Published Oct 23, 2017
JoJo was famously moved to tears by "Houstatlantavegas," a beautiful and balletic show of solidarity with the world's strippers. The opening synth figure is unforgettable.
74. "City Is Mine"
Drake's first real ode to Toronto came in the form of "City Is Mine," a bippy Boi-1da produced track about dominating everything between Heart Lake Road and Pickering. This track off Room for Improvement was arguably Drake's first underground hit to make noise in the city.
Four producers were called upon to make sure this airy, hardnosed backbeat got done, done, done, done, done. Yet it's Drizzy's boastful lyrics — full bars mode here, folks — that make "Hype" one of the most inspired lyrical moments of the uneven VIEWS. "That boy light as Michael Jackson / But on verses he be blackin'," Drake spits, and for three-and-half minutes, he lives up to the name.
And then, in 2015, it hit Drake: "Oh my God, oh my God, if I die I'm a legend." He'd already broken records and won Grammys, but this was different: charts and awards are measurable; being a legend is intangible. The intro to If You're Reading This it's Too Late found Drake acknowledging it, and it hits hard.
71. "Keep the Family Close"
VIEWS is bloated, sure, but the bombast which it starts is undeniable; "Keep the Family Close" is huge and lush, a strings-, horns- and timpani-laden orchestral behemoth that's somehow both triumphant and melancholy. Also, it starts with maybe the Drake-est line of all time: "All of my 'let's just be friends' are friends I don't have anymore."
On an album that's an incredibly on-the-nose homage to Drake's home city, it's only fitting that the title track namedrops local retailers and Kiddie's Caribana. Of course, he juxtaposes those glimpses of his early days with snapshots of his current glamorous lifestyle, making references to doing shots with Kobe, driving Lamborghinis and racking up impressive ticket sales — but in true Drake form, he also waxes poetic about the perils of that success.
69. "Make Me Proud" (ft. Nicki Minaj)
To his enduring credit, Drake has always strived for maximum clarity of expression. Other rappers could surely stand to learn something from "Make Me Proud," a to-the-point expression of solidarity with strong women. And then there's Nicki Minaj, maybe the first MC to positively invoke the image of a sheriff's badge.
68. "Fancy" (ft. T.I and Swizz Beatz)
The pinnacle of carefree Drake — the not-so-self-serious guy who popped up much more often early in his career — is "Fancy," the soundtrack for a ladies' night on the town. Recorded when producer Swizz Beatz couldn't help but hop on hooks and a T.I. co-sign meant something, "Fancy" does a contemplative 180 midway through to big up "girls with diplomas and enough money to loan us."
67. "Teenage Fever"
Whatever their true feelings about her, the average rapper wouldn't dare pay loving tribute to Jennifer Lopez; they'd be much too leery of the potential cost to their credibility. Drake doesn't conform to that perspective. Although he has a healthy respect for the customs and mores that have historically dictated rap music, Drake is a provocateur at heart; in this case, that means lending a slightly gothic makeover to Lopez's 1999 hit "If You Had My Love."
66. "Free Smoke"
Over a bouncy bass line courtesy of Boi-1da, "Free Smoke" finds Drake reflecting on growth, persistence and his rise to fame. Working with the same producer who first helped bring about his rise to fame a decade prior, Drake asserts that he "used to chef KD / Now me and Chef, KD / Bet on shots for 20 Gas."
65. "Madiba Riddim"
"Madiba Riddim" hears Drake diving further into his dancehall obsession. We've heard him reveal his suspicions about greedy hangers-on and gold-digging girls many times before, but here, the age-old narrative gets wrapped up with a warm, bubbling beat and Drake's soft croon — both of which totally contradict his claims that "My heart is way too frozen to get broken."
64. "Miss Me" (ft. Lil Wayne)
Opinions on current Lil Wayne aside, "Miss Me" is Weezy at his sports-enthusing best. Drake rises to the occasion too, rapping with a parched intensity that was unusual for him at this stage in his career.
63. "Doing It Wrong"
"Doing It Wrong" is Drake's ode to existing in a "generation of not being in love," depicting yet another one of the rapper's one-sided conversations rationalizing his inability to commit to a girl. It's comfortingly sad in a way that Drake — and much of Take Care — pulls off well.
