Young Money recording artist Drake recently released the first single, “Headlines,” off of his second studio album, Take Care. It has all the ingredients of a hit Drake song: his monotone voice, a few parts flowed, other parts sung, a catchy beat by Noah “40” Shebib, a catchy chorus by Drake. We should all be used to it by now. The formula hasn’t changed much ever since Drake became a mainstream artist, so why is Drake dominating the radio airwaves? Why is “Headlines” even relevant, considering it sounds very similar to every other song he’s made? The question is complicated, but the bottom line is this.
“Headlines” is a fucking great song.
Somewhat puzzling, isn’t it? Maybe not. In usual fashion, Drake begins the track with a slightly introspective confessional lyric: “I might be too strung out on compliments/Overdosed on confidence.” It’s worth mentioning that these nifty introductory devices are nothing new in Drake’s arsenal, as his last album was littered with such openings. In “Unforgettable” it was: “This is really one of my dumbest flows ever/I haven’t slept in days.” And on “Show me a Good Time,” one of the standout tracks, it was: “How did I end up right here with you?/After all the things that I been through” And who could forget about “Light Up,” his first time sharing lyrics with Hova: “I been up for 4 days/Gettin money both ways/Dirty and Clean/I could use a glass of cold spades.” Last but not least, over that smooth beat in “The Resistance” it was: “Should I spend a weekend in Vegas?I’m living inside a moment/Not taking pictures to save it.”
But opening lines in a hip hop song are used rarely if ever to decide the eventual fate of a track. Drake sounds hungry in certain spots, but not in comparison to the intensity he exhibited on “Over.” No biggie. Drake is a more mature artist than he was a year ago. It must be noted that Drake was propelled to superstar status even before his first official single came out. Now Drake finds himself in a precarious situation all artists at one or another must face: getting over the “sophomore slump,” a vicious disease that unfortunately has plagued many artists. Some artists make it over the slump, and some don’t. Aside from a few rappers that managed to salvage their careers after a less than stellar second album like Snoop Dogg and Puff Daddy, others were not so lucky, such as Raekwon, who it would take years to once establish himself as a dangerous emcee.
Fortunately, Drake appears to be playing his cards right, sticking with the same formula that brought him tons of success on his first album, but tweaking it just a little. Instead of dropping random punchline after punchline like he did on “Over,” Drake elects to flow in a smooth harmonic pattern, turning up and down the intensity at strategic moments amid the beat, but not overdoing it. He has nothing to prove at this point. Drake sounds more cocky on this track then any other, and with good reason. He is no longer Lil Wayne’s protege, or wingman, or whatever. Drake is his own man, a major force in the hip hop game.