Her Loss places the listener behind Drake and 21 Savage’s toxic Gucci goggles. The collab album was announced in late October in a surprise music video for “Jimmy Cooks.” Delayed a week because “40”––Drake’s producer––caught COVID-19, the album rollout represented a beautiful moment for The Culture after the tragic death of Migos’ Takeoff. The two stars took to Instagram to post various parodies, including their own version of NPR’s Tiny Desk series, a Vogue cover, and a rowdy interview with Howard Stern about Drake’s favorite porn categories.
Coming soon after Honestly, Nevermind—Drake’s controversial attempt at making house music this past summer—Her Loss reintroduces us to the signature Drake aesthetic. While some dismissed Honestly, Nevermind as “H&M music” or blessed the project for the DFMOs it inspired in the club, the star barely rapped. Its final cut with 21 Savage, “Jimmy Cooks,” was a confusing departure from the Ibiza-esque tone of the rest of the album, but provided the Drake everyone wanted to hear. Throughout the summer, the nation chanted, “Bitch, don’t tell me that you model, if you ain’t been in Vogue.” Thank the 6 God for giving us more to chew on.
On the album’s intro, “Rich Flex,” Young Nudy and 21 Savage offer the equivalent of a hip-hop “grace” over a stunning soul sample before the 808s drop and Drake comes to eat. Drake sings, “21, can you do something for me,” and while the line has been clowned on TikTok for much of the past week, the melody is haunting yet catchy. 21’s staccato delivery lands perfectly, and as Drake samples T.I.’s “24’s” and 21’s own “Red Opps,” the song begs to blow out your speakers.
“Major Distribution” and “Privileged Rappers” offer rewarding glimpses into the hip-hop hierarchy. You can’t help but laugh when Drake sings, “Major distribution man, my label on my dick for real / you say I’m persuasive, girl, but you can’t spell that shit for real.” On the latter track, the stars poke fun at one-hit wonders, and 21 Savage raps with concision, “Catch him outside of the studio / make him repeat what he said.” We feel the fun 21 and Drake have with each punchline; we can imagine the anxiety other rappers might have over being name-dropped.
“Treacherous Twins” should be played at every function for the next year. While it’s unclear whether calling someone your treacherous twin will get you that far, Drake’s melody over the mellow beat is addictive. During the fade before the next verse, 21 offers one of the most iconic bars of the album with, “I don’t show ID at clubs, cause they know that I’m 21.”
Even on “BackOutsideBoyz,” the album’s first solo record, Drake thrives. It would have been nice to hear a true verse from Lil Yachty, rather than just adlibs, but we forgive him because of wild lines like, “She a ten tryna rap, it’s good on mute.” Things become more complicated, however, when we consider that it’s a diss towards rapper Ice Spice—Drake’s alleged fling who happens to be 22 years old.
While Drake shines in moments where he doesn’t overthink, it’s during his attempts to obscure that he’s 36 where he fails. What made Drake’s era before Scorpion so appealing was that we grew up with him. On albums like Take Care, his persona felt real, and his audience couldn’t help but smile at lyrics like, “I thought I found the girl of my dreams at the strip club / Mmm-mmm, fuck it, I was wrong, though.” In real life, we saw how these lessons played out through his relationships with Rihanna (has a baby with A$AP Rocky), Serena Williams (married with a five-year-old daughter), and even Jennifer Lopez (engaged to two different men since her entanglement with Drake and now married).
We can’t help but feel a bit sad for the guy.
There are moments during Her Loss that feel like imitations of past stages of Drake’s career. We’ve seen it before. “Hours in Silence” may be the most accurate title of any track: it’s a long ramble about nothing. The song feels like an attempt to revive Scorpion’s “Jaded,” but 21’s feature sounds like he’s 21 feet from the mic. “Circo Loco” samples Daft Punk’s “One More Time” but fares poorly in comparison with Scorpion’s “Nice for What.” The song is only relevant because Drake raps, “This bitch lie ‘bout gettin’ shots, but she still a stallion,” a reference to Tory Lanez’s alleged altercation with Megan Thee Stallion. It’s a cheap shot.
The Metro Boomin-produced track “More M’s” feels like a less developed version of “Knife Talk” off Certified Lover Boy. Other songs like “Spin Bout U” and “I Guess It’s Fuck Me” may have worked earlier in Drake’s career, but it’s hard to be invested in the sexual exploits of the father of a five-year-old son.
Even if the two stars lack innovation at points, they create dazzling moments. Every bar on Drake’s solo cut “Middle of the Ocean” could be an Instagram caption. Case in point: “Feel like an AMBER Alert the way that I can take her to the mall and she find Tiffany.” 21 Savage utilizes Drake’s signature title series on “3AM in Glenwood,” to examine the paradox of achieving success but losing the people who helped him get there. “Pussy and Millions” features the return of Travis Scott, who takes over the track’s second half and cinematically transforms the chorus to “pussy and billions.”
A recent study found that Drake speaks two of every three words on the album. While 21 demonstrates his lyrical economy throughout the project, there are times when Drake does too much. As Drake throws out disses like Ice Spice’s mixtapes, he seems desperate to incite short-term interest. Neither of the two rappers has anything to prove at this point; the moments where the album thrives are when they relax. Drake and 21 are capable of creating memorable music that won’t disappear into the abyss after a few weeks. After all, as Jimmy Smith says on Nothing Was the Same, “Only real music is gonna last / all that other bullshit is here today and gone tomorrow.”