Whether you hate him or love him, Drake has solidified himself as the biggest star in the world. The Canadian-bred superstar has come a long way since the early Young Money days, when Lil Wayne championed the rapper/singer by saying “we gon’ be alright if we put Drake on every hook”; needless to say, Weezy was spot on with that prediction.
From hip-hop and R&B to dancehall and house music, the Toronto heavyweight has proved time and time again that he will occupy the top spot no matter the genre he chooses to make – and while some attempts don’t work completely as intended, there’s no denying the success he continues to achieve. With more than a decade’s worth of chart-topping material, this article will take on the rigorous task of sorting through the clutter and establishing the highs from the lows in Drake’s catalog.
14. Scorpion (2018)
Drake’s double disc effort would attempt to a find a balance between his rigid rapping and moody singing by splitting the record into two. Compiled of the primary tracks on the roster, Side A would hold his rapping tracks while the bottom half [Side B] would occupy his R&B-styled tracks. While this structure is one that fans had requested of Drake for many years, the poor execution of various songs killed the momentum of the album early on. Both sides were littered with lifeless tracks that made the gloomy atmosphere eventually seem like a drag. Fans could salvage an amazing compilation album with some of the standouts, but the record in full bit off way more than it could chew.
Best tracks: “Can’t Take a Joke”, “Emotionless”, “Nice for What”
13. Room for Improvement (2006)
Drake’s debut mixtape is just as it’s title suggests; a raw effort displaying the immense potential of a soon-to-be superstar. Room For Improvement follows the traditional mixtape format of 20+ tracks with a variety of skits, remixes and guest features to help boost the project’s trajectory. For a beginning project, Room For Improvement takes steps in the right direction, flexing both talent and musical connections. Needless to say, who knows where Drake would be if Trey Songz didn’t hop on the track, “About the Game” – but judging by this debut effort, it’s safe to assume Drake would’ve been ok regardless.
Best tracks: “About the Game”, “A.M. 2 P.M.”, “Make Things Right”
12. Certified Lover Boy (2021)
If we’re being honest, this album was doomed from the start. The way in which a record is rolled out plays a vital role in the initial reception of the project; and while the combo of trendy hairstyles and album beef helps boost streams, the gimmicks that came with Certified Lover Boy assisted in the record’s rapid deterioration. But to help Drake’s case for this particular project, Certified Lover Boy wields some of Drake’s best efforts over the past five years, displaying a different level of maturity and growth in his pen. This goes to show how far a copy-and-paste formula can go nowadays when the focus is shifted on streams.
Best tracks: “Champagne Poetry”, “Pipe Down”, “7am on Bridle Path”
11. Dark Lane Demo Tapes (2020)
For an off-season of loosies, Dark Lane Demo Tapes flows surprisingly well as an overall body of work. The record lays a gloomy atmosphere that meshes perfectly with each pocket Drake finds himself in. From drill to R&B, Dark Lane Demo Tapes remains cohesive throughout the entire run; however, the album tends to overstay its visit with its lengthy run-time. For a record radiating a dreary ambience, a long runtime opens up excess space for listeners to wander off mid-listen – and with a monotonous voice like Drake’s, you could imagine how dull the project could seem off rip. Also, who could forget the attempts to make the Toosie Slide go viral. Admittedly, Dark Lane Demo Tapes is a slow grower, but that doesn’t erase the few flaws that the album holds.
Best tracks: “D4L”, “Demons”, “Chicago Freestyle”
10. Comeback Season (2007)
There’s no doubt that the superstar potential was radiating on Room For Improvement; it was clear that this kid from Toronto was going to be a special artist. Comeback Season served as the chance for Drake to make the proper corrections from his first mixtape and prove he was an artist worth looking out for. Despite his extreme mainstream status, Comeback Season exhibited Drake’s love for the culture as the tape’s feature roster contained some of the biggest names in the underground scene. From Little Brother to eLZhi, artists from all over the underground gathered to co-sign the young phenomenon in the making. Drake’s Comeback Season was well-received enough to score him a meeting with Lil Wayne that would change his life forever.
Best tracks: “Replacement Girl”, “Don’t You Have a Man”, “Think Good Thoughts”
9. Honestly, Nevermind (2022)
Often times when an artist steps outside of their comfort zone, they put their career at risk of major criticism for not sticking to the script. When the public realized that the surprise release of Honestly, Nevermind was a house/dance album, the internet quickly divided as initial thoughts were being formed. Where some found the album to be a carefree and fun experience, others felt it to be another corny attempt at maintaining high billboard positions. Drake is no stranger to experimenting with different genres – which made the reception all in all surprising – but the album still manages to fulfill its goal of remaining in its proper realm. Sure it’s not the best attempt at shifting into another genre of music, but Honestly, Nevermind handles significantly better than some of Drake’s other expansive efforts.
