For his last album, Drake kept his fans in anticipation for nearly a year. For his newest one, the wait was about six hours.
“Honestly, Nevermind,” Drake’s seventh proper studio LP, was released to streaming services at midnight on Friday, having been officially announced only hours earlier on Drake’s social media accounts. With 14 tracks, it is a relatively short collection for the superstar rapper-singer. (“Certified Lover Boy,” which came out last September, had 21 songs.)
The new album’s producers include longtime collaborators like Noah Shebib (known as 40), Oliver El-Khatib (who is also one of Drake’s managers) and Noel Cadastre, as well as Black Coffee, a South African DJ who came up through the underground and in recent years has worked with stars like David Guetta and Usher.
In a note attached to the album on Apple Music, Drake said that “Honestly, Nevermind” was dedicated to Virgil Abloh, the influential fashion designer who had a long association with Kanye West, and died last year at age 41 from cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare kind of cancer.
Fans had been expecting something new from Drake since at least March, when he posted a picture of himself in a recording studio. On the contrary, “Certified Lover Boy” had been bruited about for nearly a year. Drake’s announcement for “Honestly, Nevermind” came just hours after Beyoncé – the undisputed champion of surprise album releases – made her own statement, uncharacteristically giving a six-week heads up for her next release, “Renaissance,” which will be her first solo studio album since “Lemonade” in 2016.
“Honestly, Nevermind” comes as the rapper has taken greater control over his career. Last month, the Universal Music Group announced that it had signed a wide-ranging deal with Drake covering recordings, music publishing and other businesses like merchandise and visual projects. Terms have not been disclosed, but its value has been estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Drake dominates the streaming market. Even though Spotify lists him as its eighth-most popular artist around the world – the Puerto Rican star Bad Bunny is the top – his catalog, with hits like “One Dance,” “God’s Plan” and “Hotline Bling,” represents some of the most popular music on the format. According to an analysis by Billboard, last year Drake’s catalog outstreamed all music released before 1980.
For years, Drake released music through a complex contractual structure that gave ownership of his work to other labels affiliated with Universal. Since “Certified Lover Boy,” his albums have come with a copyright notice stating that the recordings are owned by his company, October’s Very Own, and licensed to Universal, which releases them through its Republic label. That arrangement typically gives far greater control – and a much larger share of income – to the artist, and is also used by major acts like Adele, Taylor Swift and Beyoncé.