Projects Released This Decade: Thank Me Later, Take Care, Nothing Was the Same, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, What a Time to Be Alive, More Life, Views, Scorpion
Biggest Billboard Hits This Decade: “God’s Plan,” “Nice for What,” “In My Feelings,” “One Dance,” “Hotline Bling”
Occam’s razor, in layman’s terms, is the principle by which “the simplest solution is most likely the right one.” In other words, it’s the most obvious answer. You see where I’m going here? Drake may have lost a beef to a diabolical supervillain towards the tail end, but when taking stock of the entire decade, objectively, Aubrey is inevitable.
In the 2010s—which, outside of So Far Gone, contain the totality of Drake’s mainstream career thus far—there have been two Drakes. The decade was a tumultuous one for him, but, astonishingly, no scandal—hidden child, ghostwriting allegations, Rihanna curve, club fight, or mid album—could impede a run that has increasingly become too big to fail. At some point (read: post-Meek) Drake himself realized this, too, and leaned into a heel turn that completely contorted an initial heart-on-his-sleeve shtick into something more sullen, more cynical, and, at times, more interesting.
Drizzy’s decade began with Thank Me Later, a cookie-cutter A-list rap album that did what it needed to do, but hardly portended the zeitgeist dominance the next nine years would see. That all changed on Take Care. Whether you consider it his finest hour or not, this is undoubtedly the project on which Drake became Drake, delivering all the unique idiosyncrasies, sounds, and themes that would become synonymous with his brand. From there, as he would brag on “Draft Day,” the game turned into the Drake Show. Every new single spawned a catchphrase, an Instagram caption, or both. Every project came with a 2 a.m. record and something the whole family could get down to at weddings. Your sister is pressing play, your nanny is pressing play, etc. And to clarify, this isn’t merely a popularity contest: The music has always been good. Even the sneakiest late-era Drake that sounds staid on arrival has a way of earworming its way into your brain and revealing itself to be deceptively genius (think “Going Bad” or “Money in the Grave,” to name some recent examples).
Of course, Drake’s dominance can’t be touted without considering the shrewd, vampiric, and genuinely magnanimous practice that’s helped him lead the pack for this long: co-opting new and bubbling talent right as their wave is about to crest. Detractors have argued the benefits aren’t always 50-50, with the object of a Drake feature sometimes causing more shadow than shine. Regardless of the wavering merits of a Drake stimulus package, though, one result is constant: The new sounds and flows always keep the Canadian at the forefront of the paradigm, as far as mainstream listeners are concerned. It’s a balancing act that shows no signs of floundering. On one of his more underrated singles of the last few years, he warned, “Bury me now and I’ll only get bigger.” Ten years in, he feels like he’s just getting started. —Frazier Tharpe
Complex is celebrating the best in music, pop culture, style, sneakers, and sports this decade. Check out the rest of our 2010s series here.