In just mere hours before release, Drake sent out a warning to the industry; he’s back so pay attention. Single-handedly building up credibility as the defining hitmaker in hip-hop over the last five or so years, Drake figured the formula of having the world in the palm of his hands. With each release, there’s this sudden cultural reset where the charts are on notice and social media generates into their viewing party of witnessing unparalleled consistency of dominance. This sudden repeated turn of events stretched out longer than anyone really expected it to. Just when you thought it was going to slow down, Drake guarantees to have something up his sleeves. It’s a game of chess, not checkers.
As a palate cleanser for what’s to come, Drake curated a collection of already previewed songs, leaked releases, and demos alongside the help of Oliver Khatib and OVO Noel. Titled Dark Lane Demo Tapes, The Boy reignited anticipation with an unexpected release to shift attention away before the bigger picture; his sixth studio album which is slated to be release over the summer. On the mixtape, Drake presents a formulative collection of songs that don’t hinder the quality of his discography nor the expectations of what comes next. Instead, it’s a way to tie in the missing pieces that helped shape the various eras leading up to his summer spectacle.
Dark Lane Demo Tapes has its share of hits and misses, so behold the good, the bad, and the in-between of the mixtape:
“Chicago Freestyle” featuring Giveon
Reminiscent to the sounds of the past, Drake creates a euphoric sun-setting mid-tempo experience that he knows how to do best. Flipping a sample of Eminem’s “Superman”, The Canadian rapper nails an unexpected treat that sounds bogus on paper, but somehow works. Completed with the sudden escape of the haunting vocals of Giveon who upon first listen is somewhat identical to a similar vocal delivery by Sampha, “Chicago Freestyle” is a mindboggling listen, even when it wasn’t intended to be.
“Desires” featuring Future
For their second collaboration of the year, Drake and Future do it again. Despite what they want you to think, life isn’t so good, and they’ve experienced that firsthand. With the simple approach to moody music, the song is a refreshing take to what fans normally expect when these two takeover the airwaves. Unfortunately leaking prior to release, “Desires” never really got to chance to get the full attention that it deserves.
In just three minutes, Drake is able to glide over an OZ production and get his point across in ease. The greatest accomplishment of the song is the storytelling that is ever so relatable. Stemming from a text message, the concept of the song is contrived of those late-night feelings that are instantly regrettable.
“D4L” with Future & Young Thug
The ultimate three-piece collective, Drake, Future, and Young Thug celebrate a triumphant display of doing it with ease. Trading lines while allowing each respective artist to shine. “D4L” gives all three rappers the freedom to do whatever they want with no limitations. Having fun with it, the back-and-forth outcome is an excellent example of letting loose with no expectations.
“Pain 1993” featuring Playboi Carti
After months of anticipation, the long awaited, much anticipated Playboi Carti collaboration finally arrived. Originally intended for Carti’s sophomore effort Whole Lotta Red, the track “Pain 1993” is the standout on the project that desperately needed uniqueness. Discovering a path to work his magic while blending his style with the creatively of Carti’s two-sided character, Drake commands the stage with the rising star as his hype man. Playboi Carti doesn't break character to fit the standard of a Drake song, instead he complements the album cut with his signature baby-voice delivery.
“Demons” featuring Fivio Foreign and Sosa Geek
Entering Brooklyn drill, Drake experiments once again with a new flow. Testing his limits to see if he can hold his own, the rapper is menacing, tapping into the energy that finally sounds believable. Co-signing the featured New Yorkers, Fivio Foreign and Sosa Geek, it helps to push Brooklyn drill into a new territory. Though the future of Brooklyn Drill remained uncertain after the unfortunate death of Pop Smoke, the song provides a glimpse of hope to the endless possibilities of the new wave of rappers in the scene.
“From Florida With Love"
Just in case anyone forgot, Drake sends a reminder to reassure that he’s back and he’s charged up. With a subtle flex, Drake shares the experience of that time Lil Wayne premiered “Lollipop” on the tour bus as Kobe Bryant enters the vehicle. Another hit!
Introducing the new mixtape, opener “Deep Pockets” sets the pace for what’s to come. After a full listen, it’s clear to realization that with this project Drake had nothing to lose. Making it apparent on the song, doesn’t meet the standards for the usual Drake intro song. A clear “Scorpion” leftover track.
“Not You Too” featuring Chris Brown
After setting the summer on fire with the irresistible “No Guidance”, Drake and Chris Brown join forces once again. This time around the duo somehow falls flat in execution. Unlike the effortlessness of their previous collaboration, “Not You Too” is a poor excuse to somehow emulate what made their chemistry special in the first place. Lacking an oomph, the song stands still at a mellow melody that goes nowhere.
Drake flaunts his wealth and celebrates his well-deserved lifestyle on your usual braggadocious album cut. Playing with a different flow, Drake makes it work, but the song is nothing special.
Drake the hitmaker and Drake the rapper are two different sides to the artist who has proved he can conquer various sounds all at once. Dominating the charts for nearly a decade, Drake rewrote the formula of the expectations of a hit, and now the recipe is his own dirty little secret. But when Drake captured the attention of your causal Top 40 listeners with career highlights such as “Hold On We’re Going Home” and “Hotline Bling” there was still a sense of who he was as an artist. Unfortunately, “Toosie Slide” is the ultimate display of creating a hit for the sake of being a hit. Falling for the trap for a TikTok hit, Drake pulled the trigger and achieved the point of reason: topping the charts.
An impressive album cut that falls flat due to album placement. It’s vintage Drake with hints of the signature AM/PM releases. Notable lyrics: “Lost you to the game, and I see why, it was always you and I without the T-Y”.
For his last release of the 2010s, Drake’s British delivery makes a comeback. Reflecting on the timeline that led up to his lifestyle, Drake is detailed and introspective. Unfortunately, the delivery is unbearably humorous, even when you want to hate it, you just can’t.
What’s left to say?
Drake has nothing left to lose, and this mixtape proves that. The stakes are lower, and the Canadian hitmaker is aware of that, as he cautiously calculates his every move. With a collection of B-sides, it’s a 14-track project of songs that weren’t intended to be released, and it should be digested as that. It clears the way for what’s next to come.