As I was saying…
Drake’s next move is pivotal. He’s now established as one of the best, meaning critics are done rooting for his ascent. He now has to switch it up in order to maintain interest in his work and avoid a plateau or decline in his stock. Big Sean and Kendrick have dropped their best works to date, with K. Dot’s already being considered a classic. Drake can’t afford to stagnate now.
It may take some time until it arrives, but Drake’s ability to generate months-long hype off of a surprise announcement or song drop means VFT6 will stay at its high level of anticipation until it is released.
That being said, what I’m excited about is the potential of this album to influence a “paradigm shift”, to use the words of Ernest Baker in his Four Pins article covering Drake’s first weekend at Coachella. Though many think 808s is Kanye’s worst album, its influence on hip-hop’s sound is undeniable. It’s a fact that the sonic identities of Kid Cudi and Drake were godfathered by 808s. Even artists in alternative R&B have West to thank for the introduction of autotuned crooning over extended strings and somber instrumentals.
I think Drake is in a better position for his fourth LP than Kanye was. ‘Ye was going through tough shit during the creation of 808s. Although his experiences were clearly responsible for the gamechanging album, the focus on career progression was not there. 808s came out 14 months after Graduation, more like a well-crafted expression of what he was going through rather than a calculated career move. That isn’t to say no consideration was given to how 808s would affect Ye’s musical career, that would be silly. It’s just that the condition of Kanye’s life at the moment were more influential in the creation and release of the album than concerns about where he was headed musically.
With Drake, it’s already been more than a year and a half since NWTS and he only has TWO songs that he likes done for VFT6. He’s clearly taking his time. Whatever impact the album has on the culture will undoubtedly be calculated and foreseeable, unlike 808s which was influential mainly because of how genuinely out there it was for hip-hop at the time. I think Drake is in a position where he can produce chart-topping singles with this album and still have the main body of it be genre-challenging to the point where it spawns new sounds.
It’s just crazy to see how quickly hip-hop artists can alter the course of the entire genre. Draw the line of influence from 50 Cent’s Get Rich Or Die Tryin down to Nothing Was The Same and you already have a wild story of archetypal shifts in hip-hop just over the past decade or so. Along with highly anticipated releases from A$AP Rocky and Kanye West coming soon, I think hip-hop fans of all orientations should be curious as to what Drake’s fourth LP will do for hip-hop in the future.