62. "Lose You"
More Life is Drake's breeziest, most uplifting record (sorry, "playlist") to date, but tucked away in its back half is "Lose You," its beating heart. Here, he reminisces about his accomplishments, but it's tempered by regret as he wonders, "did I lose you?" Drake's been winning his whole career, but "winning," he's learned by now, "is problematic"; it's lonely at the top, and the listener feels that keenly here.
61. "Portland" (ft. Quavo and Travis Scott)
Are you like me? Are you a sucker for a flute loop? Well, the groovy, simple whistle that carries "Portland" sticks in your brain like toffee, long after Migos' Quavo and Travis Scott take over for their host and metamorphose this 2017 tune into their own beautiful, golden butterfly. Michael Phelps with the swim moves, indeed.
60. "Jumpman" (with Future)
Prior to releasing "Jumpman," Future flew into rap's history books with a celebrated run of mixtapes, while Drake jumped over some ghostwriting beef with Meek Mill. Of course, the track also marks the first appearance of the now-ubiquitous Metro Boomin tag, "If Young Metro don't trust you, I'm gon' shoot you."
59. "Charged Up"
This was the first response to Meek Mill amid ghostwriting allegations. While it packed a woozy punch, it's also remembered as the warning shot to his epic "Back to Back Freestyle." As well, Councillor Norm Kelly tweeted it out with a snarky remark, eliciting a Meek response. Gold!
58. "Get It Together" (ft. Black Coffee and Jorja Smith)
Sampling South African DJ Black Coffee's "Superman," as well as the vocals of UK singer Jorja Smith, "Get It Together" offers a kaleidoscope of sounds that lend itself to a worldwide audience. The house-infused single nestles Smith's soothing vocals, Black Coffee's boisterous production and Drake's unpretentious melodic singing into a warm dance single that'll get folks moving.
57. "Forever" (ft. Eminem, Kanye West and Lil Wayne)
"Last name Ever, first name Greatest," begins mixtape Drake on this super posse cut. In 2009, the kid from Toronto was the confident new guy with all the hype. Holding his own and singing the hook on a bring-your-best-bars track featuring a herd of GOATs like Yeezy, Weezy and Emineezy — and doing it on a broken ankle — served as the ultimate rap co-sign.
56. "The Real Her" (ft. Andre 3000 and Lil Wayne)
On this Take Care deep cut, Drake sticks to sombrely singing about the "real" side of female counterparts from Houston, Atlanta and Vegas while Lil Wayne and Andre 3000 kick tight verses about similar relationship ponderings.
55. "No Tellin'"
Despite some lingering trust issues expressed in the hook, Drake takes Boi-1da's minimal production to boast gleefully about status and success before a wary final verse. While he didn't know it at the time, some of those bars would foreshadow things to come from his falling out with Meek Mill.
54. "How Bout Now"
Drake is a man accustomed to the hardships of unrequited love. On "How Bout Now," he dramatizes the events that lit a fire under his ass, propelling him to gloat-worthy heights. Had it not been for a prickly, thankless ex-girlfriend, we might not be here to litigate the merits of Drake's music; there might not be a Drake. But conjecture aside, "How Bout Now" is a gorgeous song. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust; long live Jodeci.
53. "6 God"
"6 God" earned Drake the self-appointed title he still holds. Emblematic of an era that hears Drake repping his hometown more ferociously than ever, this If You're Reading This It's Too Late cut found both the rapper and his city at the top of their game — at least until Toronto councillor Norm Kelly co-opted it for his own personal rebranding campaign.
52. "Hotline Bling"
There is something so hypnotically fantastic about "Hotline Bling." Revisiting a theme reminiscent of "Club Paradise" — addressing a partner he left behind — the song's "cha cha" vibe and incredible, Director X-directed visual made for one of his most memed moments in recent history. There was controversy, though, as rapper D.R.A.M accused the rapper of jacking his viral-hit "Cha Cha," which Drizzy brushed off in an interview describing the song's (similar) instrumental as a hip-hop version of a "dancehall riddim," which he playfully tried his hand at. Smooth criminal!
Is there a better two-word summation of modern love than the "just swangin'" baseball metaphor of "Connect"? This Nothing Was the Same deep cut is as dark as anything on that record, but instead of being ice cold, he gives his partner some leeway to be as callous as he usually is: "She just wanna run over my feelings like she drinking and driving in an 18-wheeler / And I'd allow her."