A few weeks ago, in the iTunes Spotlight section which features albums based on a theme, I saw that the current offering was titled “Spotlight on Post Drake R&B” and included such albums as DVSN’s “Sept. 5” and Majid Jordan’s “Majid Jordan.” It was interesting to see a rapper being highlighted for his effect on R&B, but if you take a look at his career, he has been an R&B artist from the start.
Drake had been putting out mix tapes since 2006, with “Room For Improvement” and his 2007 followup “Comeback Season.”Both these mix tapes had elements of R&B mixed with his raps. For example, “Room For Improvement” included a sample of Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour.” “Comeback Season” sampled Anita Baker’s “Sweet Love.” “Comeback Season also yeiled the music video and single “Replacement Girl” featuring R&B singer Trey Songz.
Drake’s delved deeper into R&B with the first single for “So Far Gone,” the mix tape the propelled him into the mainstream. With “Best I Ever Had,” Drake went back and forth with his delivery style, singing and rapping the chorus of the song. Many songs on the mixtape featured him exclusively singing, such as the song “Sooner Than Later.” With this mix tape, which acted as an offical introduction of Drake to the hip-hop world, Drake showed that he was a multi-genre performer who was not going to choose one lane.
With Drake’s official studio albums, he was known to release both R&B and rap singles. His debut studio album “Thank Me Later” included the R&B single “Find Your Love,” on top of the rap singles like “Miss Me” and”Over.” He was featured on R&B songs singing, like Beyonce’s “Mine.” and even wrote R&B songs like Jamie Foxx’s “Fall For Your Type.”
It was not just the delivery that was different with Drake. The subjects matter was different. Drake music was able to touch on more sensitive topics like family, unrequited love and mistakes, topics that weren’t traditionally talked about in a vulnerable way in rap songs. Drake propelled what Kanye started with 2008’s “808s and Heartbreak,” showing that rap arists can be vulnerable and sing.
Other artists have been influenced by Drake. Bryson Tiller, an R&B singer, frequently raps on his songs that are rooted in soul music. PARTYNEXTDOOR, an artist signed to Drake’s label OVOSOUND, also mixes rap and R&B.
While Drake is not to first to mix the two genres, he was the first artist to build his career with this angle from the start. It will be interesting how he approaches this on his new album, Views From the 6, which was just released on April 29th.
Check on some of Drake’s best R&B songs below.