In case you hadn’t heard (though if you’re reading this you’re a little too late), Drake is mere hours away from releasing his insanely hyped project More Life. Any major Drizzy release generates a substantial amount of hype, but thanks to its billing as a ‘playlist,’ not an album, and a steady stream of rumored collaborations popping up, this project is shaping up to be his most hyped yet.
So what have we been doing? Revisiting Drake’s back catalogue naturally. Yesterday we whipped up a ranking of all of his full-lengths so far compiled by a native Torontoan no less to ensure maximum authenticity. Today however, we present the fruits of our labor of what ended up being a task of Herculean proportions: organizing a definitive list of 25 of the 6 God’s very best songs.
Obviously, there are a treasure trove of gems to choose from in the vault of Drake tracks. So to slightly whittle our options down, we have excluded any songs where Drake is merely a featured guest artist or any of his collaborative projects (sorry, What a Time to Be Alive, no hard feelings). So, after a great deal of internal strife and deliberating, here they are: The Top 25 Best Drake Songs of All Time.
25. “Used To” ft. Lil Wayne
By the time If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late arrived in 2015, Drake and Lil Wayne had an artistic relationship that had lasted over half a decade. Their rise to the top was swift and merciless, and as a dynamic duo they were unmatched. “Used To,” across a choppy staccato beat, is the sound of these titans surveying their conquest, bored to the point of hilarity that they do indeed have it all.
24. “Crew Love” ft. The Weeknd
For a song about rolling with the homies, “Crew Love” is as haunting and brooding as it gets. Which in many ways can be attributed to the presence of The Weeknd, who is here captured on tape at the precise moment he started to become a household name. Within the span of Take Care, the song is our first real glimpse of a Drake suddenly doubtful about the path he is now on, and it is paired with production that carries an almost-reverent quality to its sonic space.
23. “10 Bands”
One can palpably feel the frosty air that effuses each second of this production, a lilting sequence of carol-like bells with an iciness only matched by the greed in Drake’s heart. While the Drizzy of yesteryear may have extolled the virtue in his ability to spend money on loved ones in favor of saving it, here we have a glimpse of this same man now consumed beyond control in the extravagance of his celebrity lifestyle. But Lord, if it doesn’t sound glamorous.
22. “Make Me Proud” ft. Nicki Minaj
In the grand scheme of Nicki and Drake collaborations, their only duet that appears on an official Drake album ranks rather low on the list. Yet in spite of this fact, it is still one of the essential stops on the journey of his sophomore album Take Care, perhaps because it is such a true-to-life document. These two kids came up together through Young Money, and to have their jubilation at realizing their lofty young dreams sealed in wax is just plain cute.
21. “Too Much” ft. Sampha
Much and more has been made of Drake’s sometimes questionable practice of discovering artists or tracks he likes and, um, appropriating them into his own. But has anyone condemning this practice sat and listened to what he does with them? “Too Much,” liberally pulling from a Sampha track, spins wondrous beauty from its original, subsequently introducing the singer/songwriter to the world and making Drake’s rapping sound like a late-night jazz cabaret standard. No easy feat at all.
One half of the two great Caribbean-flavored hits on the otherwise maudlin Views from last year (more on that other half later), “Controlla” is a sun-dappled piece of perfect pop. Bemoaning the love in his life for whom Drake would cry, lie and die for, it carries a sheen fitting of both an affair in the heat of many summers past and of an artist crafting his first Grammy Album of the Year-nominated full-length.
Every pop star must reckon with the fact that their death, as opposed to the death of us mere peasants, will be enshrined in the annals of history, along with everything else they do until their great day of judgment. Drake had been questioning the burdens of his newfound celebrity for years, but it is here, on the first track of his surprise mixtape at the dawn of 2015, that he ponders this scenario with seriousness that it deserves.
Has anyone ever sounded so sad to realize that “I’m doing me?” As Drake’s first thesis statement on the melancholy of being an in-demand pop star, “Over” has held up surprisingly well over time. Using instrumentation that immediately evokes the lush orchestral arrangements hip-hop utilized in a world post Kanye-Late Registration, it is a far cry from the pristine work Drizzy would soon be churning out with his wingman Noah “40” Shebib, but the warmth of the production here is a perfect match for a lamentation on being surrounded by fake fame-chasers.
