There is nothing wrong with Dark Lane Demo Tapes. For rapper, mogul, Toronto ambassador Drake, his seventh commercial project and second mixtape is just fine. The man might not be — the tape’s 14 tracks are a dilapidated playground that often sees Drake somberly swinging, ruminating on his life’s turmoil. Sure, he’s comforted by his millions — he’s well on his way to half a billy if “When to Say When” to be believed — but he’s tormented by the things money can’t buy (usually women).
But the tape, which is largely comprised of former loosies, Instagram Live cuts and of course the track officially leaked by Drake’s team on the OVO SoundCloud page (“Desires”), is safe. Unlike his previous mixtape, If You’re Reading This Its Too Late, which traded in the miserable soliloquies of Take Care and Nothing Was The Same for power-packed, self-important bars, DLDT is Drake quarantined, alone with his thoughts — and a handful of features.
The isolation comes naturally on DLDT, and with it Drake’s continued reliance on his biggest influences.
In 2009, an up-and-coming Drake, barely removed from accompanying Lil Wayne on tour, rapped alongside Weezy, Eminem and Jay-Z on “Forever”, the song that would accompany LeBron James’ More Than a Game documentary. Unsurprisingly, Drake pays homage to all three of these influences on “From Florida With Love”, “When To Say When”, and “Chicago Freestyle”, respectively.
Name and reference dropping is a Drake mainstay. On 2017s playlist, More Life, he pooled inspiration from around the globe — the UKs grime scene, South African house music. Before that, it was mild obsession with dancehall, as heard on Views’s “Controlla” and “One Dance”. Dark Lane Demo Tapes returns to that formula, albeit drawing its lifeblood from sounds old and new. In one breath, Drake conjures up memories of early 2000s hits “Song Cry” and “Superman”, and in the next, he’s preying on the sounds of New York (“Demons”) and Atlanta (“D4L”).
Drake claims he’s a Scorpio, but he’s more of a chameleon. The cover art for Dark Lane Demo Tapes is heavily obscured. Drake’s eyes are his only discernible feature, the rest dressed in black allowing him to do here what he does best: blend in.