Thanks to 21 Savage, 'Her Loss' Is a Win for Drake Fans

BY Vernon AyikuPublished Nov 7, 2022

If you've ever listened to Andre 3000 speak about making music, it becomes immediately apparent why Outkast would never work without Big Boi. Despite some considering 3000 to be the creative backbone of the group, Big Boi grounds him with a level of grit, realism and street cred that makes the duo function, and, more importantly, keeps 3000's creativity on the rails. On Her Loss, Drake finds his Big Boi in 21 Savage. Together, the two form a mutually beneficial partnership delivering an album that — grounded in 21's simplistic approach and Drake's natural charisma — ultimately elevates 21 to superstar levels and forces the pop star to be a rapper again. 

At this point in his career, Drake has given us so many different sounds that your favourite version of him is merely a matter of preference. If you're looking for melodic Drake, Afro-dance Drake, TikTok trend chasing Drake, radio hit Drake or even angry rap-my-ass-off Drake, you won't find him on Her Loss. Instead, we get a version of the 6 God we haven't seen in more than a decade, best described as "Mixtape Drake," with the rapper moving closer to the sound of Comeback Season and Heartbreak Drake Pt. 2 than anything else in his discography. For long-time fans, it's a welcome return to his roots, with Drake sounding like he's having genuine fun rapping without any of the pressure of delivering a Billboard hit or weighted personal drama outshining the music.

Call it the Savage effect, but keeping it simple really works for Drake on this record. In many ways, 21 Savage is in a much more supportive role, helping Drake find his sound rather than an equal partner à la Future on What a Time to Be Alive. Akin more to DJ Drama's role on Tyler, the Creator's CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST, 21's no-nonsense approach helps shape every track, keeping the record focused and coherent. The Atlanta rapper is deployed consistently but sparingly — you never forget he's there, but he's there to direct the spotlight rather than stand in it. However, despite being one-sided in Drake's favour, 21's presence and impact is enormous, with his humour, wit, and genuinely believable gangster persona pulling attention from Drake whenever the duo decides to go bar for bar, like on "On BS."  

More than anything, it's the natural synergy and seemingly egoless hierarchy between 21 and Drake that gives Her Loss its spark. In fact, some of Drake's best moments on the entire record come when he's relegated to the supportive role, like on the already memed-to-death opening verse to "Rich Flex" and his noteworthy "fuck Adidas" adlib on "Broke Boys."

21's support might also be why Her Loss is home to some of Drake's — pun fully intended — most savage diss bars to date. Whether it's calling rumoured ex Serena William's husband a "groupie" on "Middle of the Ocean," (controversially) calling Megan Thee Stallion a liar on "Circo Loco," or saying Kendrick's new album "flopped" on "More M's," lyrically, this is the most aggressive, pointed and confident Drake has come across on record in a while. On the opposite end is 21's laid back one-bar-at-a-time approach to hit-making, contrasting and complimenting Drake perfectly as he delivers his fair share of amazingly simple, maybe not-intentionally hilarious verses like, "I don't show IDs in clubs because they know that I'm 21," on "Treacherous Twin" or "fuck your main page what's your finsta I want to know the real you," on "Spin Bout U."

If there is one glaring issue with the record, it's the fact that it's too long. As great as it is hearing Drake have fun again, Her Loss undoubtedly overstays its welcome and is bloated with unnecessary and actively damaging tracks like "Hours in Silence," "Jumbotron Shit Poppin" and "I Guess It's Fuck Me" that could have been left on the cutting room floor. In fact, the record loses steam entirely after "Middle of the Ocean," a song that would traditionally be the closing track on most Drake records. Notably, Drake not knowing when to say when also takes away from what could have been a crowning moment for 21 on the track "3AM on Glenwood," 21's attempt at a Drake-style final thoughts track, and a rare glimpse of the gangster rapper emoting and digging into his feelings. Ultimately a missed opportunity and, in retrospect, the perfect closing song for the album. Finishing with 21 doing his best Drake impression would have been the ideal and appropriate thank you from Drake for pulling a classic out of him.

While Her Loss houses no immediate street bangers or Billboard hits, it's the sum of it all that makes it Drake's best record this decade. From the comical fake promos during its rollout to the memorable one-liners and aggressive diss verses or the TikTok memes it will generate for months to come, Her Loss has a lot of meat on its bones. And while it won't serve the entirety of Drake's expansive, more pop-leaning fan base, it's the Drake record rap purist have been asking him for since If You're Reading This It's Too Late, and one that long-time Drake fans can be proud of.
(OVO / Republic)

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