On the final night of Drake’s sixth annual OVO Fest, surprise guest Kanye West asked a simple question. “Is y’all ready for this album?” The sold-out crowd lost its collective shit as that looped Pastor T.L. Barrett sample from “Father Stretch My Hands” crackled through the venue, and Kanye waved the DJ off so he could clarify his question. “I’m not talking about Pablo. I wasn’t talking about Views. I wanna ask y’all right now, is y’all ready for this album,” he said, pointing offstage to Drake. Drake did some weird bicep-touch-crisp-chest-pass gesture back. I’m not entirely sure what to call it, but I’m pretty sure it was legally binding.
The Kanye-Drake project has been coming down the pipeline for some time now. Back when Drake released Views, and had that fireside chat with Zane Lowe that felt only slightly less staged than a “60 Minutes” interview on the campaign trail, he said that he and Kanye had a mixtape in the works. The claim was somewhat substantiated during Kanye’s July 30 tweetstorm (which, once again, he didn’t thread; how does he still not know how Twitter works?), calling for another sit-down with industry giants that may or may not be on Twitter. He wanted Jimmy Larry, Tim Cook, Drake, and Daniel Ek with him, in a room, ASAFP, brokering a peace to end the streaming wars and rid the world of exclusives, which are “fucking up the music game.” Presumably, this would allow Tidal-friendly Kanye and Apple-friendly Drake to bypass all the red tape and legal fees to drop a joint project for the kids, bro.
The mutual respect is already there. When “All Day” was still floating around the internet as a series of hallway cellphone recordings stitched together over a bass-boosted bootleg beat, Kanye acknowledged that Drake is the most popular rapper now. On “Summer Sixteen” Drake rapped about having a bigger pool than Ye, but took care to call Ye’s pool “nice,” which was a perfectly generous adjective. (Kanye later responded during a Big Boy interview on Real 92.3 Los Angeles: “I have three pools.”)
At OVO Fest three years ago, Kanye took a moment to pay his respects, and claim that he and Jay Z would’ve never made Watch the Throne had they not felt pressure behind (read: threatened by) the head of steam Drake had built up in 2011. It confirmed what Drake himself had suggested earlier that year, during a Tim Westwood interview so tongue-in-cheek it’s surprising he was able to get a complete thought out at all: Kanye and Jay got the idea to do a collaborative album from him and Lil Wayne.
Without the two of them — Drake and Wayne — WTT doesn’t happen. Jay doesn’t talk about planking on a million dollars, Kanye doesn’t bring both Otis Redding and Curtis Mayfield back from the dead for features, and neither performs drunk bodywork on a Maybach with a blowtorch and an electric hacksaw.
Do you remember how fun that album was? The unbridled joy? The epileptic episode–inducing excess? The navel-gazing? The donuts?
Usually, you just want a collaborative album to feel like a party where the hosts aren’t so concerned with whether everyone’s liking the punch that they can’t have a good time themselves. All the best ones are like that; Big Tymers’s Hood Rich for example, or 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne’s COLLEGROVE, released earlier this year. Sure, a Drake–Kanye West album would be mostly good; you need only look at each artist’s track record to come to that conclusion. But would a Drake–Kanye West album be fun?
Could they strike a balance between Kanye’s happy monogamy-and-fatherhood schtick and Drake’s misanthropic, single-as-fuck lifestyle? Would they reference anything outside of the Calabasas Cul De Sac? Will they force each other to look outward? Can you imagine Kanye and Drake making an album with a bunch of cloying references to social issues they don’t really understand anymore?
Do we even need this album?
Probably not. But we’ll all listen to it anyway. It’s Kanye and Drake, man.