When Drake released his surprise project, “Honestly, Nevermind” — a wistful, yet euphoric, dance album — this past summer, listeners flooded social media to express mixed reviews. While it is a tradition for new Drake albums to be met with initial dissatisfaction, only to become appreciated as classics in the following weeks, “Honestly, Nevermind” was the most polarizing release of his career. After twelve laid-back dance tracks in a row, listeners felt disrespected when the album’s final track, “Jimmy Cooks” featuring 21 Savage, completely switched genres to a soulful and aggressive hip-hop anthem. It appeared as though Drake had been withholding a vault of hard-hitting bangers that they had been begging for throughout the entire album. Well, ask and you shall receive.

Drake & 21 Savage’s newest release, “Her Loss,” is a near-flawless record, each track blowing you away just as much as the one before it. It consolidates the absolute best attributes of both rappers, producing songs that are heavily entertaining, creative and fitting for all different types of moods. The artists are the musical equivalent of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson or Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, combining their unique skill sets together to assemble the ultimate dynamic duo. However, just like in both of those iconic pairs, this album reveals a clear leader whose abilities are more integral to the group’s overall dominance.

Despite being advertised as a collaborative album, “Her Loss” feels more like a Drake solo release with 21 Savage featured on it than it does a truly even record. Whereas Drake and Future were equally important to every track on their 2015 collab album, “What a Time to Be Alive,” 21 Savage only comprises 26 percent of the lyrics on “Her Loss,” and he is left off of four tracks. While this is potentially disappointing for those looking for an equal mix from both artists, this is a dream for diehard Drake fans looking for a return to his 2010s reign of dominance.

Although 21 Savage has shining moments and delivers consistently throughout the project, his primary role in the duo was bringing out the most primitive, hungry and unfiltered Drake we have seen in years. 21 Savage’s pugnaciousness and traumatic upbringing inspired Drake to release raw, pent-up aggression and throw blatant shots at his rivals over dark, gritty Southern trap beats. Once proclaiming himself a “certified lover boy” on his 2021 LP, Drake has embraced his full toxicity, informing ex-lovers that they will regret letting him slip away. Hence, “Her Loss.”

The album opens with the goosebumps-inducing “Rich Flex,” as the duo ensures that their commanding presence is felt within seconds of first pressing play. As an eerie vocal sample swells in the background, Drake’s signature “SIX-six-six” sound effect signals his upcoming entrance like a gladiator getting ready to enter a sold-out coliseum. Not only is “Rich Flex” as quintessential of an intro track as one could hope for, it is one of the most cohesive, collaborative songs on the album. The duo rallies off of each other’s flows, cadences and aggressive lyrics while Drake embodies a mob boss summoning 21 Savage to do his dirty work. Drake raps, “… 21, can you do something for me? / Can you talk to the opps necks for me?” With two evil, Southern trap beats and a menacing, assertive delivery from both artists, this track initiates an unstoppable momentum that only begins to dwindle in the album’s final tracks.

On “Major Distribution” and “On BS,” they keep their foot held fully down on the gas, offering two more effortless, synergetic bangers. Over stripped-back, ominous beats, Drake and 21 Savage mimic each other’s mean delivery and braggadocious subject matter. Like a true tag team, they take turns going back and forth, trading bars about their riches, street credibility and accomplishments — including Drake’s enormous $500 million record deal that he signed earlier this year. In the first verse of “On BS,” the rappers alternate on back-to-back lines, rapping “I jump on your song and make you sound like you the feature / I jump on your song and make a label think they need you, for real.” The artists assert themselves as indispensable, dynamic forces in the music industry, in a different stratosphere than any artist who might try to compete.

Throughout “Her Loss,” Drake has tapped into a more effortless and less meticulous mode than he has on past albums. This works in his favor, resulting in extremely entertaining, catchy songs such as the bouncy solo track “BackOutsideBoyz.” Over powerful 808s and a vibrant brass chord progression, Drake sends a bolt of energy through the listener’s body by using punchy flows and addicting vocal melodies. In the current age of music, where artists often seem uninspired and release derivative versions of the same songs over and over, “Her Loss” is a breath of fresh air. Each and every track is certain to offer some kind of memorable flow, lyric, melody or beat that will stick in your mind and have you rushing back to replay it.

“Hours in Silence” is the album’s pièce de résistance, a hypnotic and deeply nostalgic track. The instrumental’s airy, somber atmosphere masterfully complements Drake’s smooth, raspy delivery that glides through the track like scissors through a layer of silk. Two minutes into the song, the drums fully cut out, leaving only minimalistic, melancholic chords for Drake to vent over for the next four-and-a-half minutes. Upon first listen, this second half seemed to work to the detriment of the track, feeling like an overdrawn soliloquy that would ruin its replayability as a whole. However, after embracing its dark and reflective aesthetic, one begins to look forward to it just as much as the first half. Drake airs out scattered, introspective thoughts about past relationships, sounding like he is up late at night, trying to internally process what transpired. While he takes accountability for his own faults, he more emphatically — and toxically — explains that he has molded these women into who they are today. Sticking to the album’s title, he raps, “You were lost until me / I didn’t get no finder’s fee.” Although they may have parted ways, he is certain that she will feel his absence.

While the second half of “Her Loss” contains some of its weaker, less interesting tracks — such as “More M’s” and “3AM on Glenwood,” it revives the infectious energy of earlier records with “Pussy & Millions (feat. Travis Scott).” Using a majestic soul sample, Drake builds up tension with an emotionless, deadpan delivery, only to begin passionately singing his heart out as soon as the beat drops. After an addicting hook and one of 21 Savage’s most authoritative verses on the album, the beat abruptly switches, as Travis Scott steps onto the track and makes it his own. He raps with ferocity over a triumphant beat that sounds like one is ascending to the gates of heaven. Drake and Travis Scott have yet to miss in their collaborations, adding to a catalog of classic records like “Fair Trade” and “SICKO MODE.”

Just as the album began with the quintessential intro track, there is no more perfect a send-off than the outro, “I Guess It’s Fuck Me.” Over a wistful yet tranquil instrumental, the track contains the most introspective lyrics on the project. Drake discusses his motivations, unstoppable work ethic and ascent to the top of the music industry. With the line, “Know I sound crazy to a lazy mind,” he explains that his intense devotion to his craft is foreign to those unwilling to take difficult steps toward achieving their goals. He says that this dedication comes from a desire to provide for his family, “The pain that I seen in my mother’s eyes in 2009 / got me working ‘til it’s 2049.” With its soothing, meditative atmosphere and thought-provoking subject matter, this outro brings the album to a perfect conclusion.

After the duo unexpectedly announced “Her Loss” at the end of what appeared to be an ordinary music video for “Jimmy Cooks,” expectations immediately rose through the roof. While many anticipated it being one of the best projects of the year due to their collaborative history, few prepared for it entering the tier of the greatest works of Drake’s career. The album is incredibly concise, consistent and exciting, essentially going a flawless sixteen for sixteen tracks — with one potential miss. With time, it will only continue to grow in popularity and acclaim, being recognized as one of the best albums to be released in the last five years. “Her Loss” is the perfect representation of why Drake has occupied a spot at the peak of the music world for over a decade and proves that he is not going anywhere any time soon.

Rating: 9/10