Drake and 21 Savage – ‘Her Loss’ review: exciting prospect marred by lazy songwriting

The Toronto and Atlanta megastars show flashes of brilliance, but can't stay out of their own way on the 16-track collaboration

For many fans, the highlight of Drake’s recent house-infused album ‘Honestly, Nevermind’ was its final track ‘Jimmy Cooks’, which departed from this sound completely. A feature with Atlanta rap superstar 21 Savage, the track swapped warm, tropical beach vibes for deep south rap grit, and it was a hit. For that reason, a joint album between the pair was always an exciting prospect.

They have history beyond that: Drake and 21 first joined forces in 2016 for ‘Sneakin”, before solidifying their bond with tracks like ‘Certified Lover Boy‘s ‘Knife Talk’ and ‘Savage Mode II’s ‘Mr. Right Now’. On paper, they’re a strong duo: Drake, the slick, pop-rap playboy superstar, while 21 provides the rougher edges, his Southern drawl punctured by sharp, witty lyricism. During ‘On BS’, they bounce off each other neatly, asserting their star quality with back-to-back bars: “I jump on your song and make you sound like you the feature / I jump on your song and make a label think they need ya”.

But this smooth dynamic alone isn’t enough to make a genuinely impressive album, and it only takes a cursory listen to spot this album’s main flaw. As the title suggests, ‘Her Loss’ is a braggy, chauvinistic album that’s packed with the kind of cheap misogyny that most of the world’s best rappers ditched years ago. This is hardly shocking given Drake’s penchant for moaning endlessly about women.

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The Toronto rapper’s latest release instantly sparked controversy after he appeared to diss Megan Thee Stallion on ‘Circo Loco’, in the line “This bitch lie ’bout getting shots, but she still a stallion”, referencing her alleged shooting by rapper Tory Lanez in July 2020. Lanez denies the allegation, and charges stemming from the incident will head to trial later this month. Upon hearing the line Megan responded, asking the pair to “stop using my shooting for clout”. The song’s co-writer Lil Yachty has since claimed on Instagram that “it’s not about Megan it’s about women lying about their butt shots saying it’s real when it’s fake”.

The most uncomfortable moment of the album comes early; after the tough, bass-driven intro of opening track ‘Rich Flex’ is cut, to see Drizzy emerge from the mist: “All of you hoes need to remember who you’re talking to… I’ve got dick for you if I’m not working girl, if I’m busy then fuck no / You need to find you someone else to call when your bank account get low”. Clearly, Drake’s carefree vibes era has ended almost as quickly and emphatically as it begun, replaced by a voice that’s increasingly devoted to documenting the apparent difficulties of interacting with women. It’s as tedious as it was the last time.

It’s even more frustrating given that ‘Her Loss’ is elsewhere peppered with serious barring, and excellent production. Big names like Tay Keith, Lil Yachty, and Metro Boomin all have beat-making credits on the album, providing dark instrumentals that offer a sturdy crutch for any moments of lazy lyricism. 21 Savage offers many of the album’s highlights: ‘3AM on Glenwood’ sees him strike a calm, confessional tone, rapping “Can’t believe they killed Skinny, I really growed up with him… Won the Grammy and I couldn’t even show it to him”. With his trademark drawl, he speaks powerfully on the violence he’s faced, the people he’s lost, and the changes he’s been through.

On ‘More M’s’, Drake raps “Got so many hits it wouldn’t be no fair to do no verses / I could really do five hours in a stadium”, and he’s not lying. But therein lies part of the problem with his oeuvre: the 16 tracks on ‘Her Loss’ mean that Drake has released over 50 songs in the past 14 months, across three albums. It’s just way too much. The Canadian artist won’t be fussed, shaded as he is by insane wealth and money-minded tracks like ‘Rich Flex’ and ‘Pussy & Millions’, but when we look back and compare him to rap’s more patient, detailed craftspeople, the likes of Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole, those artists’ work will surely garner more admiration.

Despite some great beats and some heavy bars, ‘Her Loss’ is underwhelming. The whining misogyny laced throughout the record is a symptom of a wider issue: this album is essentially the sonic imprint of a massively bloated ego. It’s yet more evidence that Drake’s art is suffering under the strain of his obsession with churning out as much music as is physically possible. And while 21 doesn’t have the same problem, both halves of the duo are responsible for an album that had the potential to be a classic, and missed.

Details

  • Release date: November 4, 2022
  • Record label: OVO/Republic
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