Within Drake’s immense catalog there are a plethora of songs that are orphans, released for free and then discarded, floating around the internet without a home. In fact, without thinking about cohesion or sequencing, you could easily make the best of Drake album using strictly songs that were given away or buried as bonus tracks on more obscure editions, and that album could just be better than any actual album he's made so far.
The first track that immediately comes to mind is "9 AM In Dallas."
“9 AM in Dallas” (2010)
As the title states, Drake wrote and recorded this hook-less song at 9 in the morning during a stay in Dallas, Texas. It just so happened to be the day his album was being mastered and could not be included in the final track listing for Thank Me Later. His highly-anticipated debut was met with mixed reviews, but “9 AM In Dallas” received absolute approval, razor-sharp lyricism mixed with Drake's charm made it the song that fans wanted more of. Later added to the UK iTunes release, it's now at best another bonus song that could have easily replaced one of the lackluster records that we will never thank him for.
“Dreams Money Can Buy” (2011)
“Dreams Money Can Buy” was the first song released to start the promotion of Take Care. On the OVO blog, Drake wrote, “Not a single. Just a piece of my story.” 40 took Jai Paul’s “BTSTU” and flipped it into a church for Drake to confess inside. To say he put the beat into a body bag would be understating how promising this record was to Drake fans. Just review the comments that were left after its release, the enthusiasm was very real. Tapping back into the zone of So Far Gone but with an even more potent pen, “Dreams Money Can Buy” heightened the excitement for Take Care but the appetizer failed to make the final cut. I always assumed it was due to the sample clearance, but sonically and conceptually it could have easily been the best song on the album.
“Club Paradise”/“Free Spirit” (2011)
“Club Paradise” is another release that dropped during the promotional phase of Take Care that's now living out its official life as a broken Mediafire link on his blog. It’s a diamond that he gave away. Anyone with two functioning ears can hear how perfectly the song syncs with Drake’s narrative of Toronto, strippers and being more open than a couple in counseling. And then back when Drake and Rick Ross were flirting with the idea of a joint album called Yolo, we got the song “Free Spirit.” The album never came to fruition but the song would’ve been a much better single than “Make Me Proud” or “Take Care.” A girl literally tatted Drake’s name on her forehead because of this song.
“Girls Love Beyoncé” / “Jodeci Freestyle” (2013)
It happens with every album. During the Nothing Was The Same promotional run Drake released “Girls Love Beyoncé.” Similar to when he flipped Juve’s “Back Dat Ass Up”, Destiny Child’s “Say My Name” became another hit Drake and 40 reworked. James Fauntleroy on the hook, quotable bars, and it’s smoother than the belly of Buddha. And remember the “Jodeci Freestyle” that features J. Cole? A pre-album Soundcloud release that has both rappers attacking the “4 U” flip, far different than their previous, “In The Morning” collaboration. Even though J. Cole caught reasonable flack for the autism line, hearing the two come together and actually rap like they still had something to prove was a rare treat.
“The Motion” (2013)
“The Motion” was also a part of the surprise release that included “Jodeci Freestyle,” “Versace Remix” and PartyNextDoor’s “Over Here.” Out of all these songs, “The Motions” sounds the most like it was created with intentions of being placed on an album. It follows Drake’s winning formula of rapping and singing, the addition of Sampha adds another layer of awesome. “The Motion” is a bonus song that can only be acquired through buying the physical deluxe edition and international edition bonus track of Nothing Was The Same. In 2016 that means it might as well not be on an album at all.
“0 to 100” (2014)
The most notorious Drake loosie has to be "0 to 100." Released after Nothing Was The Same, a song simply uploaded to Soundcloud became highly quoted, hashtagged, GRAMMY-nominated and slapped by Diddy. Astounding that something he just gave away would blow up on such a level. Don’t get me wrong, the song is worthy of every accolade, it created waves all on its own. If Chance The Rapper’s Soundcloud is a body of work that would make an incredible album, Drake’s Soundcloud is an album full of hits.
“How Bout Now” (2014)
“How Bout Now” has slowly but surely climbed to the top of my favorite Drake songs. He takes Jodeci’s “My Heart Belong To U” and stunts on a woman from his past. I laugh imagining Drake riding around with a young woman, trying to play his music and she'd rather listen to Ludacris. This is petty music at its finest, the song every rapper dreams of making during the early days of uncertainty. Along with “My Side,” “How Bout Now” is a bonus song that can be found on the physical version of If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, which is a travesty because since the album was released digitally first, I've never seen anyone with a physical copy. (Not the official version.)
And we're just scratching the surface. “Back 2 Back” might have been a huge moment on the internet but you won’t find it on any Drake project. “Damn this could be on a tape,” Drake raps on “5 AM in Toronto,” acknowledging that the verses he's laying down are among his best.
The same can be said for “Heat Of The Moment,” “Days In The East,” “We Made It,” “Trophies,” “Trust Issues” "Killers" and the second half of “All Of Me” that was never officially released, “Charged Up,” “Right Hand” and “Summer Sixteen,” these are just the more recent examples. I haven’t even dived into some of his early songs, records that showcased his promise but won’t be found on Comeback Season and Room For Improvement.
At the very least "Fear," which ended up as a bonus track on the retail version of So Far Gone and is often overlooked, might just be his best song ever.
Everyone is still contemplating their views on Views and while I’m still formulating my own thoughts, writing this made me realize how much of his music isn’t available through traditional means. What happens if Soundcloud and Apple Music disappear tomorrow? What would happen to most of these songs? Let’s say they don’t. What about the next generation of music listeners who will only know Drake via the albums and big singles. How will they find songs that are only placed on physical albums in an era where the CD is slowly dying? Then you have all the songs with edited pitches just so they can be uploaded without catching the attention of YouTube's copyright algorithms. (see "How Bout Now" above).
To only know Drake for the music on his album is to only witness half of what he has to offer. Buried in the trenches is where some of his best music resides. The tragedy of an artist who has given away much in an era where collecting them all will only get harder from here. Download links die, streaming services fail, songs are deleted, while the album may be dying in some ways, it’s still the most secure way to ensure the music will last.
Drake is currently the present of music, I wouldn’t be surprised if he is also the future, and when the best of Drake albums get pressed, and just like his actual albums, it will be missing the best possible examples.
By Yoh, aka My Best Articles Are Still In Google Docs, aka @Yoh31