Best tracks: “Jimmy Cooks”, “Flight’s Booked”, “Massive”, “Texts Go Green”
8. Views (2016)
The Toronto superstar’s ode to his hometown was met with an unfathomable amount of mainstream success, but came at cost of his ability to maintain quality control. Views is one of the few albums in Drake’s discography with a split reception – either you hate it or love. The 2016 release of Views was met with a peak level of success for Drake as the newly-incorporated dancehall records were topping billboard records like nothing. “One Dance”, “Controlla” & “Hotline Bling” still shake up dance floors to this day; however, the record as a whole was a bloated track list, proving that hour-long albums don’t retain the same amount of attention as they once did.
Picking the album piece by piece, certain tracks like “Feel No Ways” & “Weston Road Flows” sound great as standalone records, but fail to provide the adrenaline booster that keeps the show going. Views isn’t the dramatically dreadful listen that the internet makes it out to be, but it wouldn’t be a lie to say that the nostalgia of the record is playing a major role in keeping it alive.
Best tracks: “Keep the Family Close”, “One Dance”, “Fire & Desire”, “Controlla”
7. What a Time to Be Alive (2015)
The highly celebrated collaboration between Drake and Future plays to the strengths of both artists, unveiling an undiscovered link between the two differing styles. Prior to 2015, no one would’ve been able to predict a joint project between Drake and Future to be released, especially at the peak of both careers. The highly unexpected mixtape branched two different worlds that would mesh perfectly under the compositions of Metro Boomin, Southside, and many more fresh producers. What A Time To Be Alive would be a smash success with standouts such as “Jumpman”, “Scholarships” and “Big Rings” holding down playlists for years to come. Though Drake and Future blend flawlessly over the course of the tape, the outro exhibits both artists in their natural creative space, adding individual flavors to the melting pot that is this record. To sum it up, What A Time To Be Alive was the collaborative project we didn’t know we needed.
Best tracks: “Jumpman”, “Big Rings”, “30 for 30 Freestyle”, “Jersey”, “Diamonds Dancing”
6. More Life (2017)
A heavily underrated mixtape in his catalog, More Life exhibits the Toronto superstar venturing into new areas and documenting his findings, exposing the world to a new palette of sound. After conquering the charts with a barrage of melodic dancehall impressions, Drake decided to take it a step further and shed light on a scene with neglected potential: the UK rap scene. As Drake began to lean further into the UK’s hip-hop realm, some collaborations spilled over to this mixtape, exposing the UK scene to an array of new listeners. Of course, Drake still remained in the dancehall/pop-sounding realm with tracks like “Passionfruit” and “Get It Together” making up the first half of the experience. Rapping Drizzy made his mark on this tape again with standouts like “Free Smoke”, “Sacrifices” & “Do Not Disturb” serving as reminders to quit discrediting his lyricism. In typical mixtape nature, More Life serves as a sporadic collection of tracks with different standouts for all types of listeners.
Best tracks: “Free Smoke”, “Passionfruit”, “Sacrifices”, “Do Not Disturb”, “4422”
5. So Far Gone (2009)
The project that started it all – Drake’s breakthrough mixtape laid the foundation for his recent success, paving the way for the development of Toronto’s sound. Following the release of Comeback Season, many industry eyeballs began to roll towards the new young artist from Canada. Many were still hesitant to embrace the rapper/singer due to his vulnerable approach to music, which meant this mixtape had to serve as a statement.
Drake sharpened his pen and displayed the diversity in his writing, penning anthems like “Best I Ever Had” and “Successful” while uncaging his rapping style over remixes of Kanye West’s “Say You Will” and JAY-Z’s “Ignant Shit”. The soon-to-be superstar also had the amazing opportunity to work with industry legends such as Bun B , Omarion, and Lloyd; but the main standout would be his future boss, Lil Wayne, making several appearances on the tape. With the online and mainstream success of So Far Gone, Drake was able to score a spot on the Young Money roster, taking up a position that would change his life forever. The breakthrough mixtape in Drake’s catalog also helped open the door for future Toronto artists to make their mark, as well as shaping the moody atmosphere that is heavily prevalent in R&B music today. A certified blog era classic, So Far Gone was truly the beginning of something great.
Best tracks: “Successful”, “Best I Ever Had”, “Houstatlantavegas”, “Say What’s Real”, “Uptown”
4. Thank Me Later (2010)
Drake’s dynamic studio debut showed he was able to stand on his ground in this industry as a new artist. As we trickled into the new decade, The Young Money era was just getting started with We Are Young Money dominating airwaves with its various anthems; and with a freshly incarcerated Weezy out of the picture, Drake was forced to take his spot at the bat. Thank Me Later would serve as the beginning of the Young Money rollout, paving the way for the other Young Money artists to follow.
