Nearly nine months after he promised to drop Certified Lover Boy, Drake has finally returned with his latest project. But was it worth the wait? The Ringer staff gives their initial reviews, debates who is winning the Drake-Kanye feud, and tries to figure out whether “Way 2 Sexy” is trash or classic.
1. What’s your tweet-length review of Certified Lover Boy?
Danny Heifetz: A lot of feelings but not a lot of vibes.
Justin Sayles: We’ve reached the point where Drake albums are no longer good or bad, they’re just Drake albums: pretty good on first listen, worse on subsequent ones, too long, something to appeal to every type of listener. You either like this or you don’t.
Lex Pryor: Don’t worry … [prepares to gag] … Daddy’s home.
Logan Murdock: Drake isn’t focused.
Dan Comer: It’s too early to say whether CLB’s a classic, but it’s certainly stronger than Views and Scorpion. It sounds like the final album in a trilogy with Take Care and Nothing Was the Same, and that’s something to celebrate.
Jonathan Kermah: A less exhausting listening experience than Donda. But I have to dock some points for not giving a feature to fellow Kanye nemesis Soulja Boy.
Matt James: If all you ever want out of Drake is for him to rap his damn ass off, you’re really going to enjoy CLB. The bars here are more memorable than the songs. If you’re looking for Pop Drake, R&B Drake, or Dance Floor Drake, this isn’t the Drake album for you.
Aric Jenkins: Listening to the opening track and thinking, Man, this is some “Tuscan Leather” shit, is mostly a compliment but also a little damning.
Rob Harvilla: To quote the great Raylan Givens, “You run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole. You run into assholes all day? You’re the asshole.”
2. What’s your favorite song on CLB?
Comer: “Trust me this ain’t about revenge …”
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Sayles: Call me a traditionalist, but a Bink! beat with Ross rapping about Castro and Obamacare takes me back to simpler times.
Jenkins: “Papi’s Home.” Many people like many different versions of Drake; for me, boastful, rapping-with-bravado-over-an-R&B-sample Drake is the best Drake.
Harvilla: For me it’s the double-whammy of the semi-riotous “You Only Live Twice” (in which Rick Ross and Lil Wayne jolt him awake) and the semi-lovely “IMY2” (in which Kid Cudi pulls him into a deeper, more sumptuous reverie). Bonus points for the fact that those are tracks 18 and 19.
James: “You Only Live Twice” kicks the door open when it shows up on the back end of the album. Live drums and Rick Ross. Buckle up. All three of Ross, Drake, and Weezy deliver with an urgency rarely seen in a trio of over-30 rappers.
3. Least favorite?
Jenkins: “Way 2 Sexy.” What is that chorus?
Harvilla: Just say no to Drake talking fake tough on a song called “Knife Talk” in the year of our lord 2021. I’m shocked it’s not a song about how the maids are stealing his fine china.
Pryor: I know I’m tempting a swarm of millennial male angst with this but I’m gonna go with “IMY2.” Drake does best with someone who covers up his own vocal limitations, which is, uh, not Cudi.
James: Look, I like Kid Cudi. I’ve been enjoying him all week on Kanye’s “Moon.” But when “IMY2” kicked in, it instantly sounded to me like a parody of a Kid Cudi song. I’m sorry, I can’t help it. I thought that it might be a sample of some viral “How to Make a Kid Cudi Song” video.
Kermah: Without question, it’s gotta be “Girls Want Girls.” I’m not trying to write a think piece on “Yeah, say that you a lesbian, girl, me too,” but Drake is getting too old to rap shit like this.
Comer: The closest I’ve come to a quick skip is “Knife Talk,” which sounds like it belongs on Dark Lane Demo Tapes, not Drizzy’s first major release since 2018.
Sayles: “Fucking Fans” is a photocopy of a photocopy of a Drake song, with only the toxicity becoming clearer each time.
4. What’s the best Instagram caption on CLB?
Sayles: “Heart is on my sleeve and my body is in the hall of fame.” Honestly, who can’t relate?
