“I’m hot now, hot now / Lot of rap and R&B n—-s popped off my sound…”
You almost have to admire Tory Lanez’ commitment to the delusion. When the kid delivers the above line not five full minutes into his latest effort, Memories Don’t Die, it’s with a near-Rick Ross level of suspension of disbelief (bless up). The arrogance of Tory, who knows in his heart of hearts that this is unequivocally and objective untrue, says it with such earnest sincerity that you almost — almost — buy it.
Then the ridiculosity of such a statement comes crashing in, and all that credibility is washed away in the tide of one simple fact: Tory sounds — has always sounded — like a slightly watered-down, not-quite-off-brand version of Drake. Diet Drake, if you will. But that’s not a bad thing!
Don’t get me wrong, a more creative, original, distinctive Tory Lanez could only be a good thing, but if he insists on making a Great Value version of someone else’s product, maybe the best thing he could do is make it taste so similar, it’s almost preferable.
With that said, Memories Don’t Die earns a dubious distinction: Despite itself, it’s actually the Drake album we’ve all almost wanted.
One of the primary complaints about Drake — at least since the 2010 release of his debut full-length album Thank Me Later — is that he won’t just rap. On his early, self-released mixtapes, Room For Improvement and Comeback Season, he flashed promise. On So Far Gone he finally delivered on it, finding a balance between smug satisfaction, heartfelt sincerity, and cold insecurity that made him a household name, the most relatable rap star, the guy who would save rap from itself.
Of course, things panned out differently when his fame skyrocketed behind a wealth of teen-girl-friendly, deceptively catchy R&B hooks and outright ballads. Hardcore hip-hop heads were livid at the perceived bait-and-switch, and only ever appeased whenever Drake would release one of his hook-free, straight-spitting-style “time in location” loose tracks. At the receipt of straightforward bangers like “Draft Day” or “Weston Road Flows,” the old refrain comes back around, “If only Drake would make a whole album like this.”
Memories Don’t Die isn’t exactly like this. If anything, Tory follows Drake’s formula almost too well, right down to the mining of cultural genres like dancehall and the ratio of straight rapping songs to reflective R&B tracks (which actually leans way more rap than many of the above-mentioned heads give credit for, but no one ever said reputations were ever all that close to reality).