For the second time in his career, the native of Toronto is trying a complicated exercise when you are an artist of his level : the joint project. Off the release of his excellent album If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late in 2015, he approaches Future to let us know What a Time To Be Alive. The problem with this project is precisely Future. The Hendrixxx being the MVP of the year 2015, without a doubt, Drake is just passing without really imposing his paw on what was finally labeled as a mixtape. Despite a seesaw performance from the 6 God, the duo managed to sell the album well, and allowed both to capitalize on new horizons. Future will be more melodious thereafter (Drake’s mood) and Drake will go towards more minimal and African sounds, and will manage to insert these flavors into the new social networks (Tik Tok). This new direction will give it a dominant position on streaming platforms.
That he may have been less good than Future on this first duo attempt must have had an impact on his approach to the project that interests us, Her Loss, with 21 Savage. Drake and 21 Savage, before that, it’s 4 titles in collaboration. All 4 were critical and commercial successes. The alchemy being validated, the path is direct towards a joint anthology album.
Before going into the album, it’s important to come back to the external elements. What should we expect from the alliance of these 2 rappers ? Drake is a multi-genre artist. Able to sing, rap, toast… In short, it’s above all very adaptable to all trends, which explains why for almost 15 years, it has remained fashionable. He is fashion. The other side of this coin is probably the lack of excellence. Always more or less good, never excessively striking. But this is not a concern strictly speaking, since society hates what it has adored, having as a business a way of always being adored and hated at the same time allows you to keep a certain balance. It’s obvious that Drake will still be there in twenty years. This may not be the case for 21 Savage, Trap artist, eyeing horrorcore in his relatively conventional early career. He’s not going to surprise us, we know what he is going to give us, and does it in a very pleasant way if there is one. Since his early career, there has been an evolution towards a more mainstream profile, even leading him to a Grammy nomination for one of his solo albums. For him, participating in a joint project with the biggest Hip Hop star of his generation is an opportunity to be seized.
Knowing all this, the official communication can start with the disclosure of the album cover. The portrait of a stripper, Suki Baby for the curious, on a pink background. We already feel that we are probably not going to pour into a horrorcore project. Then came a fake shooting for Vogue magazine, a fake Tiny Desk concert announcement, which is a YouTube format of live music in a very small group, and a fake SNL performance. These 2 elements confirm the hype aspect of the project, which is much closer to the universe of Drake than that, darker, of 21 Savage.
Drake et 21 Savage ont réalisé une fausse performance SNL pour leur titre "On BS."pic.twitter.com/Rnat0GGCA4
— Hyconiq (@Hyconiqmag_) November 6, 2022
And this feeling is confirmed quite quickly when listening to Her Loss. Drake is omnipresent, from productions in his styles, to rapped and sung passages, he takes the credit and leaves very little room for the one we are able to call his guest. He starts most of the songs as a duo, he has 4 solo songs (against 1 for the Savage). He even ends the album with his solo. Suddenly, there is a feeling of failure that emerges. The expected association rings hollow. The album remains quite good, but the expected alchemy does not take place, and the few ultra burnt samples (A Week Ago by Jay-Z, One More Time by Daft Punk or Real Ni**as by the Diplomats in particular) not particularly rekindle nostalgia in me. Drake occupies two thirds of the lyrics, against a little more than a quarter for 21. It’s difficult to consider Her Loss as a common album. We can imagine that Drake thanked 21 Savage in his own way for his contribution to Jimmy Cooks (Drizzy’s last big single, featuring with 21) by inviting him massively on his future solo album.
I wonder if this duo is really that organic, and if 21 Savage really needs to do this kind of project. Drake would have more to gain from working in duet with a Travis Scott (present on Her Loss by the way). Both having an equivalent level of fame, it’s possible that the connection and unity are more evident. I am obviously thinking of their joint hit, Sicko Mode. As for 21 Savage, he should focus on single-producer albums, as he brilliantly did with Metro Boomin’, or find a collaborator with a less oversized ego, which would allow him to exist. I think of J. Cole for example.
Wanting to control all the elements, Drake vampirized a project that deserved to be freer and shared more equitably. He probably wanted to avoid the misadventure of What A Time To Be Alive, but didn’t take into account the fact that with him there was not the same kind of artist, but someone less in sight, which probably needs a little more directing than Future can. We did not particularly expect perfect equity and a word-for-word distribution between Drake and 21, but not such an imbalance either. The next try will be the right one, no doubt.