When we look back at Drake’s first single, 2009’s “Best I Ever Had,” it’s hard not to wonder, “Why Drake?” Sure, it’s sweet and catchy, and his bars are solid, but there are a lot of songs like that, by artists who have long been forgotten. The single could have just as easily fallen by the wayside, included years later on lists titled, “10 Songs From The Aughts You Forgot About,” but it didn’t. Instead, Drake skyrocketed to mainstream success; the then-23-year-old was a hot commodity, as anyone at Young Money can tell you, and he’s remained one since—taking over for the 2010s.
Fast forward to present-day, and it feels like a lifetime since we first heard the Champagne Papi say, “You could have my heart, or we could share it like the last slice.” (He wasn’t even the Champagne Papi then). He’s an international superstar, to say the least, and even if they don't fuck with him, Drake’s most vehement doubters can’t deny his impact. Despite bumps in the road—mixed reviews of Views and Scorpion—and near-fatal crashes—“you are hiding a child”—it seems unlikely that the Drake train will slow down anytime soon.
Between all of Drake’s highs and lows, what has remained consistent is his ability to stay at the forefront of modern rap music, whether that’s via an infectious hook, a standout feature, a tectonic plate-shifting single, or an underrated album cut. We’ve combed through all of those categories to bring you the best Drake songs.
62. Drake, “Over”
61. Drake, “Under Ground Kings”
60. Drake f/ Bun B and Lil Wayne, “Uptown”
59. Drake f/ Lil Wayne, “Ransom”
58. Drake and Future, “Jumpman”
57. Drake f/ Lil Wayne, “Ignant Shit”
56. Drake, "Redemption"
Producer: Noah "40" Shebib
If you were to pare Views into a digestible R&B experience, “Redemption” would be the downbeat heart, the apology and plea, the stubborn rebuttal and melancholy conclusion. 40 stitches ghostly portions of Ray J's "One Wish" into a beat that sounds like Burial on depressants. The details offered in the lyrics feel lived in—“Your brother brought me through, you saw me”—and Drake is, for once on the album, critical of himself: “Why do I want an independent woman to feel like she needs me? I lost my way.” The song also deploys that tried-and-true, Drake-featuring-Drake structure, with multiple sung verses and a sung hook before a long rapped section. (40 is the only credited producer, too—this is back to basics with a bullet.)
During that unfurling verse, he sways through different flows before going totally liquid two-thirds in: “You tip the scale when I weigh my options/West Palm girls are spoiled rotten/Tiffany on you, you know you poppin/I'll kill somebody if they give you problems/Master bedroom where we get it poppin/Just ignore all the skeletons in my closet/I'm a walkin come-up, I'm a bank deposit.” His final line is one of the most poignant of his career: “I’ll never be forgiven.” What the title promises cannot be delivered. —Ross Scarano