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MUSIC BUSINESS MEDIA

‘Legacy Drake’ Has Arrived

The Boy is going for gold with a new album, a massive UMG contract, a radio show, a partnership with Stake, a poetry book, and a Scary Hours tape looming.

The rumors are true: Champagne papi’s got a brand new bag.

Drake has a new contract, and with it, seemingly enters a new era to go along with this windfall. In May,Variety reported that Drake landed an unprecedented deal with Universal Music Group, worth approximately $400 million. The pact is said to encompass not just Drake’s recordings and publishing, but his merchandise and visual media projects.

Also last month, on DJ Akademiks’ “Off the Record” podcast, Atlanta rapper Lil Yachty — a close confidant of Drizzy — seemed to debunk this, spilling about a conversation he had with Drake and alluding to the fact that Drake’s new record deal is actually worth over $500 million.

(So when he rapped, “And I got a contract, it’s a max,” on Certified Lover Boy track “No Friends In The Industry,” he meant it.)

This new deal is a good segue into understanding what happened last week. The Toronto music icon took to Instagram to announce the surprise release of a new album, Honestly, Nevermind, following the debut of his radio show “Table for One,” on Sirius XM.

Drake executive produced the 14-track release along with longtime collaborator Noah “40” Shebib, manager Oliver El-Khatib, Noel Cadastre, and 2022 Grammy winner Black Coffee, with additional production work from DJ Carnage, and a guest verse from 21 Savage.

Let’s evaluate how these moving parts inform Drake’s plans to continue building his multi-faceted legacy.

The Scope of Honestly, Nevermind

Officially, Honestly, Nevermind is Drake’s seventh studio album, but it’s something different than the other six. It signals a more streamlined path forward for the Canadian rap sensation.

Firstly, his new deal with Universal Music Group allows him to be several different things at once. Yes, he’s under their banner from a business standpoint, but he’s notably still permitted to work within his home base, Republic Records, as well as imprint label OVO Sound.

What’s old is new. And by fulfilling contract obligations by naming Honestly, Nevermind a studio album right off the bat, he’s already checked off one significant box regarding the as-yet-unknown number of albums he owes UMG.

Not to mention, Drake just operates much better when he’s got a central direction or theme. At just 14 tracks but 52 minutes of run time, it’s clear he wants people to take this album as a legitimate conceptual project.

And he quite literally penned his own album notes for Apple Music, too. Despite being a dance record, the project actually came from a rather sensitive time in his life, serving as a homage to his late great friend, Virgil Abloh.

Aubrey Graham: Radio Host?

As we settle into this new Drake era — let’s call it “Legacy Drake” — the man himself is taking this moment to recognize that he is at the tip-top of the game. The latest string of business pacts and collaborative ventures for the King of OVO will most certainly make him a billionaire in due time, but his moves outside of music are also simply more visible than ever before.

That’s the single most distinctive element of Legacy Drake compared to all his previous phases.

With the debut of “Table for One” on Sirius XM on Thursday night, Drake dropped a bunch of golden nuggets about what the next stage of his career might look like.

  • NOCTA: His NOCTA label is the only Nike sub-label created for a musician, and it’s named for Drake’s “nocturnal creative process.” The brand, which focuses on mixing sportswear and functional-wear, designed for those on the go.
  • STAKE: a multi-year partnership for Drake to use Stake as his exclusive sports betting app.
  • TABLE FOR ONE: Sound 42 Sirius XM radio show, hosted by The Boy himself, where he’ll be playing music from restaurants all over the world.
  • OVO Fest: OVO Fest returns later this year to Toronto for the first time since 2019.
  • Poetry Book: Confirmed on the radio show, Drake is releasing a poetry book with an artist named Kenza.
  • Another Scary Hours pack: Similar to that of 2020’s Dark Lane Demo Tapes.

New Genre Drizzy

Love it or hate it, Drake tests the waters on genres like samples in a food court mall — going around to each station and manufacturing a taste. Some things work for him; others simply don’t. But at this point, he’s dabbled in just about every flavor: rap, R&B, dancehall, reggaeton, grime, trap, afrobeat, disco, and of course, pop.

This time around, Drake opted to go for his most electronic, house-inspired album yet, and he’s translating his innovation into other revenue streams, too. Days after Honestly, Nevermind, became Apple’s most-streamed dance album in a single day, Drake teased merch that claps back at criticisms that Honestly, Nevermind is too different from his past hits.

It would be a stretch to call the music experimental or avante-garde. Drake has been sonically calculated throughout his career, for the most part, and that’s enabled massive successes for him. He made career-altering strikes with “Hotling Bling,” the certifiable pop hit, and his first No. 1 dancehall single, “One Dance,” ft. Wizkid and Kyla.

But the announcement that Black Coffee, the South African DJ and producer who most recently won a Grammy for Best Dance/Electronic Album, would be executive producing his newest project was an instant callback to one of the best, most complete songs in Drake’s discography: “Get it Together” feat. Jorja Smith and Coffee, from 2017’s More Life. (He also linked back up with legendary EDM producer Gordo, formerly known as DJ Carnage.)

On his seventh studio album, with the help of Black Coffee, Drake shares his familiar emotional baggage over bouncy production and club bangers — a slight veer off from his urges for revenge on CLB. Honestly, Nevermind is a refresher for Drake, and sends a message that he’s been listening closely, taking bits and pieces of regional sounds and sprinkling them into his recipe, Salt Bae-esque: some Jersey Club here (bed squeaks in “Currents”), a bit of Baltimore club kick patterns there and disenchanting MIDI piano stabs and mbira riffs all over.

Beyond Black Coffee and Gordo though, the album features several lesser-known producers getting intriguing looks:

  • Brazil-based artist Beau Nox produced on five tracks, including a memorable guitar solo on arguably one of the album’s best cuts, “Overdrive,” with an assist help from Canadian axe man James Bryan.
  • Alex Lustig, a classical pianist who co-produced on Certified Lover Boy’s “N 2 Deep” featuring Future, also reappears for five tracks on the new album, notably playing keys on “Calling My Name,”
  • Congolese singer Mukengerwa “Tresor” Riziki arrives as an additional vocalist on “Currents,” “Down Hill,” and “Tie That Binds”
  • Kid Masterpiece, a Montreal producer and DJ, alongside Govi, produced “Flight’s Booked”
  • Berlin-based electronic producers Rampa and &ME are best known for their hauntingly melodic style of house music, which they implement into “A Keeper” and “Falling Back
  • Richard Zastenker (formerly known as FKA LIOHN) and Klahr of upstart group Deki Alem contributed to “Massive,” “Calling My Name” and “Flight’s Booked.” They’re the first Swedish producers ever to work on a Drake album.

It’s yet another way in which Drake is using his power, and his even more expansive influence with UMG, to fuel the future of top-40 music.

With Honestly, Nevermind, Drake chose to start his “Legacy Drake” era with an out-of-left-field but ultimately fun project, and it’s a testament to his ability to draw powerful responses and reactions from a large swath of music fans at any given time.

This is summer music, and Drake is in his get-money bag. Can you blame ’em?

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