“I know it’s summertime, I gotta give you shit,” Drake told a throng of Chicago concertgoers at the opening stop of his It’s All a Blur Tour with 21 Savage. “I don’t know about these guys that go away for three, four, five years, [and] wanna chill out and all that shit. That’s not me,” he added before plugging his upcoming For All the Dogs album, which he first revealed via QR code in newspaper ads announcing his already-polarizing poetry book.
The blogosphere framed the comments as a shot at rival Kendrick Lamar. But they’re also a rare insight into Drake’s artistic psyche. The megastar doesn’t do interviews (unless they’re highly choreographed, like the faux-Vogue and Howard Stern interviews with 21 Savage last year), so fans haven’t heard any rationale for Drake’s recent bevy of releases. There was his sixth solo album, Certified Lover Boy, released in September 2021. He followed that up with his electronic foray Honestly Nevermind in June 2022, and tripled back with Her Loss, a collaborative album with 21 Savage, in November of the same year. And now, the release of For All the Dogs is imminent. There’s also been talk of a What a Time to Be Alive 2, with Future. Drake could easily retire today with a solidified legacy, but he’s been grinding like a new artist.
Maybe it’s a consequence of life as a Young Money alumnus. If he calls his big homie Lil Wayne, the New Orleans rapper will probably tell him he’s in the studio, on the way to the studio, or coming home from the studio. Wayne’s work ethic rubbed off on Drake, who rapped on the 2018 More Life cut “Free Smoke” about a pre-stardom apprenticeship where “I had some different priorities; Weezy had all the authority.” Part of Weezy’s edict during his formative years was undoubtedly a mandate to work as hard as he did when he vaulted himself to music superstardom with a relentless pace of mixtapes, feature verses, and albums. As Wayne told Rolling Stone last month, he’s still in the studio every single day. His work ethic shaped a paradigm for Drake to outpace many of his generational peers release-wise.
Drake’s output also mirrors another rap scion, the Carter from Brooklyn, Jay-Z, who Drake has always championed as a musical idol. Jay famously kicked off his career with an album each year, an intense output by late-Nineties/early-2000s hip-hop standards. He was able to constantly remain in the greatest rapper conversation for more than 15 years, keeping himself present at big-box retailers with new material. In a similar manner, Drake has been a playlist mainstay for the entirety of the streaming era. Earlier this year, he posted an Instagram story celebrating the milestone of becoming the first artist to surpass 75 billion streams.
It’s possible that Drizzy’s rapid-fire output as of late is a sign of the times, where fast-paced newsfeeds require near-constant updates from anyone who hopes to remain relevant. To Drake’s credit, he’s been strategic with his releases, quieting much of the criticisms that said he was beginning to rely on a formulaic sound. Honestly, Nevermind is a hard sonic pivot where he predominantly sings over electronic and dance-tinged tracks. While Her Loss is more like a Drake solo project marketed as a collaboration, 21’s presence does at least offer some balance to the equation. With three albums in two years, it’s no small feat that Drake’s releases have been varied enough for fans not to get bored — at least, not yet.
The It’s All a Blur Tour features holograms, a graphic-projecting stage, and Drake talking to a family friend acting as his younger self in a manner similar to Kanye’s conversations with “Jesus” during the 2016 Saint Pablo Tour. It’s been as much performance art as a mere recitation of a set list. The tour’s scrupulous proceedings exemplify an artist who’s still passionate about his craft. He could easily have rapped his catalog on a basic stage set and still earned hand over fist, but he was intent on an unforgettable (and likely expensive) experience. The intentionality behind his live show (to the tune of paying a $230,000 fine to complete it in Detroit) bleeds over into his musical ambition.
But rap fans shouldn’t take him for granted; in February, in a rare moment of candor, he did tell Lil Yachty that he’s started to envision what retirement would look like. While saying he doesn’t feel it’s imminent, he noted, “I’m kind of introducing the concept in my mind of a graceful exit.” He added, “I’m not ready now, but to gracefully continue making projects that are extremely, like, interesting and hopefully cherished by people. And then to find the right time to say like, ‘I can’t wait to see what the next generation does.’” Drake is a fanatical sports fan who knows all about the notion of leaving it all on the floor. Perhaps this torrential rush is his final musical push before he joins the likes of Jay-Z, Diddy, and Ye and deprioritizes music to do multimillionaire investor things. Time will tell how things turn out for him, but until then, For All the Dogs is on the way.
From Rolling Stone US