Drake's 'Dark Lane Demo Tapes' Is Nothing Groundbreaking — But Still a Hit
Published May 03, 2020Whether you love or hate Drake, it's impossible to deny and — for the most part — match the hype he's able to create. After again breaking Billboard records with his heavily criticized (but just as heavily consumed) "Toosie Slide," the 6 God treated fans to Dark Lane Demo Tapes. A stopgap to his next album, set to drop this summer, the mixtape includes an abundance of already released tracks, songs teased via livestreams and Toronto-centric references.
Staying rooted in the dark, sombre, solo drive through a sleepy city aesthetic (in which he's known to churn out some of his best work), he manages to deliver a good collection of cuts. However, although more largely focused than the marathon listen of his polarizing Scorpion LP, this project walks a tightrope of highs and lows, failing to take any chances or do anything different than he's done in the past.
There are some absolute gems here. More or less feeling like a conceptual attempt of replicating the vibe of "In My Feelings," the OZ-produced "Time Flies" shines, making for one of the project's brighter notes. His collaborative adrenaline shot with Future and Young Thug, the Southside-produced "D4L Freestyle," sees the Toronto native keeping pace, crafting what is sure to be one of those songs poised for post-quarantine party dominance.
The mixtape's missteps either come from questionable curation or confusing direction. The excitement for and collective disappointment by the highly anticipated "Pain 1993" was inescapable during social media first-listens as Drake allowed helium-heavy vocals by Playboi Carti to botch what was on track to be the project's standout.
Then there is the cringe-worthy "Desires," where Drake and Future croon about isolating women away, not only out of state but out of cell phone service range (yikes). Though it's more innocently intentioned than it sounds, in today's landscape, it seems out of touch.
For those who aren't fans of Drake's alleged "style assimilation," he's included the much-criticized "Demons," featuring Fivio Foreign and Sosa Geek, and "War" — where he taps the UK and US drill scenes respectively. The former is incredibly admirable, as he once again overtly borrows while still offering his platform to some of the drill scene's brightest stars.
> Drake remains his most lyrically poignant when he seems to feed off the energy swirling around him, powering up like Goku and launching haymakers so specific and yet so vague that you know its intended target is likely the only one stewing. "When to Say When" is a perfect example, where he manages to simultaneously comment on allegations of inappropriate relationships with minors, among other topics, while zeroing in on detractors of his fame and pen game — without naming names.
As an appetizer to hold over fans until his album drops this summer, Dark Lane Demo Tapes serves its purpose. There's nothing groundbreaking here, but that doesn't matter. This album is a hit, whether you like it or not. For the Toronto phenom who once exclaimed that his buzz was so big he could likely sell blank discs, that level of command despite the product remains his most outstanding achievement.