The best of Drake
Ryan Israel | Monday, March 30, 2020
Drake is the most ubiquitous, influential and popular music artist of the past decade. Drake is The Beatles. He has plenty of flaws — Google ghostwriters, hiding a child and more — and some really not great music. He’s also had some stellar feature appearances, outstanding songs and a few good albums. To stir up the discussion on this blazing music artist who’s been quiet for the last three months — an abnormally long time for him — here’s my official, definitive list of the best of Drake.
The top five Drake features:
5. “Poetic Justice” with Kendrick Lamar (2013)
In case you didn’t know, the two openers for Drake’s 2012 Club Paradise tour were none other than Kendrick Lamar and A$AP Rocky. Yes, that’s right, a Pulitzer prize winner, a consistently chart-topping mega-star and A$AP Rocky were all performing together at the same shows in 2012. If anyone out there was at one of these performances, please call me and tell me how awesome they were.
To speak directly on “Poetic Justice,” this track isn’t even in the top half of songs from “good kid, m.A.A.d. city” but it still has a top five Drake feature. It’s a truly classic Drake verse pulling on a recurring theme — a girl won’t call him back anymore — and it’s oh-so-sweet and smooth.
4. Versace with Migos (2015)
“Versace, Versace, Versace, Versace, Versace, Versace,” it’s as simple as that. Bangers only. “Walk It Talk It” is an embarrassment compared to this song.
T-2. “Look Alive” with BlocBoy JB (2018) and “Yes Indeed” with Lil Baby (2018)
When these two tracks dropped in 2018, they set the streets on fire. Drake was already tearing things up with “God’s Plan,” but he just had to flex on everyone by showing that he could appropriate not just one regional sound, but two. Now one of these artists has gone on to accomplish a lot more since they secured a Drake, and it’s not BlocBoy. Lil Baby is still harder than ever.
1. “Tuesday” with ILOVEMAKONNEN (2014)
Take me back.
Honorable Mentions: “Aston Martin Music: with Rick Ross (2010), “F**kin’ Problems” with A$AP Rocky (2013), “Who Do You Love?” with YG (2014), “R.I.C.O.” with Meek Mill (2015), “Drama” with Roy Woods (2015), “Where Ya At” with Future (2015), “Work” with Rhianna (2016)
The top five Drake songs:
5. “Hold On, We’re Going Home” (2013)
I want this song to play at my wedding. Am I embarrassed by that? Maybe, but I’m hoping that by the time I get married the discussion around Drake will have shifted to universal praise and adoration. And also that my wife will be a big fan of mid-2010s Drake.
4. “Know Yourself” (2015)
In 2015, Drake made us all want to run through the “6” with our woes. The videos of this song in concert give me goosebumps every time.
3. “Take Care” (2011)
Also shoutout to the Beach House song of the same name.
2. “Back to Back” (2015)
The swagger, the cockiness, the chutzpah (shoutout my Intro to Theo instructor, Prof. Lantigua), that Drake brought to this track is indescribable. At the time, this felt like the biggest rap beef of all time. Meek Mill pointed out what everyone had been saying for years, that Drake has a ghostwriter, and Drake went absolutely off. Meek’s biggest mistake was that he did respond to Drake’s “Charged Up” soon enough, allowing the 6 God to drop “Back to Back” and set Mill’s career back a few years. When Drake went toe to toe with Pusha T in the summer of 2018 –– well, things didn’t end the same way, and while “The Story of Adidon” may be the coldest, harshest diss track of the decade, “Back to Back” is the most fun.
1. “Hotline Bling” (2016)
It just doesn’t get any better than this. Honestly, throw this song on and you’ll remember it all — the little dance, the music video, the memes.
Honorable mentions: “The Motto” (2011), “HYFR (Hell Ya F—ing Right)” (2011), “Started From the Bottom” (2013), “Worst Behavior” (2013), “Jumpman” (2015), “Legend” (2015), “Big Rings” (2015), “One Dance” (2016), “Passionfruit” (2017), “God’s Plan” (2018), “Money in the Grave” (2019)
Top five Drake albums:
5. “Thank Me Later” (2010)
If it hasn’t already been made clear, I don’t have a ton of love for Drake’s early work — or even his recent work — but I have to give respect where it’s due. “Thank Me Later” set up the superstar that we know today.
4. “More Life” (2017)
Excessive? Yes. Technically a playlist? Maybe. Full of hidden gems? Absolutely. To name a few of the aforementioned gems, there’s “Free Smoke,” “Passionfruit,” “4422,” “Teenage Fever,” “Portland,” “Fake Love” and “Ice Melts.”
3. “Take Care” (2011)
People always talk about throwing this album on for “sad boy hours” or to get “in their feelings.” Now, I’ve always preferred Frank Ocean’s “Blonde” for that kind of thing, and “Take Care” can certainly do the job, but this album has some real upbeat hits. “Make Me Proud” bangs, “HYFR (Hell Ya F—ing Right)” slaps, and don’t even get me started with “The Motto.” Remember Y.O.L.O.?
2. “Nothing Was The Same” (2013)
Has anything really been the same since 2013?
1. “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” (2015)
I will ride and die for this album for a number of reasons. First of all there’s the release, a surprise drop in the middle of the night. Second, there’s the album cover, a work of modern art. Third, there’s the braggadocious nature of the whole thing –– Drake giving the middle finger to every other rapper in the game by showing that he can drop an album with no promotion and still break records. Fourth, there’s the music. The front half of the album is loaded with memorable hits straight from the electric factory — “Legend,” “Energy,” “10 Bands” and “Know Yourself” — and the back half has those slow, smooth Drake tracks we’ve all come to expect — “Jungle” and “Company.” “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” is a love letter to Drake’s hometown, Toronto or “The 6,” that made everyone fall in love with the city. It’s an album too often overlooked, until now.
No honorable mentions. “Scorpion” is awful.