James: I saw three instances of, “I’ve been losin’ friends and findin’ peace,” on social media within an hour of the album’s release. I also expect to see, “Anxiety’s a drug I use to get the job done,” and, “Knew I needed love but I think I value the hate more.” Eventually I expect LeBron James to get tired of guests at his home asking to reenact, “Up in Bron crib, fishbowl wineglasses.”
Jenkins: I’m fairly certain “I’ve been losin’ friends and findin’ peace, but honestly that sound like a fair trade to me” will top the Instagram caption charts, but if I could suggest an alternative: “I remember that I told you I miss you, that was kinda like a mass text.” Please use this for your post-break-up glow-up selfie.
Heifetz: Your Insta feed on Sunday will just be a couple pics with the caption “certified lover boy,” which is how you know there’s no hits on this album.
Comer: Can’t stop/won’t stop at one. Practice like you play. “I remember that I told you I miss you, that was kinda like a mass text” and “My losing nights are still a vibe” will show up in separate posts on my IG within the next week.
Harvilla: “I even got the cleanin’ staff plotting extortion on me.”
5. Who had the best feature? The worst?
Heifetz: The only choice for best feature is the one where Future says, “I’m too sexy for this syrup.”
James: I loved Tems’ album For Broken Ears last year, so I was excited to see her on the CLB tracklist. On “Fountains,” a song that admittedly feels out of place on CLB, you might mistakenly assume Tems to be the lead artist and Drake to be the feature if it weren’t for Drake’s vocals being so much louder in the mix. I also enjoyed Yebba’s track on CLB, which also feels out of place on the album. She’s such a massive talent, though, that it’s odd to give her a showcase that doesn’t demonstrate the full power of her voice or any of her crazy vocal runs. It’s like driving a Ferrari 65 mph on the highway. Drake sounds great when paired with a woman vocalist. I don’t know why it doesn’t happen more often. As for worst: There are 12 women on the cover and only two on the tracklist. There was a lack of women on Donda too. At least Drake didn’t name this one after his mother.
Kermah: Best: Lil Wayne. He has no business being able to attack a beat the way he does this late in his career. There’s a certain line that mentions shoving an 8-ball where it definitely shouldn’t go, but if you can get past that, his flow on “You Only Live Twice” sounds like he’s rapping with something to prove still. And this isn’t the only album he’s done that on this year.
Worst: Ty Dolla $ign. To be clear, I loved Ty Dolla’s feature on “Get Along Better,” I just feel like we needed more Ty Dolla on that song than what we were given. Like, did Drake short-change him on the feature price or something?
Harvilla: I have never been happier to hear Rick Ross in my whole life: He barrels into “You Only Live Twice” like somebody spiked the Kool-Aid Man. (“Patti LaBelle, who knew that we would sell pies?” for comedy; “Bullet wounds don’t be covered by Obamacare” for tragedy.) As for worst, nobody here is Yachty-on-Donda terrible, but I really didn’t need Future and Drake turning fuckin’ “I’m Too Sexy” into a dirge. I’m sure the amusing, meme-hungry video will change my mind.
Jenkins: The album’s best features are both on “You Only Live Twice,” but I’ll go with the unconventional pick and choose Mr. Ricky Rozay. As for the worst, don’t kill me Cudder fans but his contribution on “IMY2” was just not it.
Pryor: I don’t know how you top 21 Savage talking about glocks leaving “hickeys” on his itchy fingers. I hate to harp on this but Cudi was probably the worst.
Sayles: Ross + Drake has never missed, and Wayne’s quietly in the midst of a great 2021 run (see: His guest verses on Tyler’s album and Westside Gunn’s tape in recent months). Meanwhile, Lil Baby said, “If gym don’t work, get surgery / I’ll pay for that, my courtesy,” and then immediately followed it with, “Can’t imagine no bitch curvin’ me.” I can think of a few good reasons.
6. What’s your favorite version of Drake on CLB: Cocky Drake, Emo Drake, Cocky Rapper Drake, Corny Drake, Dad Drake, Horny Drake, etc.?
Sayles: Fake Mafia Don Drake—which is an offshoot of Corny Drake—is forever the best. “No Friends in the Industry” and “Knife Talk” back-to-back is perfect.