Thank Me Later would stylistically be the continuation of the sound that made up his breakthrough mixtape, So Far Gone, only now more polished than ever. The record as a whole would build upon the moody foundation of his previous project and take it to new heights with a superstar roster of producers on standby with the original architects. The album’s singles “Over”, “Find Your Love”, and “Miss Me” would garner major success while serving as radio anthems to this day. The superstar roster of features from the industry’s biggest name was the icing on the cake, acting as Drake’s acceptance letter into the culture. Thank Me Later may not get its immediate credit when discussing Drake’s catalog, but its nature as a time capsule guarantees it a spot as a personal favorite to many.
Best tracks: “Over”, “Find Your Love”, “Shut It Down”, “Fancy”, “Unforgettable”
3. Nothing Was The Same (2013)
We don’t appreciate Nothing Was The Same as much as we should. This record is either seen as a hidden gem or a definitive classic depending on who you ask. Coming off of the success of his debatable classic, Take Care, Drake wanted to venture back to a more rapping-oriented record compared to the more intimate approach he took on his last album; and while we still catch glimpses of this vulnerable style on this project, Nothing Was The Same was the shift in focus for Drake, leading him to a more ambitious rapping style.
Despite its tendency to be overlooked as an overall project, Nothing Was The Same holds a cohesive nature from start to end, providing a euphoric feel with a soulful sound attached. But don’t get it twisted, Drizzy still comes through with some hard-hitting bangers to take over the charts and playlists with tracks like “Started From the Bottom” and “Worst Behavior”. These records shine on their own, but the project is at its best when it embraces the sincere production from 40, prevalent on the colossal single “Hold On, We’re Going Home” and the Jhene Aiko-assisted “From Time”. While it wasn’t a full on bar-fest throughout the entire listen, Nothing Was The Same prepped Drake for his style to come, really living up to its title with the aftermath of its release.
Best tracks: “Tuscan Leather”, “Pound Cake / Paris Morton Music”, “Hold On, We’re Going Home”, “From Time”, “Too Much”
2. If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late (2015)
Drizzy’s dynamic mixtape shook up the world immediately upon release, proving the Toronto emcee was capable of delivering more than just break-up to make-up anthems. Drake’s position in the lyricist conversation was always an iffy one as many would disregard his personal songwriting as “corny”, but it wasn’t a surprise to many when the Lil Wayne-protégé would body a sixteen on occasion. Though the negligence never visibly got to Drake, he knew he would have to drop a bombshell of bars one day to prove his doubters wrong.
If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late achieved more than reminding people that Drake could rap: it became one of the first albums to embed itself in internet culture. Reach back into the minds of many and you’ll see a variety of inside jokes and memes that stemmed from this album that hit all corners of the internet. This brought forth a new sense of connection to albums, being able to see first-hand reactions on the spot. While it also spawned unnecessary drama with ghostwriting allegations and a short-hand feud with Meek Mill, this mixtape paved the course for how albums would be digested and processed today. Hate it or love it, you can’t erase the contributions that this album brought to the culture.
Best tracks: “Energy”, “Know Yourself”, “Jungle”, “6PM in New York”, “Now & Forever”
1. Take Care (2011)
The iconic masterpiece that is this album helped bring the Toronto sound to the masses while molding Drake’s career to the mainstream titan he is today. Prior to the release of Take Care, Drake was taken under the Young Money umbrella, developing as a product of that camp; and while it made for an iconic era, the time for him to develop as his own entity would soon come.
Take Care would traverse deeper into the mind and soul of Drake, reaching new depths in his songwriting and structure. Tracks like “Cameras / Good Ones Go” and “Buried Alive Interlude” exhibit Drake’s meticulousness, sometimes sparring his vocals to show his focus on the bigger picture. As far as his pen goes, Drake reached amazing highs on this record as he ranged from spazzing on the Just Blaze-produced “Lord Knows” to trading sympathetic situations with Lil Wayne and Andre 3000 on “The Real Her”. And who could forget The Weeknd’s spotlight-stealing contributions, shedding more light on Toronto greatness.
As this generation continues to blossom, we can’t help but look towards this album as a reference for decade-defining hip-hop. And while debates still ring over whether Take Care is a classic or not, there exists a whole demographic that aged with this album, making it a significant standout in this era. This record has everything one could ask for from Drake and proved he was able to overcome the sophomore slump that many expected him to succumb to. Whether he’s able to top this record in the future or not, Take Care will remain supreme to an entire generation of listeners.
Best tracks: “Lord Knows”, “Headlines”, “Take Care”, “Crew Love”, “Cameras / Good Ones Go”, “The Real Her”, “Shot for Me”