Music

6 things we learned from Drake's new album, Honestly, Nevermind

With only 1 guest, a standout flamenco guitar and more producers on the roster, there’s a lot to take in.

With only 1 guest, a standout flamenco guitar and more producers on the roster, there’s a lot to take in

Drake dedicated his 7th studio album to late fashion designer Virgil Abloh. (OVO, Getty Images; graphic by CBC Music)

Drake surprise-dropped his seventh solo studio album at midnight on June 16, giving fans only a few hours' notice for the followup to September 2021's Certified Lover Boy

So far the reception is divided, though that's to be expected after only 12 hours with the album and a lot to dig through in the 14 house music-inspired tracks — which mainly showcase Drake's singing, not rapping. Below we've put together six takeaways so far, including some of Drake's new collaborators, inspirations and one surprising video. 

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There is only 1 guest

A Drake album is usually packed with guest appearances from the rapper's famous Rolodex, but on Honestly, Nevermind, there's only one feature. On the album's saxophone-assisted closing number, "Jimmy Cooks," Drake reunites with "Knife Talk'' collaborator 21 Savage, who delivers a standout performance on the Tay Keith-produced track. (In his verse, 21 Savage references Bart Simpson, Drake's "Lemon Pepper Freestyle" collaborator Rick Ross and Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at this year's Oscars.) While Honestly, Nevermind could have benefitted from a few more voices, the album at least leaves listeners with a high note from two top-tier rappers. 

'Tie That Binds' verges into adult contemporary territory

While he isn't named as a featured artist in the song title, Netherlands-based Ramon Ginton has a starring role in one of the album's standout tracks, the flamenco-inflected "Tie That Binds." In addition to co-producing the track, Ginton contributes hair-raising guitar that adds a novel touch when it arrives just past the one-minute mark for a protracted solo and later plays the song out. It's the album's smoothest song, verging on an adult contemporary sound that will expand Drake's audience even further (if that's possible).

There is less 40, but more space for other producers

Drake's go-to producer since the beginning of his career has been Noah "40" Shebib, who is credited for helping shape the new Toronto hip-hop sound and changing the music landscape with his work on Drake's breakthrough releases Take Care and Nothing Was the Same. But on Honestly, Nevermind, 40 takes a bit of a backseat, only working on two of the album's 14 tracks ("Overdrive" and "Down Hill"). (40 is still credited as an executive producer of the album.) 

This definitely contributes to the album's more varied sounds and production — which goes in a more house- and dance-inspired direction than his previous releases — and it also opens up space for other contributions. On the album's intro and on the track "Flight's Booked," Montreal producer Kid Masterpiece steps in. This marks his third Drake collaboration, having worked on Certified Lover Boy's "N 2 Deep" and the Nicki Minaj, Drake and Lil Wayne cut "Seeing Green" prior to Honestly, Nevermind. Elsewhere, Drake brings on Toronto-based producers Govi and Alex Lustig (Young Thug, Machine Gun Kelly), as well as Gordo, a.k.a. DJ Carnage and Beau Nox.

Drake's making music for a different kind of club now

Drake has always prided himself on being a chameleon. He likes to dabble in sounds outside of the mainstream hip-hop bubble, from Afrobeats to New Orleans bounce — it's one of the ways he's maintained his relevancy all these years. Honestly, Nevermind is rife with nods to the legacy of dance music genres created by Black and queer artists and producers from Chicago, Detroit, New York and New Jersey. Following a recent movement to reclaim historically Black genres like house and techno, Drake remains right on the pulse, adding to an ongoing lineage — and a big part of that is thanks to Black Coffee. 

The South African DJ/producer is credited on three tracks, and is listed as an executive producer alongside Drake's usual cadre (Oliver El-Khatib, Noel Cadastre and 40). Black Coffee is a trailblazer in the South African house scene, and was also sampled on "Get it Together," a standout track from Drake's 2017 release, More Life. There are Jersey club elements (complete with the iconic box-spring squeaks) on "Currents," and Jersey club producers have been making bootleg Drake edits for years now, so you know they're about to have a field day with this track. "Calling my Name" breaks down into a sultry house beat with high-pitched vocals, a signature of vogue music from New York. "Flight's Booked," "A Keeper" and "Overdrive" are atmospheric and reminiscent of Balearic and melodic house. "Sticky" is primed to become a hit, existing halfway between Jersey club and big beat — it's the song on the album most suited to throwing it back.

He dedicated the album to Virgil Abloh 

In the album description of Honestly, Nevermind on Apple Music, Drake included a lengthy, poetic statement for fans. In it, he delves into his motivations and the emotions that inspired these songs: "I work with every breath in my body 'cause it's the work not air that makes me feel alive." The note concludes in all-caps: "DEDICATED TO OUR BROTHER V." It's a reference to fashion designer Virgil Abloh, who died last December after a two-year battle with cancer. Shortly after his death, Drake paid tribute by getting a tattoo of Abloh. 

He teamed up with Director X on the 1 video for the album (so far)

In 2018, Drake dropped a video for his hit single "Nice for What" that was an ode to a roster of celebrity women to match a song about female empowerment. The video for "Falling Back" — the only visuals to go with the new album so far — is not that. In it, Drake marries a long line of 23 women, whose names appear on the event's program (and who appear to mainly be models and Instagram influencers), after getting a pep talk from best man and Chicago Bulls player Tristan Thompson, whose advice might not hold much weight

There are a few other cameos, including one from Drake's mom, who says, "I think he's really taking these ones seriously" — giving us a moment of levity when the video (successfully) comes off as a bit of a parody. (The other moment is when Dan Finnerty, the wedding singer from The Hangover, performs Drake's hit "Best I Ever Had" as a ballad.) Drake teamed up with oft collaborator and fellow Torontonian Director X for the lavish, nearly 10-minute video, which is pitch-perfect for a song where Drake's accusatorily sings, "You don't feel nothing/ time isn't healing/ time is revealing/ how are you feeling?/ You don't feel nothing."

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