Album: We The Best Forever
Producer: T-Minus, Nikhil Seetharam, Noah "40" Shebib
Despite Khaled's attempt to transform it into one of his high-drama Frankenstein posse cuts, "I'm On One" is all about Drake doing what Drake does best. Like all great Drizzy x 40 collaborations, it's a wistful, conflicted examination of the high life, fluctuating between introspective apologies and brash boasts. One minute he's crooning about being too drunk to control his slutty impulses, the next he's spitting at Jay-Z and Kanye about taking their spot at the top.
From a production and songwriting perspective, "I'm On One" shows an impressive attention to detail. 40 softens up T-Minus' trap-style drums with his lo-fi monophonic filter and a subtle layer of moody chords that give the track an emotional, restrained balance. The entire first half of the song has no kick drums—the element that gives most rap songs their booming heft—a clever message to the listener that something big is around the corner. Drizzy's verse is also designed to build anticipation, beginning with slow singing before switching suddenly to a more aggressive rapping style.
When the first verse ends, just when you think the chorus and bass are going to burst out of your speakers, the whole track goes underwater and Drake reverts to softly singing an unexpected pre-chorus ("All I care about is money and the city that I'm from..."). And then, after a minute and 15 seconds of teasing the listener, they finally unleash the chorus with booming bass underfoot. It feels like a release, one that perfectly matches the reckless abandon of the lyrics ("Fuck it, I'm on one").
Whether you appreciate the subtle, strategic songwriting, or just think this shit bangs, it's clear that "I'm On One" is Drake's pop masterpiece. Now can we get a version with two more Drizzy verses? —Brendan Frederick