This new mixtape is meant to be the warm-up for his upcoming album, but instead we find Drake selling his soul for streaming numbers in a depressing, soul-sucking experience.
It’s a familiar phrase that is starting to grow tiresome as time wears on, ‘another year and another project from Drake has dropped’, and lo and behold here we are with his seventh mixtape, Dark Lane Demo Tapes. There is no doubt that the Canadian rapper is one of the hardest working artists in the music industry today with fans being treated to two albums, four mixtapes, and a compilation of unreleased songs (last year’s Care Package) all since 2015 – an astonishing quantity of music that has kept his name in the limelight. On the other hand, the quality has gone down considerably with his output which is a shame considering he can prove his talent with albums like Take Care and If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. However with this new collection of leaked songs and new tracks, we are now plummeting down that trajectory at a much faster rate as Drizzy ploys another commercial cash grab that is so lazy and forgettable, I have no doubt it will succeed in the streaming numbers because of Drake’s status as a cultural icon in the music scene.
All of the recognisable sounds of Drake’s discography are here: the lo-fi sample of a classic R&B song over a bass-boosted trap beat on ‘When to Say When’, the low-key slow ballad where he’s serenading about his unexpected betrayal by one of his countless exes on ‘Not You Too’, and the supposedly hard-hitting banger with a beat that makes the effect of fireworks popping more like a limp water balloon bursting on the patio with ‘Landed’. Over its 14 tracks, Drake returns to his tried-and-tested formula which is fine considering its a mixtape, but it’s clear how half-hearted some of the efforts have gone into these tracks and possibly why he has resisted in releasing them until now.
Take the track ‘Toosie Slide’ for example, a song that has been machine-tooled to start a viral craze with a simple dance (‘Right foot out, left foot slide….’). While it’s sort of fun to listen to as well as being an undeniably catchy tune, Drake sounds so uninterested, it’s like he has been forced by a mum at someone’s birthday party to make up some moves on the spot but instead wants to sulk in the corner. Even the thin production sounds as though it’s shrugging it shoulders and complying to the track’s demands.
Then there is the mixtape closer ‘War’ where Drake imitates UK Drill with a weak beat that has no intensity or any sense of excitement that you need for a freestyle and in the process, he writes some of the worst lyrics in his career: ‘The woman I do end up with has to be a bad gyal just like Munchy’ or ‘Man went PC just like Dell and Windows, some man been those’, are a few gems I picked out.
However, bar two exceptions with ‘D4L’ (featuring Future and Young Thug) and ‘Demons’ which both equally sound great and the only times where Drake sounds like he’s having fun. What makes Dark Lane Demo Tapes such a torturous listen is neither the rehash of ideas, the absence of creativity, nor the painfully irritating lyrics. Instead it’s how boring and lifeless the whole thing comes across – most of the tracks are devoid of any soul and spirit – where is the energy from ‘Know Yourself’, where is the excitement from ‘Nice for What’? It’s true that the project has the word ‘Dark’ in the title but it’s more murky than anything sinister. Drake is not trying at all to the point in which it seems as though he wants to prove how he can release a bunch of half-baked ideas and still rack up staggering amounts of money in the process, which is what it’s proving right now with the current figures. If this is supposed to be the warm-up for his upcoming sixth album later this year, then Dark Lane Demo Tapes is Drake selling his soul before the main event.
Drake’s Dark Lane Demo Tapes is out now via OVO