17. “Tuscan Leather”
Drake lays bare that he is “on a mission tryna shift the culture” in this bombastic opener to 2013’s Nothing Was the Same, and with a track as grandiose as this it’s a claim that does not seem too far-fetched. Utilizing pitch-shifted vocals and production that sounds like a chopped-and-screwed version of Prince’s title track “Purple Rain,” “Tuscan Leather” finds Drake reaching out and taking the maximalism he had worked hard to earn. It remains one of his longest tracks on record, but it befits the air of having ‘made it’ that bleeds through every second.
16. “One Dance” ft. WizKid & Kyla
This svelte little diddy has somehow managed to become the most-streamed song in the history of both Spotify and Apple Music, and it has been in our lives for less than a year. Is it really that good? Debatable, but Drake has certainly never crafted something so tightly-crafted and controlled. “One Dance” is a precise dancehall-minuet, one that reflect each of its disparate parts back at the listener, all wrapped up in one of the earwormiest melodies of a generation.
15. “Best I Ever Had”
“Best I Ever Had” works on a variety of levels, but first and foremost it functions as a singularly perfect pop song, perhaps the most perfect of Drake’s career. Making a sing-alongable ode to that special someone who makes you feel all warm and fuzzy is a tale as old as time, and it arrived at a stage early enough in Drake’s catalogue for us to see him as a boy not too far removed from honing his singing skills at his cousin’s barmitzvah. Never again would he make a song so tailor-made for a high school a capella group to cover.
14. “Take Care” ft. Rihanna
Much like his Nicki track from the same album, “Take Care” ranks low on the full tally of Drake’s collaborations with Rihanna. Yet thanks to a stellar sampling of a Jamie xx track (it in turn a remix of a Gil Scott-Heron song), Drizzy and RiRi delivered a duet for the ages, one that adorably delights in the pleasure of being a respectful, caring romantic partner. It is a paean to the joy in finding complete trust and safety in a loved one, and it remains one of Drake’s most honest, carefree expressions of intimacy.
13. “Furthest Thing”
Built around a restless, ever-shifting line of delicate piano, “Furthest Thing” is a truly heartbreaking depiction of Drake’s isolation in the fame game, one that feels far more genuine than some of his other examples of this theme. Whether you’ve been drinking on the low or smoking on the low or even scheming on the low, this track is immediately relatable to anyone who has at one point or another felt the weight of the world on their shoulders.
12. “Find Your Love”
As the old saying goes, Kanye West’s trash is another man’s treasure. Or something like that. Widely believed to be a cast-off from Yeezy’s opus 808s & Heartbreak, Drake was able to get his hands on the demo and turned it into the single which definitively staked his claim among those clamoring for a spot on Top 40 radio way back in 2010. And with a hook as massive as this one, how could it possibly have failed? All together now, “HEY HEY HEY!”
11. “We’ll Be Fine” ft. Birdman
Darkness oozes forth from this track. It is clear from the echoing chasms of bass and frenetic pace of Drake’s bars that when he asks us if we’re “down, all the way down,” it may be towards the bottom of a spiral we’re not prepared for. This track is a quintessential example of the sonic wonder that can ignite when throwing Drake and 40 in a studio together, and the latter’s murky beats are the perfect fodder for the paranoiac lyrics that sit atop them. By the time we get to the chorus, Drake himself even acknowledges the futility in turning away; “aw fuck let’s get it then” he spits with venomous glee.
10. “Underground Kings”
The competing natures within Drake of his satisfaction and horror at the life he has built for himself are writ on the largest possible scale on “Underground Kings.” In one breath he is sneering at how he “got rich off a mixtape,” and in another painfully admitting that he is a “cold due, I’m gettin’ back to my ways.” The production is colossal, with great yawning lines of bass accentuated by a circling guitar chord, one that hovers over both Drake and the listener like a vulture on the prowl. Heavy lies the head that wears the crown.
9. “HYFR (Hell Ya Fucking Right)” ft. Lil Wayne
Has Drake forgotten about his troubles? Not for one moment. But just because one has stress about everything going in their life doesn’t mean that they can’t take a night to say ‘fuck it’ and celebrate. This is exactly what is going on in “HYFR;” it is the sound of Drake to take a well-earned break in fretting about his problems to get properly wasted with the man who brought him on the come-up. “Are you high right now? Do you love this shit?” Wayne reminds the listener before each chorus, and Drake provides the perfect answer for us: “hell yeah, fucking right.”
