comedown sounds rough.

Just nine months after he released his sixth album, the chart-topping rapper is back with his seventh, “Honestly, Nevermind.” While its smeary gothic cover art looks like a Foos Gone Wild meme, this surprise-release 14-track album is an unusual experiment for a genre-hopping superstar. It’s almost entirely a front-to-back club record of deep house music, shot through with his typical malaise.

It’s the first COVID-era dance album that actually sounds like catching a superflu at a warehouse party. It’ll likely be the most divisive album of his career.

“Honestly, Nevermind” reunites him with longtime collaborators Noah “40” Shebib, Oliver El-Khatib, engineer Noel Cadastre and South African house-music innovator Black Coffee.

Some initial impressions:

  • 1. This is his tears in the club record.

Yes, every Drake record is about being rich and sad in the VIP at 4 a.m. But “Honestly, Nevermind” sounds like he’s wobbly on ketamine at Panorama Bar in Berlin. Black Coffee’s influence is strong, all relentless four-on-the-floors and filter-scrubbed synth chords. Everything hovers around 125 BPM save for the rare, arresting moments of hard techno on “ Sticky,” Jersey club on “ Currents “ and the Mr. Fingers / Frankie Knuckles-style Chicago house stabs of “ Massive.”

  • 2. So is he sincere about house music?

Drake is pop music’s most famous genre burglar — from U.K. grime to drill to Afrobeats and Jamaican dub patois. It’s such a foundational part of his whole deal that it’s hard to even knock him for it (plus the boost to a then-emerging artist like Wizkid was real and huge). But this is the first time he’s dug root-and-branch into a decades-old genre he’d only glanced at before.

  • 3. It’s pretty miserable, even by Drake standards.

The recent disco explosion in pop brought effervescence and bounce to the top 40. So it’s a definite contrarian choice for Drake to make the album’s first proper track a downtempo deep-house cut where the main hook is minute after minute of mournful vocoder chants and lyrics like “Time isn’t healing/ Time is revealing/ How are you feeling/ You don’t feel nothing.” But there is a sweetly memorializing sample of the late Virgil Abloh (a fellow house music head) on “Sticky.”

  • 4. Whatever this breakup is, it’s got him wrecked.

Drake has always been strikingly merciless in his breakup tracks, but whomever “ Texts Go Green “ is about, he’s coming after them with extra-potent venom. “If I was in your shoes I would hate myself,” he sings. “For some reason, I believed in you.”

  • 5. He wrote at least one song after Young Thug’s indictment.

After a dozen tracks of disassociated raving, Drake finally gets his blood pressure up with “ Jimmy Cooks,” an old-school Drake rap song with a guest verse from 21 Savage — the only billed cameo on the album’s tracklist. The line “Hoes say I’m suave, but I can’t get RICO’d” lands just as Young Thug and Gunna went to jail on conspiracy charges (Drake also says “Free Big Slime out the cage” on “Sticky”). After all that Lexapro-glazed warehouse music, “Honestly, Nevermind” goes out with a fury.

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