Jenkins: Aha, I was ahead of the curve in answering this question! But within these categories, can I get a cross between Cocky Drake and Rapper Drake?
Pryor: If Horny Drake didn’t also come with an inescapable layer of creepy I’d probably go with him, but instead I’ll go with Sensitive Drake. There’s just something perpetually enthralling about seeing Aubrey in his feelings.
James: The only version of Drake that really shines on CLB is Rapper Drake. It kind of feels like someone told him he’s not a great rapper and he made an album packed with bars just to prove that person wrong. And to be clear, he absolutely did prove that hypothetical person wrong.
Comer: I grew up listening to the Quiet Storm on V-103, so Sensitive Drake will always have my heart. Catch me dancing by myself on stage at MJQ in January 2024 singing, “Left his 20s and I still wanna party.”
Harvilla: Dad Drake has the highest upside for me at this point, though none of the quick flashes of that action here (“I had to fuck a lot of girls to get a kid like this”) can compare to the Awkward Parent-Teacher Conference energy of “Lemon Pepper Freestyle.” I need to hear way more about how he’s mastered co-parenting.
Murdock: Sensitive Drake is perhaps the most effective on the album, but Boring Drake appeared a lot more than planned.
7. Ten years on from Take Care, where is Drake in his career? What does Certified Lover Boy do for him?
Murdock: Alone at the top, which isn’t necessarily a compliment. The Boy seems bored and the rhythm of the album suffers because of it. Competition usually brings the best out of him, but with Kanye not being much of a formidable opponent and Kendrick under a rock (until recently), Drake is like 2011 Tiger in that he’s still no. 1 in the world but cracks are clearly appearing in his game.
Comer: Views and Scorpion each had some bangers, but overall they were bloated albums that lacked memorable features and enough high points to sustain interest through 20-plus tracks. With CLB, Drake makes 21 tracks feel like 15 by allowing some of the freshest voices in rap to shine behind tight production and Drizzy’s most consistent vision since Nothing Was the Same. It’s a return to form.
Jenkins: I don’t think this album does much for him in terms of expanding his stardom or legacy—he’s already been at peak fame and the album is too similar to his previous works to distinguish it artistically. That said, it’s still a good album and it redeems him a bit from Scorpion and Views, which were shameless pop chart grabs.
Harvilla: I’m not convinced Drake has ever climbed down from the CN Tower on the cover of Views—he’s been stuck in It’s Lonely at the Top + I’m Surrounded by Assholes and Nobody’s Loyal + Why Can’t All This Money Buy Happiness mode for at least a half-decade at this point. You won, and it didn’t make you whole: Find a new slant. CLB will break streaming records (again), and reestablish him as the biggest pop star we’ve got (again), and build him a wider + deeper + shark-infested-er moat (again). Once the initial whoosh of hype dissipates, though, I have no idea what this is supposed to do for anyone else.
Pryor: Like Hov before him, Drake has ripened into both a brand and a conglomerate. CLB keeps the money machine going.
8. Dude sampled the Beatles, Rick James, Musiq Soulchild, “Get Throwed,” Right Said fuckin’ Fred (an interpolation, but still), Three 6 Mafia, etc. Which worked best for you?
Murdock: “Get Throwed.” Aubrey’s appreciation for Houston shines through, plus, you can’t go wrong with a Pimp C sample.
Pryor: I’m always a sucker for Three 6 Mafia samples, and Memphis rap is one of the few regional sounds that Drake has used that doesn’t carry a whiff of co-optation.
Harvilla: The off-kilter deconstruction of the Beatles’ “Michelle” on “Champagne Poetry” really threw me on my first listen to Track 1, but after plowing through the 20 shiny-smooth and mostly desultory tracks that follow it, I’ve come to appreciate the way it throws you, and maybe even him, off-balance.
Kermah: Hear me out: It takes boldness to try to flip Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy.” Future took it to the next level by interpolating the lyrics with a trap twist on the hook. Like, I really wanted to hate this song, but I was too busy laughing until Young Thug came sliding.
Sayles: Flipping Montell Jordan’s “Daddy’s Home” into “Papi’s Home” is hilarious, genius, and enough to make up for that goddamn Pepsi line.
