Raise your hand if your 2022 bingo card included Drake releasing a dance album.
No? Us either, but here we are, days after the surprise drop of the superstar’s seventh studio LP Honestly, Nevermind, which involved the added shock of being almost entirely composed of moody electronic atmospherics and body-moving dancefloor heat.
But Drake doing dance is not not some paint-by-numbers crossover attempt, nor is the album populated with obvious choices in terms of sounds or collaborators. Instead, for Honestly, Nevermind, Drake tapped seven house music producers with varying degrees of mainstream fame, but with much respect within the global dance scene.
Working with this well-curated collection of dance figures adds underground credibility and serious vibes to Drake’s dancefloor phase, while also giving mainstream shine to both these artists and house music itself. (“Drake’s album is going to make a huge new group of people interested in discovering house music and that’s a great thing, thanks,” Diplo tweeted upon the release of Honestly, Nevermind.)
Call it the new dance music crossover, with Honestly, Nevermind marking arguably the first time an artist of Drake’s superstar status has so fully dipped into the underground house sound that’s long since supplanted EDM as the dance genre of choice within the U.S. With all of the dance music producers involved on this album firmly part of that world, Drake is embracing the kind of mature house and deep house currently ruling the global dance circuit and giving this sound its best hopes thus far for serious U.S. radio play.
So who are these seven electronic artists who helped forge Honestly, Nevermind? Let’s meet ’em.
&Me & Rampa
Two of the three members of Berlin-based Keinemusik, &Me and Rampa give “Falling Back” a scintillating deep house simmer, laying a sexy, deceptively complex foundation under Drake’s falsetto-forged musings about love and longing. Along with fellow Keinemusil member Adam Port, &Me and Rampa are currently delivering these same sleek vibes to trendsetting dancefloors, amidst their current residency at house and techno mecca Circoloco at DC10 in Ibiza and at Miami’s Club Space. Keinemusik also released their sophomore album Send Return last fall, with the album including features from Little Dragon and fellow dance big gun Solomun.
The Belgian artist has production credits on “Falling Back,” “Calling My Name” and “Flight’s Booked,” giving these tracks the same dreamy, moody touch he’s also delivered in his work with big-name artists like Machine Gun Kelly, Young Thug and Gunna. But while Lustig’s highest-profile output exists in the hip-hop realm (he has another writing credit on Honestly, Nevermind‘s “Overdrive”), he’s also an accomplished ambient producer, whose latest single “Breathe” features Elohim. (Lustig also got a major profile bump when BTS used his trap-oriented song “Under Pressure” in a 2018 dance practice video.)
In a 2018 interview, Lustig noted that his ethereal ambient soundscapes (which are especially on display in the second section of “Calling My Name”) were inspired by the panic attacks he experienced as a teenager. “I would often just walk out in the middle of the night listening to ambient music,” he said. “It was a miracle cure for me. Since recovering from all that, I’ve always had those ambient elements in a lot of my music.”
The South African producer — who won the 2022 Grammy for best dance/electronic album for his LP Subconsciously — is all over Honestly, Nevermind, with production credits on “Texts Go Green,” “Calling” and “Overdrive.” The artist born Nkosinathi Maphumulo gives his contributions to Drake’s LP the same sophistication and urgency that’s become his signature as he’s risen to become a leader of the global dance scene over the past few years, with “Texts Go Green” especially sounded like something that’d be entirely at home on a Black Coffee release. This also isn’t Maphumulo’s first time working with Drake, having produced “Get It Together” from 2017’s More Life.
When Billboard last spoke with the veteran electronic producer, he was Zooming from a spare room at Drake’s house in Toronto, and now we know why. The artist born Diamanté Blackmon, who recently retired his longstanding and hugely successful bass-focused Carnage project to focus on his house-oriented output as Gordo, produced more songs on Honestly, Nevermind than other artist: “Currents,” “Calling My Name,” “Sticky,” “Massive” and “Tie That Bands.” Drake even name checks him in “Sticky,” declaring that “Gordo got me on a wave.” (Please also see these photos of Blackmon from the Honestly, Nevermind release party, which he called the “proudest day” of his life.)
Really, one couldn’t have designed a better or more high-profile segue for the Carnage-to-Gordo transition, with Blackmon giving the album the same sinewy house beats he’s now delivering at clubs worldwide under his new moniker. “Thank you brother for trusting me and allowing me to be a part of the vision,” Blackmon tweeted to Drake upon the album’s release. “I never factored this into the equation for the beginning of my next chapter, but thank you.”
Having previously collaborated with many fellow dance artists, including fellow Honestly, Nevermind producers Black Coffee and Keinemusik, Australian-born, U.S.-based producer and vocalist Ry X is a natural fit for the Drake LP, lending his eerie falsetto to “Sticky.” One half of electronic duo Howling and one third of electronic outfit The Acid, Ry X is a true chameleon of the global electronic scene and also released his new solo album, Blood Moon, on the same day Honestly, Nevermind dropped.
OVO Radio mainstay Govi is a longtime fixture of Toronto’s underground electronic scene and has previously produced tracks for artists including Nicki Minaj, Sabrina Claudio and Drake, with Govi working on Certified Lover Boy‘s “Race My Mind.” Co-produced by Govi, Honestly, Nevermind‘s “Flight’s Booked” is assembled from the same spacious, experimental 3 a.m. beats as heard on the producer’s own debut LP Where Do We Fall, released last month.