Dark Lane Demo Tapes // Drake

Reviewed: 12/05/2020

Rating: 4.5 // 10

Genres: Pop Rap, Hip Hop, Trap Rap, Contemporary R&B

Released: 01/05/2020, OVO, Republic

Drake may have felt pressured to counteract a long list of leaks, but this release reeks of opportunism during a pandemic and an advertising stunt for his proper album release later this year.

It’s not everyday that you announce a new album by releasing another set of songs, but when you’re Drake you can get away with a bit more.

Officially, this is just a taster of what is to come – some of the songs have already been heard via leaks, and this was a move to combat that.

Yes, this is labeled as a mixtape of demo tracks. Yes, that implies this isn’t going to be Drake’s best work – but it doesn’t excuse the shoddy production throughout.

The optimist in me hopes that this means the content of his next project, slated for a summer release, will be far higher, but this is an artist who packs his LPs with filler and fodder.

His two disc LPs are full of forgettable and downright awful songs, so if this is the case again – and this is the quality that has been cut – it wouldn’t be unfair to only imagine a small improvement by the time summer comes around.

The kindest words I can say about this is that it is just background music – I think you could stick this on in one room, do every single chore all over the house, come back to the room and still feel you’re on the same track.

Chicago Freestyle has that decent re-working of the chorus from Eminem’sSuperman“, which ironically has a completely different tone to Drake’s nice guys finish last motif from this album. 

Chris Brown, despite his scumbag actions (towards Drake’s longtime crush, Rihanna, which saw Brown literally beat Rihanna to a pulp) and the frosty relationship between the two, somehow ends up on Not You Too.

He adds nothing to the song, experience, or sound of this track. The pair have no chemistry, (unsurprising considering how long they have spent beefing) and is just a feature for features’ sake.

Toosie Slide is geared towards the Tik-Tok audience who will help it spread quicker than a virus, and is probably the only track to live past this album. It is noticeably better produced compared to every thing else on this mixtape, which isn’t a surprise considering it was designed to go viral.

Future features on Desires, where Drake’s lyrics take a somewhat dark turn.

The debate whether Drake crossed a line or was overtly creepy has taken place before on social media, so my thoughts aren’t any thing new – to me, and many others, it has a bizarre thought process.

I should’ve put you somewhere where no one could find you (Ayy)

Mansion out in the sticks with nothin’ around you

This makes up the recurring chorus of the track, and to me, is such a poorly articulated sentiment. It isn’t about keeping someone safe, but rather preventing them from acting out their desires – such as leaving Drake. Truly a mind-boggling take.

Time Flies is an okay song. Largely forgettable with a few nice ideas, it falls under my description for the entire album – background music. Drake is King of Streaming, and I can see quite a few just leaving it on in the background.

There is an attempt at innovation of his overall sound on this, but the end product is still so safe and boring.

Landed, D4L Freestyle, and Pain 1993 caused a brief period of amnesia for myself – just lacking with any bite, idea or creativity. I wouldn’t even say that D4L Freestyle and Pain 1993 rely on their guest features (Future and Young Thug on the former, Playboi Carti on the latter) because the other artists bring nothing to the table.

The decision to use what seems to be the untouched audio from an Instagram live on the start of Losses is another example of poor production.

The closing two tracks sees Champagne Papi try his hand at a UK-style grime beat, and whilst I welcome the attempt, his voice noticeably tries to copy a UK drill accent, and it is painfully off.

Would I welcome similar beats on another album? Perhaps, but only if they weren’t botched by an attempt at the local accent.

Overall this is the scraps of an artist who has carved a niche for himself, and rarely tried anything else. It isn’t awful – it is below average Drake.

One can only hope that the quality vastly improves for his next effort.

Track Listing

  1. Deep Pockets (D+)
  2. When to Say When (D+)
  3. Chicago Freestyle (feat. Giveon) (C)
  4. Not You Too (feat. Chris Brown) (D)
  5. Toosie Slide (C-)
  6. Desires (feat. Future) (D-)
  7. Time Flies (D)
  8. Landed (D)
  9. D4L Freestyle (feat. Future & Young Thug) (D)
  10. Pain 1993 (feat. Playboi Carti) (D-)
  11. Losses (D-)
  12. From Florida With Love (D)
  13. Demons (feat. Fivio Foreign & Sosa Geek) (D-)
  14. War (D)

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