Drake, the ever prominent performer and hip-hop personality, has been releasing official projects since his 2009 debut, So Far Gone. We asked our music staff to rank their five Drake albums in order to come to a consensus as to which album stands above the rest. Every single one of Drake’s projects aside from the compilation of unreleased tracks, Care Package, received votes. Another declaration to the testament that there is not only a Drake song, but a Drake album, for everybody in the modern landscape. He’s the rapper who can make your 92-year-old grandma’s hips move and the same guy who can brainwash your little sister into memorizing the chorus to “Hotline Bling.” Here is one of the more universally-beloved artist’s Top 5 Albums, according to our staff:
5. What a Time To Be Alive
Drake and Future’s collaborative effort is largely regarded as the best modern duet since Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch the Throne. The project which is officially considered a mixtape is executive produced by Metro Boomin and DJ Esco. It was created in less than a week, but the casual listener would never guess that if they hadn’t already known. The project features one of the best eight-track runs of Drake’s career from “Digital Dash” to “Jumpman” (I’ve personally decided to exile “Big Rings” from this project and refuse to allow it influence my opinion on it). What a Time To Be Alive has aged like a bottle from LeBron’s private wine cellar. The project caught two of the best in the game at their absolute peaks: Drake was 7 months removed from If You’re Reading This it’s Too Late and Future was only granted 3 months of rehabilitation after the release of DS2. If Watch the Throne is parallel to LeBron James and Dwyane Wade’s run with the Miami Heat, then What a Time To Be Alive is the hip-hop equivalent to LeBron James and Kyrie Irving’s run with the Cleveland Cavaliers. It truly was quite the time to be alive when this project surfaced.
Best tracks: “Digital Dash” “Live From the Gutter” “Diamonds Dancing” “Scholarships” “I’m the Plug”
4. More Life
“And more chunes for your headtops, so watch how you speak on my name, y’know?” Drake proclaimed after he won the Best Rap/Hip-Hop Artist at the American Music Awards in 2016. He did in fact provide more tunes for all of our headtops with the 22-track “playlist by October Firm” entitled More Life. The project had an all-star guest list featuring Quavo, Travis Scott, 2 Chainz, Young Thug, Jorja Smith, Kanye West, Skepta and PartyNextDoor. The project, much like every Drake catalogue, spans a wide variety of moods, tensions and tones. From the caribbean inspired “Passionfruit” to the head-banging intro “Free Smoke” where Drake boasts that he drunk texts Jennifer Lopez, More Life is one of Drizzy’s most boastful flexes.
Best tracks: “Free Smoke” “Passionfruit” “Gyalchester” “Sacrifices” “Ice Melts”
3. Take Care
The one staple of every Drake list. While So Far Gone and Take Care are strong and worthy projects in their own rights, Take Care quite literally hits different. This is the mainstream introduction where Drake proved that he was not only here to stay, but that he was coming to dominate as the human-form of an intersection between the soft-boy singers of the world and the bar-dropping gangsters. Look no further than the introductory track, “Over My Dead Body” for some of the best Instagram-caption quote-worthy bars of Drizzy’s career. It is a spot-on diary for everything that Drake had experienced as an artist up until that point in time and how he adapted to not just as an artist or celebrity, but as a young man.
Take Care features what is arguably the best six-track run of Drake’s discography “Over My Dead Body”, “Shot For Me”, “Headlines”, “Crew Love”, “Take Care”, and “Marvin’s Room”.
2. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
If there were any Drake doubters in the public consciousness by 2015, then they were proven wrong by the tour de force that is If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. The highs on this project are as high as ever and the lows are seldom, if there are any at all. I mean, shit, even “Madonna” has grown on me since my first listen. Drake had always stunted about his unique upbringing as an artist from Toronto, but If You’re Reading This was the first time that he really took hold of his story and made it seem like the listener wasn’t as cool if they were from the U.S. instead of up north. Very rarely is someone able to make snow seem like a cool thing. Drake takes all of his pent up aggression from behind-their-screen Twitter haters, anonymous death threat givers and talking-head radio haters and rips them to shreds on “Energy”. Drake takes trap-rhythms and blends them profusely with calculated deliveries on what is arguably one of the greatest mixtapes of all-time.
Best tracks: “Legend” “Know Yourself” “Star67” “6 Man” “Jungle”
1. Nothing Was the Same
Artists seldom make due on their promises. Nearly every rapper nowadays goes on Instagram Live or Twitter and proclaims that, “This is my hardest shit ever,” and it never is. As a matter of fact, it’s almost always worse than their previous material. Drake takes that preconceived notion and buries it with Boi-1da beats on Nothing Was the Same. Drizzy sets the tone from the jump with some of his modern day Jay-Z impressionistic imagery spitting on “Tuscan Leather”, the intro track that features an album’s worth of capital-B Bars:
“Tom Ford Tuscan Leather, smellin’ like a brick / Degenerates but even Ellen love our shit”
“That shit I heard from you lately really relieved some pressure /
Like aye B, I got your CD, you get an E for effort /
I piece letters together and get to talkin’ reckless /
Owl chains like credentials, you know you see the necklace /
My life’s a completed checklist /
I’m tired of hearin’ bout who you checking for now / Just give it time, we’ll see who’s still around a decade from now.”
A decade later, Drake remains atop the pinnacle of musical excellence. He may not have topped his efforts on an album where nothing was the same after its release, but he’s certainly rivaled or surpassed it as far as sheer numbers are concerned. Have all of his projects received similar critical acclaim? Absolutely not, but hip-hop is a lot like basketball in this regard: Numbers speak louder than words. If hip-hop were a sport measured by career statistics, MVP awards, championship trophies, rings, medals or whatever kind of jewelry, then Drake would’ve lapped everybody in the 2010s the same way that LeBron has. He has stacked his legacy to the Nth degree year after year after year, and truly shows no signs of slowing down. Some might argue that it began with Take Care, and I think most of us would agree with that argument. But one thing is for sure: Drake delivered on his promise in 2013 when he said that nothing would be the same, because nothing has been the same since that moment in time.