It’s been two years since Drake first promoted his next album Certified Lover Boy. Two years! Here’s a brief timeline:
June 2019 – posts on Instagram that he’s in Album Mode
April 2020 – says his sixth studio album is coming Summer 2020
August 2020 – releases album’s lead single “Laugh Now, Cry Later”
October 2020 – announces that album will drop January 2021
January 2021 – postpones to Summer 2021 due to surgery and rehab
July 2021 – says the album is 90% done and is being mixed
COVID-19 and his injury have added to the delays, but this isn’t Drake’s first long rollout. He announced Views in 2014 and the album dropped in April 2016. There’s a pattern behind the long rollouts, the product itself, and why he’s stayed on top for so long.
Appealing to the lowest common denominator
In Drake’s 2019 Rap Radar interview, he said he “has to do two things on every album,” sing and rap. He said that’s why his fans will never get that concise 10, 12, or 13 track album.
If he only dropped rap projects like the Scary Hours EPs or If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, he would miss out on the biggest hits of his career. But if he only dropped soft songs like “God’s Plan,” “One Dance,” and “Hotline Bling,” then the rap critics would never let up.
The result is albums like Views and Scorpion. They are buffet-style offerings of music. They’re not bad, but they don’t inspire diehard fandom. They appeal to the lowest common denominator. Drake knows this. He already thinks that people will hate on *Certified Lover Boy!*
Drake approaches studio albums like Democrats running for president. To win the nomination, liberal politicians need votes from a wide base: middle-class Americans, coastal elites, progressives, Black folks, Latinos, and more. Each group has a candidate it loves, but the one who becomes the nominee is liked enough by most groups.
In other words, Drake is the Joe Biden of hip-hop.
But it comes with the territory. It takes a lot of work to create albums like Views and Scorpion that will be liked enough by the masses. If it was that easy, then others would do the same and get the same results.
No need for a long album rollout
Certified Lover Boy will still get tons of buzz whenever it drops. It will be the biggest release of 2021 (unless Taylor Swift drops another album). But Drake can maximize the moment further and top more charts by separating the album’s creation from its promotion.
In the streaming era, artists don’t need to give more than a few weeks notice before an album drops. Tyler, The Creator gave one week notice before Call Me If You Get Lost. Taylor Swift gave one day notice before both folklore and evermore.
Shorter promotion cycles work well in streaming because artists are selling on-demand content on platforms that music fans already use on a regular basis. The friction is low. They’re no longer promoting products that customers need to travel to stores and pay $20 for. The era favors artists who can maximize the news cycle buzz of their albums without the anticipation dying down.
Drake does this well with his mixtapes and EPs. He can do the same with his albums too. Fans may love to be brought behind the scenes, but that doesn’t need to happen in the moment. Drake can still do short releases, have the cameras always rolling, then sell the footage to a video streaming platform for $20 million. That’s the model.
Read more about Drake in Trapital’s 2018 essay Nothing Was The Same After Nothing Was The Same