“I wasn’t talking about Pablo. I wasn’t talking about Views. I want to ask ya’ll right now, are ya’ll ready for this album?,” Kanye West asked us all, from the 2016 OVO Fest stage where he stood beside Drake, and our interest was collectively piqued. Kanye made this announcement in Toronto barely an hour before the five year anniversary of one of hip-hop’s most memorable collaboration albums, Watch The Throne.
When Jay Z and Kanye were making Watch The Throne, they rented out an entire floor of the Mercer Hotel in Manhattan to work on it. They brought in Swizz Beatz, Pharrell, Hit-Boy and a group of talented producers, writers like Quincy Jones, Kid Cudi, and The-Dream, and all the necessary equipment.
Barely a year after Jay’s commercially successful Blueprint 3, and less than a year following the release of ‘Ye’s masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, the duo would release WTT. From a mentor and big brother figure, to best friend and collaborator, Jay Z doing a collaboration with Kanye made sense.
They’d worked together on countless successful records at this point, be it “‘03 Bonnie and Clyde” and “Lucifer” (produced by Kanye), or “Run This Town” and “Swagga Like Us,” on which they exchanged raps. The collaboration album was a natural fit and presumably wouldn’t affect the pair’s relationship like past collaboration albums Jay Z had worked on. And although it was rumored in 2013, a Watch The Throne 2 never happened.
Jay Z and R Kelly’s collab, Best of Both Worlds, was released in early 2002; a project that also made sense.“All Of My Days” and the “Fiesta” remix were certified bangers. R Kelly was producing a lot of R&B and hip-hop in the late ’90s, working extensively with both Jay Z and Aaliyah. However, when it came time to give the collaboration album a second shot with Unfinished Business, the two (and their camps) were not seeing eye to eye. At one point on the Unfinished Business tour, R Kelly was kicked off tour by Jay’s team, and Kells followed up with a hefty lawsuit. The two eventually worked together again, but not without a fair share of drama.
We’ve also seen Drake produce a few bangers in recent years, without doing anything too earth-shattering to Kanye’s career. In the space of time between Views being announced and released, we got surprise mixtape If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, and, in September 2015, Drake also released What A Time To Be Alive, his collaboration album with Future. And while these projects were fun, classics they were not.
There was Twenty88 from Big Sean and Jhene Aiko, and we’re supposed to get a joint project from Jeremih and PARTYNEXTDOOR, which would be appreciated following Late Nights, Late Nights: Europe and P3. But realistically, we need this Drake and Kanye collaboration album more than any other.
Once upon a time, when Drake started to gain popularity, he had zero qualms about naming Kanye as the artist having the biggest influence on his sound, much like Jay Z was to Kanye. Fast forward to OVO Fest 2013, and Kanye actually admitted Drake’s rise put the pressure on him and Jay to record Watch The Throne. Later, ‘Ye even went as far as to say Drake “stole the throne for him” in an interview with GQ, following the releases of Yeezus and Nothing Was The Same.
Since then, there’s been a friendly (and at times petty) rivalry between the two. On Kanye’s long-awaited day, the presentation of the first adidas and Yeezy collection during New York Fashion Week, where we also heard “Wolves” for the first time, Drake dropped the surprise mixtape If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. Game on.
The two made it through the summer of 2015 without too much back and forth, as Drake was busy ending Meek Mill’s career and Kanye was building on his Yeezy Season empire, but again, when Kanye dropped a few loosies on Soundcloud, Drake followed up hours later and broke the internet with the video for “Hotline Bling” on October 19, 2015. They’d go on to spend the holidays in Calabasas together before ‘Ye would drop “Real Friends” and “No More Parties in LA,” causing a spree of veiled social media posts from OVO and Mr. and Mrs. West, and all of us began speculating about when each album would drop.
Now, months after the releases of both Views and The Life of Pablo, when we look back on both of them sharing photos of that Larry Graham vinyl, we can see that they were working together. Drake has writing credits on The Life of Pablo’s “30 Hours” while Kanye has production and writing credits on Views’ “U With Me?” and “Feel No Ways.” We know that they can make good music together, but neither of them have a verse on each other’s latest projects despite Kanye being on the original version of “Pop Style” (which didn’t make the album cut).
However, before that, the last time they had verses on the same song was Big Sean’s “Blessings,” and before that it was “Forever,” originally from the Lebron James documentary soundtrack. Tracks featuring the two of them are scarce, and it’s been a while since it’s happened.
Additionally, Kanye West has again appeared at OVO Fest, and while we were all wondering if this Drake and Kanye collaboration album was more or less realistic than Kanye’s 2020 presidential campaign, a very Drake-y billboard appeared in TK, announcing “calabasas is the new abu dhabi” with OVO and G.O.O.D. Music logos at the bottom.
Honestly, it doesn’t matter if the Drake and Kanye collaboration album is even good. It doesn’t matter if it’s not a classic. It doesn’t matter if it’s bigger than Yeezus, Nothing Was The Same and Watch The Throne combined. We need this album because Kanye West and Drake are such different artists, yet view each other as their biggest competitors. Whereas Kanye’s background is as a producer and his projects have pushed sonic boundaries for hip-hop, Drake’s origins are in acting as Aubrey Graham, and his versatility is evident in his many singing styles and flows.
Even following the attempted takedown by Meek Mill about Drake using ghostwriters, Drake’s writing is recognizable and can be heard, for example, on Kanye’s “30 Hours,” whereas Kanye’s production shaped the early 2000s, from Purple Haze and Alicia Keys records all the way through his own stuff on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Meanwhile, Drake is the forever heartbroken sad boy, still getting mocked for being curved by Rihanna after being in love with her for eight years.
These days, Kanye is no longer the old Kanye, chop up the soul Kanye, and he may even be beyond the always rude Kanye, spaz in the news Kanye. He’s not only put an enormous amount of focus on his wife, family and children, but also his Yeezy line, sneakers and growing partnership with adidas. In other words, time is of the essence for this collaboration album. No matter what happens, this is the bottom line: the album will be different from any work Drake and Kanye have done individually, and it will be a challenge for them as artists.
But perhaps the most exciting thing about a potential Drake and Kanye collab is that, with the time these two will spend together – each working with the person they see as their biggest competition in the game right now – is this: imagine what they will release individually, after all the dust of this collaboration album settles? Don’t forget, after Watch The Throne we got Magna Carta Holy Grail from Jay Z and Yeezus from Kanye. We can only imagine what we’d get from Kanye and Drake.
Safe to say, a lot of us still feel like we still need more from Kanye, and we’re all curious about how Drake will develop beyond what we know of him today. If nothing else, a collaborative album between the two could subsequently bring out the best each of them has to offer as individual artists, and that’s a good enough excuse for us.
In other music news, check out this insane new freestyle from Nicki Minaj.
- Words: Rae Witte
- Lead image: Drake