Jenkins: The “Champagne Poetry” sample with the Beatles (via Masego) was indeed great, but I actually like the latter half even more, featuring the Gabriel Hardeman Delegation. The pared-down choir works perfectly for an intro track.
James: My expectations for an “I’m Too Sexy” sample were high. I know that song is a joke to most people but lyrics aside, it’s a killer track and the instrumentals are a gold mine for sampling. The song itself samples three songs (including Jimi Hendrix) brilliantly. Unfortunately, “Way 2 Sexy” uses “I’m Too Sexy” only as a premise for a particularly boring chorus. I can’t believe that this track features Drake, Future, and Thugger and somehow manages to be a skip for me.
9. Damien Hirst is designing your album cover—which emoji are you going with?
Heifetz: He needed someone to design 12 emojis on a white background?
Harvilla: Expressionless with a succession of 12 increasingly unruly COVID-era self-haircuts.
Sayles: The Italian-finger-pinch jam. I’ve been watching a lot of The Sopranos lately.
Comer: Zany face, but that dude Damien’s coming nowhere near my album cover. Give me Getty Images/Ringer illustration all day.
James: I don’t have an album but I think he should get with Lil Nas X and whip up a pregnant man emoji.
Kermah: Until I can see emojis with Black hairstyles like waves, afros, dreadlocks, and cornrows, I won’t be participating in this exercise. (I’m half kidding. Lemme get a yawn for the lost sleep waiting for this album to drop.)
10. With Kanye and Drake both dropping albums in the same week, who is currently winning the feud?
Murdock: It’s a mixed bag: Kanye’s had a better album but his Drake obsession and missteps have Aubrey firmly in the lead. But with his antics, over-the-top rollouts, and unpredictability, Kanye is the more interesting artist, which has significantly closed the gap.
James: It’s definitely Donda for me. The further I get from the fatigued feel of those Donda listening events, the more I like the album. If you’re looking for the best bars, though, you’d definitely choose CLB. Maybe just listen to music without splintering off into factions?
Sayles: Here’s the list of the people who appeared on Donda and CLB: Jay-Z, Kid Cudi, Lil Baby, Lil Durk, Ty Dolla $ign, and Travis Scott. The only people that seem to truly care about this beef are Drake, Ye, and Soulja Boy.
Harvilla: They’re not playing the same sport / fighting the same war / occupying the same planet anymore. Kanye is getting messier and messier in his quest to set himself on fire just to watch the world burn; Drake is getting sleepier and sleepier in his quest to build a bigger, swankier panic room. What they share, at this point, is the deficiency Jay-Z points out here on “Love All”: “You know the price of everything but the value of nothin’.”
Heifetz: Let me know when Drake is living in a football stadium trying to finish an album and we can talk.
11. Where does Certified Lover Boy rank in Drake’s catalog?
Sayles: Certainly better than Scorpion, but does this record have a “God’s Plan” (or even a “Nice for What” or “In My Feelings”)?
Murdock: As of now, last.
Heifetz: In order: Nothing Was the Same, Take Care, What a Time to Be Alive, IYRTITL, Scorpion, Views, Certified Lover Boy, Thank Me Later, Dark Lane Demo Tapes, More Life.
- Nothing Was the Same
- Take Care
- More Life
- Certified Lover Boy
- Thank Me Later
- All that other bullshit [that’s] here today and gone tomorooooooow
James: If CLB is your kind of Drake album, you’re probably putting it a little higher than the middle of the pack, at best. For me, it’s a bottom three or four Drake album.
Pryor: I don’t think it’s his best album but I liked it much more than Scorpion. I’d probably put it in the middle, right next to Views but below Nothing Was the Same and Take Care.
Comer: It’s top three since 2011, and maybe not three, but Take Care remains unbeaten.
Kermah: It’s way too soon to really lock this album’s position in, but if you threatened to shave a heart into my hairline if I didn’t make a decision, I would just say it’s undoubtedly worse than IYRTITL, NWTS, and Take Care, and it’s certainly better than the Dark Lane Demo Tapes and Thank Me Later. Everything else, I’ll leave for y’all to decide. But if we’re talking pettiness, this has gotta be top three.