Eric: CLB is suffering from a bit of an identity crisis. It feels like Drake is attempting to channel the energy of his Take Care era and trying to make brutally honest records about life and relationships, but a lot of things about his life have changed since then, and it doesn’t feel as natural as it used to. When he opened the album by talking about his cleaning staff plotting to extort him and his personal chef’s “recipe for disaster,” it was clear this album wasn’t going to be as relatable as he’d hoped. Drake is one of the most dominant artists on the planet, and his paranoias are different now. That’s fine (growth is a good thing!) but I wish he leaned into it more. At this point in his career, he sounds a lot more believable on triumphant records where he gets to talk shit about living a ridiculously over-the-top life than he does feigning vulnerability. I was hoping he would embrace that evolution more on CLB. And while we’re talking about missed opportunities, it’s got to be said (again): women rappers need more guest features on these big albums (there are none on CLB).
Andre: This album is immature. I experienced an inverse dynamic of American Gangster here. I remember in ‘07, the buzz around American Gangster was that Jay was inspired by the Frank Lucas movie, and the prompt of mirroring the drug saga just so happened to take him back to the block lyrically. In reality, though, the album was an opportunity for Jay to satisfy his core fans after a polarizing reaction to Kingdom Come. But it worked for him, as it’s a great album.
With CLB, I can see a lot of his fans retorting criticisms of the project’s overtread themes and misogyny with “he said it’s about toxic masculinity, it’s called Certified Lover Boy.” Sure, OK. But for me, that’s not enough to ignore that this is a 35-year-old father still rhyming about what sounds like college situationships. And he sounds despondent about it on too many tracks, which makes one wonder why he’s still living like this. And again, I get it: “That’s the point of the album.” But the point of this post here is for us to speak on how we felt after listening. And I feel like I’m tired of hearing about Drake’s toxic “love” cycles and listening to him putting down women for being as “in the streets” as he is.
CLB is quintessential Drake, like American Gangster is quintessential Jay-Z. Both projects are/were fan service cloaked as conceptual offerings, but they worked to different effects for me. While Jay used a concept to step back into his zone, Drake is using his concept as a crutch to throw off the reality that his content has become redundant.
Jessica: Rap has a problem with album lengths. This is yet another album with more than 20 tracks, and although there are many highlights, it’s just too long. The sweet spot for CLB would have been around the 15 or 16 track range, similar to Nothing Was the Same. Drake has said that he tries to appease his fans by showing all sides of his artistry on each album, but he would have been just as effective if he had shaved off five or six songs.