The only certainty in the music business is that every artist will fall from grace at some point, and Drake is no exception. Despite releasing two Platinum-plus projects in less than a year’s time, Drake’s career is showing symptoms of decline. The OVO hitmaker’s last release, More Life, sold almost 200,000 fewer units than his previous full-length, Views, and was topped by Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. in first-week sales. In addition, both Views and More Life received mixed reviews from critics and fans alike and, for the first time since 2009, Drake is absent from the Billboard Hot 100, ending an incredible 430-week run.
Drake’s stranglehold on rap’s throne is loosening and his once-unparalleled level of popularity is suddenly filling up with competition. It’s only a matter of time before he loses it outright.
The good news for Drake, however, is that he has the power to turn what is usually a sudden, unforgiving removal from relevancy into an elongated smooth ride into the sunset.
Here’s a blueprint Drake should follow in order to spend the remainder of his golden years atop the music business, adding to his legacy without tarnishing it.
1. Take Time Off
Since 2009, Drake has released an album/mixtape/ep/playlist every year except for 2012, and if his own songs were not charting in the top 40, he has been featured on someone else’s hit. Drake’s music is always being played in the club, in the car, under headphones in the gym and through laptop speakers at 3:30 a.m.
Once a groundbreaking artist, Drake has become predictable over the past 18 months. There’s “trap Drake,” “island Drake” and “last-song-on-the-album-freestyle Drake” and none of those incarnations are fresh. There is no mystery to his artistry and nothing to wonder about from a listener’s perspective, which, when combined, make for an artist’s worst nightmare. Along with an obnoxious level of exposure across social media, and it’s no wonder that none of his attempts at a summer anthem this year have managed to truly hit.
The best way for Drake to get fans to crave his music again is to take it away from them. Remember, absence makes the heart grow fonder. Let 2018 come and go without a Caribbean club hit. Ignore all of DJ Khaled’s emails and text messages. Drake’s music has become less of a good and more of a commodity. It is expected, not appreciated. We somehow reached a point where More Life, released less than 11 months after Views, was somehow considered “late.”
Taking time off may seem unnatural for a relentless worker like Drake, but if there is anyone who has built up enough clout to justify a break, it’s Drake. Just recently, Frank Ocean and JAY-Z returned to the limelight after taking four full years off with minimal guest appearances and the result was excellent music and critical acclaim. Their absence left their fans to wonder and speculate about their well-being, and thus, began to miss and feel emotionally invested.
A three or four-year break would certainly seem unnatural and counterintuitive, but time off will help Drake re-think his musical approach and make people yearn to hear his voice once again.
2. No More Island Drake
Drake has a redundancy problem. Over the last two years, he has remade the same song over and over and over and over. Records like “Hotline Bling,” “One Dance,” “Signs,” “Fake Love,” “Madiba Riddim,” and “Controlla” are gummy bears—different shades of the same snackable treats. While “Hotline Bling” and “One Dance” represent two of Drake’s biggest hits ever, spending the last two years trying to remake the originals have kept him running on an artistic hamster wheel.
Sure, dancehall Drake has put up big numbers on the charts, but it is the store-brand version of authentic dancehall music. Sterilized of emotion that made his older projects so special, it is painfully obvious that the commercial benefits are driving the artistry here rather than pure inspiration.
This is another reason why a long vacation would do him wonders. Spending time in the Caribbean introduced dancehall concepts into his musical palette. Now that he’s all but confirmed his lack of growth, it is time to find a new source of inspiration—faking an English accent next to a Giggs feature to claim grime heritage doesn’t count. Drake needs time to allow for his life to further unfold, providing him with a wealth of content from which to make music, rather than cherry-picking from cultures across the world.
3. Pass on Recreating Take Care
As Yoh eloquently articulated last month, a potential Take Care 2 has no chance to match its predecessor. The nature of that album was groundbreaking for its time, as no one had heard anything like “Marvin’s Room” on a rap record before 2011. Now that moody, emotional rap music is an entire subgenre in 2017, however, a sequel to Take Care would merely blend in with the rest of the field. Sequels are rarely better than their predecessors, especially for a project like Take Care that is arguably Drake’s most comprehensive body of work.
From a practical standpoint, such an undertaking would also be nearly impossible. Making a successful Take Care 2 would inherently mean The Weeknd would need to be brought on board and why would Weeknd, who donated his creativity and time to the original, want to halt his blossoming pop career to give Drake a dose of nostalgia?
The fact that Aubrey has even hinted at crafting a follow-up to Take Care alludes to a bigger problem: Drake is a creative who is out of ideas. From the repetitive dancehall cuts to the possibility of reaching back for a moment from six years ago, it has never been more apparent that Drake needs to take a step back and find organic inspiration.
4. Support His Entre OVO Sound Roster
Rap is a young man’s game. Even if Drake is able to extend his chart dominance for a few more years, his music will eventually go out of style. But that does not mean his brand needs to disappear entirely.
So far, OVO has been more clothing brand than breeding grounds for great music. After all, the best music is sent right to Drake’s inbox anyway. When an OVO Sound artist is fortunate enough to be granted a project release date, a simple tweet or Instagram post is typically the extent to which Drake is willing to promo.
For as long as the label has been around, OVO has been a hit-making factory for Drake. But it doesn’t always have to be. As his music begins to fall out of favor, Drake can step into an administrative role, much like JAY-Z with Roc-A-Fella. OVO has developed a well-established brand and aesthetic. The artists Drake has signed have all shown promise, so talent is not in short supply. All OVO needs is a little water and sunlight to blossom into a powerhouse R&B label.
While his career may never again reach his 2016 peak, Drake still has a lot of time to deepen his imprint on hip-hop and the music industry at large. How he is able to maneuver the next five years as both an artist and label owner will ultimately answer his prediction from 2013’s “Tuscan Leather”: “Just give it time, we'll see who's still around a decade from now.”