On May 1st, 2020, Drake and OVO Sound dropped a surprise mixtape aptly titled Dark Lane Demo Tapes. This was a compilation of his internet leaks and SoundCloud pre-releases which Drake used as a sort of acid test in the run-up to his new blockbuster album, which is said to be released in the summer.
Drake has gone down the mixtape route in the past with 2009’s So Far Gone, 2015’s If You’re Reading This It's Too Late and 2017’s More Life which goes to show that his latest mixtape was long overdue. The masked Drake on the cover seemed to give this mixtape a darker tone; which is a callback to his younger, edgier days.
These are my recommendations off the mixtape (in no particular order):
- Deep Pockets
The mixtape opens with a lo-fi, 90’s, east coast, hip hop track in the form of "Deep Pockets". This song features several great bars from Drake over a codeine-slow vocal sample and vintage low 808 drums. But here, we must remember that this is Drake; he can take throwaways and turn them into something memorable. This song is a perfect representation of this as he draws in inspiration from a few people while simultaneously expressing his own style through his liberated lyrics. [“Inspired by a few, but my mind really drives like a Tesla”] This was a great appetizer to start the mixtape.
- When to Say When & Chicago Freestyle
"When to Say When" is produced by frequent Drake collaborator Noah ‘40’ Schabib, and uses a quaint sample in the form of Jay-Z’s classic tune "Song-Cry" which creates significant nostalgia for hardcore hip hop fans. This song was a good platform to showcase his sincerity and humbleness from shouting out his mom (‘Word to Sandra Graham; no one loves you like your mother can ‘), to shouting out his heroes like Lil Wayne and Birdman. What came off as controversial about this song was the Michael Jackson reference: ‘Michael Jackson shit. But the palace is not for kids’ in which he compares his mansion to the king of pop’s so-called Neverland Ranch of underage trafficking. In retrospect, this song can be called a little brother to his own 2018 smash hit, "God’s Plan".
"Chicago Freestyle" on the other hand seemed to have less Drake and was more a platform for seemingly unknown artist, Giveon. On my first listen of this song; it brought back major ‘Do not Disturb and More life’ vibes through the beat which Noah Schabib and Sevn Thomas cooked up. Like "When to Say When", the hook of this song draws up a strong sample from Eminem’s 2002 track ‘Superman’ which goes to show how deep the OVO team’s archives are. A colossal shout out goes to Giveon and his Sampha-like soulful voice on the chorus which brought the track together, and a shout out to Drake for giving this seemingly unknown artist a spotlight to shine.
- Not You Too (ft. Chris Brown)
Despite their long history, "Not You Too" is the Marvin Gaye-ish style slow burner of this mixtape. Off my first listen, the majority of this track consisted of Drake’s voice flowing smoothly throughout the track while Brown just came in like a quiet breeze during the verses and sometimes the chorus. This did not go too well with the die-hard Chris Brown fans who felt that he was underappreciated on this track. Noah Schabib seems to have done a fantastic job with the sudden drum rolls and synth textures to create a quality collaboration for the current RnB niche of the hip-hop industry. Despite how people may criticise Drake’s controversial past with collaborators, I look forward to him building bridges and showing more of this on his next studio album.