Tuesday 19 May 2020

Review of 'Dark Lane Demo Tapes' by Drake

Does the world really need another Drake album?

The Toronto rapper’s prolific output would be impressive if half of it wasn’t dross. He churns out records at such an alarming rate these days that it’s no wonder that they’re 70% filler.

Dark Lane Demo Tapes is technically a warm-up mixtape – he’s planning to drop an actual album later this year (that’s right, there’s more Drake to come!). I did wonder if there was any point listening to a project made up of demos, but part of me was encouraged by the fact that this was a ‘mixtape’ and not an album. Mixtape Drake tends to be better than album Drake. Not only are his mixtapes more concise (Drake albums tend to be 20 + track marathons), but they also tend to contain better quality material (If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late is a great example of this and is my favourite Drake project).

As it turns out, this selection of so-called demos is mildly better than Drake’s last album Scorpion and not just because there are less tracks. The slow and ethereal beats give this mixtape a distinct moody vibe. Drake’s delivery is also very playful at times - even if he has all the energy of a dead limpet on instructional dance dud ‘Toosie Slide’, he makes up for it with some creative grime-inspired flows on tracks like ‘Demons’ and ‘War’.  

Unfortunately, these tracks contain some of Drake’s most uninspired lyrics to date. Given that these are demos, you can forgive them for not being fleshed-out songs with deep subject matter. As Drake declares on ‘Losses’: ‘I’m not tryna make no song, these are cold facts’. The issue is that there are no ‘cold facts’ – if Drake was hurling pub quiz trivia at us it would be a lot more interesting. Most of the lyrical content is just generic braggadocio or the petty woes of being a millionaire bachelor. Occasionally, he throws out a witty bar like ‘back when the house that I own was my home screen’, but these are only brief glimmers of golden Drake.  

On top of this, there are some absolutely dreadful features on this mixtape. Young Thug and Future both compete to sound as off-key as possible on ‘D4L’ and the result sounds like two cats drowning in a bathtub. ‘Pain 1993’ is less painful if only because Drake’s flow is incredibly catchy at the start, but then Playboi Carti turns up with his goo-goo-ga-ga delivery and ruins everything.

All in all, this is not the mixtape I hoped that it would be. Perhaps the upcoming Drake album will be better, but I doubt it. The rapper needs to start prioritising quality over quantity, which means slowing down his output and spending more time on each record. Let the fans get hungry, instead of filling up their plates before they’ve even had a chance to digest the last album.