Drake gets a lot of shit. And to be honest, he kind of deserves it. He is a middle-class Canadian former successful child star asserting dominance in a game full of people who have risen from actual poverty and destitution to get to his place. It’s only fair that Drizzy gets a little flack; compared to his peers he is rather soft. “Energy” is proof that Drake can indeed get hard as fuck. It is both battle-cry and warning, he even interrupts his own chorus in the song’s final portion to fit in one more reminder that you best be prepare if you plan on fucking with him.
7. “Worst Behavior”
Speaking of Drake being hard as fuck, the first entrant into this tale came in the form of Nothing Was the Same standout “Worst Behavior.” While his complaint that “motherfuckers never loved us” may sound whiny to the untrained ear, this song is anything but mild-mannered. This is where Drake stopped being a friendly, somewhat cuddly guy who held a soft heart and started becoming someone capable of real nastiness. Tragic? Perhaps, but it is a result that he oft-warned us would come about should we doubt him.
“Headlines” closes with a spoken word, a poem that Drake delivers with an almost out-of-character sense of immediacy and poignancy: “I heard once that they would rather hear about memories than enemies, rather hear what was or will be than what is, rather hear how you got it over how much it cost you, rather hear about finding yourself and how you lost you.” Therein, tucked away at the end of one of the most excellently-produced tracks in his catalogue, lies the essence of Drake’s artistic exploration.
5. “Marvin’s Room/Buried Alive Interlude” ft. Kendrick Lamar
“Marvin’s Room” is a true oddity in the collection of Drake songs. For one thing, it boasts one of the most minimal, bare-bones production jobs he’s ever laid on tape. It also could be classified almost-exclusively as a work of R&B, with a smattering of rap here or there but far from something we could call hip-hop. But this song stands as among his most important for its true bleeding-heart openness and honesty. Hardly any straight male artist, let alone one who rolls with rappers, has come close to this level of anguished ‘feeling all the feels’ that Drake painstakingly has stitched together in this opus.
4. “Hold On, We’re Going Home” ft. Majid Jordan
Even more than the cuteness and adorability of his earliest tracks, “Hold On, We’re Going Home” feels destined to be the one Drake song you’ll hear at wedding receptions and YMCA events for the rest of time immemorial. Why? The answer is disarmingly simple: this is Drizzy’s most successful attempt at creating a universal moment in his work. We all could do well to forget our problems in exchange for a little “hot love and emotion,” it is a basic human right to do so in times that warrant it. There is immense comfort in knowing this fact, and immense satisfaction in knowing that Drake can deliver it so wholehandedly.
3. “Started From the Bottom”
If we could pin down any single Drake song as his definitive ‘hip-hop moment,’ then this is it. One can feel the lineage of every great braggadocious track of rap games of old embodied in every moment of “Started From the Bottom.” It is a tale as old as time; for a kid on the come-up to beat back against mountains of haters to reach the summit and bask, bask, bask in the glory of victory. The fact that Drake didn’t really start from rock bottom is irrelevant, for he has successfully provided an anthem for those even tangentially involved in such a struggle.
2. “Hotline Bling”
There is a reason this song reached a level of ubiquity unheard of for a Drake song (at least until “One Dance” the following year). In his near ten years as an artist to watch, Drake has revealed many sides to himself. Badass tough guy Drake, boozing in the club Drake, feeling horny and seductive Drake, feeling sad and regretful and carrying the sorrow of the world Drake have all reared their heads at one time or another. But “Hotline Bling” showed us a Drake we had not been privy to before or since; a Drake that is campy, silly, and having infectiously giggle-worthy fun. On “HYFR” he questioned whether we “loved this shit,” but he did not deliver his definitive answer until right here. Yes, he very much is.
1. “Know Yourself”
There are multiple points one could use to argue why “Know Yourself” is the greatest Drake song. It has what is perhaps some of the most crisp, most calculated production of any of his songs. Every single line is memorable and catchphrase-worthy. It combines sad, tough, and self-aware Drake into one lean, mean Drake machine. It is catchy as hell. But the argument I will go with is that “Know Yourself” encapsulated the full Drake mythology in a manner that actually lives up to his own self-prophesized hype. A few songs earlier he proclaimed that “when I die I’m a legend,” but this song is all the proof one needs to confirm it.
Be sure to check out our ranking of Drake’s albums written by someone actually from the 6 right here.
- Cover Image: Dan Martensen