Drake, one of the world’s most prolific pop-rap stars, has surprise-released his seventh studio album, and it’s, er, a house record? At first glance, that might seem weird considering that the Canadian “6God” has been insistent in proving over the past decade that he’s one of the biggest and best rappers alive. But by utilising his endless experience as a melodic hitmaker and chart monster, ‘Honestly, Nevermind’ has all the makings of a summer smasher: get your Pimm’s pitchers and back garden barbecues at the ready.
It picks up where elements of his 2017 mixtape ‘More Life’ left off, notably reconnecting Drake with Black Coffee, the South African afro-house DJ and producer who worked on the Jorja Smith-featuring single ‘Get It Together’. Of his three contributions to ‘Honestly Nevermind’, the most successful, ‘Overdrive’, sees Black Coffee link up with Drake’s chief confidante and producer Noah “40” Shebib as they take classic funk motifs and add racing guitars and piano flourishes to flesh out Drake’s moody heartbreak rhetoric, creating a chilled-out, catchy listen.
However, not every song here has that relaxed feel, and lead single ‘Falling Back’ – accompanied by a video of Drizzy marrying 23 women – is the most glaring example. Here, Drake’s vocals become monotonous and droning, and he reaches for a register desperately out of his grasp; the repetitive “falling back on me” line starts adorably, but quickly sours. Mind you, these questionable high-pitch vocals return later on in the album, and are perfected by the time of the salsa-y ‘Tie That Binds’. In comparison to his last album ‘Certified Lover Boy’, which NME described as a “boring, bloated disappointment” where Drake sounded “dull and jaded”, at least he’s giving something else a go, y’know?
Thankfully, ‘Falling Back’ proves to be just one of a few minor blips on an otherwise intriguing project. It doesn’t overshadow ‘Currents’ and ‘Sticky’’s Jersey-style bounce, or the southern hip-hop flavour of the 21 Savage-featuring ‘Jimmy Cooks’. The pair’s collaborative synergy generates a topical quip, too, as Savage has his say on the infamous Will Smith Oscars slap: “If I was Will Smith, I would’ve slapped him with a stick.”
Arriving so quickly after his last body of work, as most Drake releases often do, ‘Honestly, Nevermind’ is an unexpected elevation from the bland trap, R&B remakes and Drake’s melancholic attitude to love we heard last time around. He doesn’t quite shift the latter as much as one would hope – the album is as tiresomely woe-is-me as anything he’s ever done – but the house sound has at least given him the creative boost that his recording career has been crying out for recently.
Release date: June 17
Record label: OVO / Republic Records