Her Loss by Drake and 21 Savage Review
Drake’s new quasi-collaboration album with 21 Savage, Her Loss, contains tracks that seem like natural evolutions of those on So Far Gone. “Hours in Silence,” for instance, is based on a much livelier Memphis rap song that sounds as if it’s being played underwater; Drake half-croons through his web of gossip and self-mythology, where cryptic comments on ex-partners’ finstas and villains from mob movies weigh equally on his mind. Like he once did with Lil Wayne, he cedes a little time to a considerably more magnetic rapper from the South before singing, over and over, that things are “my fault,” begging for the counterweight of “of course not” from a former lover that would absolve him, but never appears.
The Atlanta rapper makes the danger posed by armed enemies sound almost romantic (“They looking for my face”) on that song’s brief turn from 21. As a result, Her Loss fails to capitalize on 21’s textural and thematic contrast that sold “Jimmy Cooks,” Drake’s beloved “Bound 2”-style hedge on Honestly, Nevermind. In its middle, Drake becomes inert, making the bits of self-conscious misanthropy scan as strained instead of gleeful, as if the id could be focused.
Her Loss begins with a looser, more natural interplay. Drake opens “Rich Flex” with the sort of rapping-to-one-another hook that blows past So Far Gone and recalls groups from the early ’90s after a brief intro from Atlanta’s Young Nudy, whose inner-monologue style would have been a welcome destabilizing force on this album. Drake and 21 are most effective throughout when they either mimic one another, as 21 does on “Hours in Silence” and Drake does on “Major Distribution,” or retreat to their opposite stylistic poles. Drake bounds across “BackOutsideBoyz” as the only man to ever be sad in a nightclub, while 21 raps “More M’s” that “I’ve been in those rooms/I’ve never contemplated,” his trademark economy of language unsettling as ever.
It’s mostly the muddy, Drake-dominated middle ground that doesn’t work. Her Loss is filled with bitter, very online barbs directed at women who have betrayed Drake and 21, wronged them in other, indeterminate ways, or simply drifted into the digital expanse. What drags down Her Loss is not so much a moral failing as a creative one, the sense that Drake is turning a big dial labeled MISOGYNY and looking for approval from an imagined audience.
Sometimes it’s colorful (from “On BS”: “I blow a half a million on you hoes, I’m a feminist”), but mostly it’s depressing. As if they’re sourced from Twitter, Drake’s jokes about group chats sound like they’re sourced from there, and punchlines like the one that trades on the rumors Megan Thee Stallion lied about being shot by Tory Lanez paint him as desperate to provoke rather than someone tortured by opposing urges to withhold and share.
A tension exists between the acutely memorable and the vaguely forgettable in the production. “Hours in Silence” features a submarine flip by Juicy J and DJ Paul, and remixes by Ginuwine (“Treacherous Twins”), B.G.O.T.I. (“Spin Bout U”), and Too $hort and JAY-Z’s “A Week Ago” (“Privileged Rappers”), all of which use sample manipulation to create alien textures by warping them into found sounds. For Drake’s ecstatic vocals alone, “Treacherous Twins” is worth streaming.
However, the original compositions for the album are less effective, as the mixes make each element of each beat seem oddly isolated. As a result, the music sounds cheaper than it is. Even so, there are pockets of strangeness tucked between the sameness, such as the triumphant yet melancholy instrumental ending to “Jumbotron Shit Poppin.”
Things never quite come together. A beat that has been odder and heavier than anything Drake has rapped over in years, the first half of “Broke Boys” features Drake sleepwalking through a passage that aims to boast his decades-long commercial dominance but illustrates instead how flat his output has become, a project in which year-over-year incrementalism has taken precedence over fits of excitement. He then notes that Ferrari has begun to produce SUVs, and he and his friends have already ordered several. “Nothing had changed,” he raps, “I’m just harder to please.” “We don’t have a choice,” he says. You imagine him pointing to a conveyor belt.