It’s hard to picture a world without Drake in it. The Canadian rapper has become a veteran of the game and one of the most popular artists of the 21st century, turning his heartbroken woes into a completely new genre of hip hop. He’s become America’s highest-certified digital sales artist (a fancy way of saying his hits get a whole lot of streams), holds several Billboard chart records, beating out The Beatles, and has been nominated for a Grammy Award 42 times.
From pop culture to music formalities, Drake has had his hand on the pulse for more than a decade. In celebration of his influential journey, and the release of his sixth studio album Certified Lover Boy, we take a look through the star’s stunning line-up of albums (and dip into a few of those stacked mixtapes too).
Thank Me Later (2010)
After signing with Lil Wayne’s Young Money Entertainment, a fresh-eyed Drake ditched his acting efforts on Degrassi to really and try and make something out of rapping. Thank Me Later was Drake’s official debut album, and probably the most experimental of everything he’s released. Featuring additions from Nicki Minaj (another Young Money signee), Kid Cudi, Kanye West, Alicia Keys and Lil Wayne himself, the album focused a lot on Drake’s introduction to fame and set the stage for the ‘crying in the club’ hits that would go on to decorate his career. Thank Me Later earned the star his first number one on the Billboard 200 and earned him two Grammy nominations.
Take Care (2011)
While Thank Me Later certainly put Drake on the map, it was Take Care that really introduced the world to Drake as a star. Honing in on the moody, low-tempo parts of the previous album, as well as his singing-rapping style, Drake really found his sound with this album. With features from The Weeknd, Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar, and Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne again (a group that would come to work with the rapper frequently), Take Care sees a star on the cusp of fame dealing with heartbreak, romance, family, and his newfound life, and not really being sure how to deal with it all. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, won Drake his first Grammy, and has since been ranked 95th on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.
Nothing Was the Same (2013)
By the time 2013 rolled around, Drake was feeling pretty secure about things. He was quickly becoming one of the world’s most popular rappers, he had two albums already under his belt, and he was still just the little old age of 26. Nothing Was the Same is sonically one of the best albums Drake has made, incorporating elements of 80s synth-pop and weighted 90s hip hop beats. Majid Jordan and Jhené Aiko appear for the softer parts of the album, and Jay-Z and Big Sean jump on the harsher parts, representing the excellent range Drake has. In the duration of just one album, the star could go from a boastful, independent King to a wounded soldier writing a love letter in the dark by candlelight. NWTS earned Drake his third number one and was nominated for Best Rap Album at the 2014 Grammys.
If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late (2015)
This mixtape took the world by surprise – literally. Dropping with no warning, Drake took a break from his R&B elements and produced an album of straight braggadocio. The rapper was angry and while it was unsure as to why, it helped to remind us to not get too comfy with his woozy, R&B love songs. Drake, of course, was a rapper, and he had the puffed-out chest to prove it. With the help from PARTYNEXTDOOR, Travis Scott and obviously Lil Wayne, Drake dipped into themes of fame (and the friends and enemies that come with it), as well as getting a little soft in areas of love and family … because, duh. IYRTITL debuted at number one and broke Spotify’s first-week streaming record with over 17.3 million streams in just three days.
Every artist has to have a pop album, and this was Drake’s. Views landed at the height of the rapper’s career. He had been on top for six years straight and he wasn’t showing any signs of slowing down; he was simply just shifting his path. Stepping into new territory, Drake tried his hand at pop beats and catchy choruses, while also incorporating elements of dancehall, Afrobeat and trap. Majid Jordan, PARTYNEXTDOOR and Rihanna all returned as features and the favoured topic of loyalty and relationship woes runs throughout the entire album. Views went straight to number one, and stayed there for 13 weeks, and has since earned one billion streams. Nearly every song from the album charted, earning Drake the record for most songs simultaneously on the Billboard 100.
More Life (2017)
Going back to his creative roots, Drake curated an entire collection of beats and samples and turned it into the mixtape More Life. After its success on Views, Drake leaned more into the world of Afrobeat and dancehall and added in sprinkles of UK grime and R&B as well. With a huge list of features including Jorja Smith, Kanye West, Skepta, Young Thug and Quavo, the ‘playlist’ acts as a hobby project Drake made just to get some creative juices flowing. More Life became Drake’s seventh consecutive number one, broke several streaming records, and bet the rapper’s own record for most tracks on the Billboard 100.
The highly anticipated album ended up being a two-parter, the first side being exclusively hip hop oriented while the second dabbled in R&B and pop. The duality of Drake, of course. With 25 tracks, only a few have features (Jay-Z, Ty Dolla $ign, randomly Michael Jackson), which seems intentional given the personal nature of the album. Touching on introspective topics such as his rise to fame and his complications with women, as well as the controversy surrounding the shocking news he has a son, Scorpion was the opus you would expect from such a supreme rapper. The album went straight to number one, earned five Grammy nominations, and broke multiple streaming and charting records, including again his own for most tracks on the Billboard 100.
Certified Lover Boy (2021)
The latest project from the rapper came at an interesting time. For one, amidst a worldwide pandemic, but also during a significant shift in Drake’s personal life. Now a 34-year-old father who has spent more than a decade as the world’s most favoured rapper, Certified Lover Boy is the musings and reflections of what matters most to the star. With features from all the favourites (Lil Wayne, Young Thug, Travis Scott, Jay-Z), along with some new ones (Tems, Yebba, Giveon), the album only solidifies Drake’s greatness at producing a hit. Despite only being around for a week (at time of writing), CLB has already earned Drake his tenth number one, making him the eighth artist in history to do so, broken streaming records again, and marks the biggest week for both a rap album and an album by a male artist, a record that was previously held by himself. Obviously.
Drake’s sixth studio album ‘Certified Lover Boy’ is out now on all platforms.