Drake has had one amazing run, all told: Since debuting on the Hot 100 with his breakout hit “Best I Ever Had” on May 23, 2009, the Toronto artist has had at least one song on the charts every single week. Until now: As Chart Data reports, this week will break his streak. For the first time in 430 (!) weeks there won’t be a single Drake song in sight on Billboard’s central chart. Drake has always had tremendous range in terms of music, but whether it’s street-claiming thumpers, romantic crooners as clinging and sweet as caramel, dazed and confused catalogues of career success, Meek Mill diss tracks, or deft collaborations with Jamaica and Nigeria’s leading lights, not one is to be found.
It feels like the end of an era. Just as the swift rise of “Best I Ever Had” (whose No. 2 peak was Drake’s best ever until last year’s chart-crowning “One Dance”) announced an aesthetic that felt like it would always be there for you, Drake’s disappearance is a sure sign that the thrill in his variety show is gone. It’s quite possible that he just doesn’t enjoy making music anymore, and who can blame him? Endless feuds and controversy seem to have worn Aubrey Graham down: As anyone listening closely to March’s More Life could tell, resignation had crept into his tone. Drained by persistent allegations of ghostwriting and cadence theft and a struggle against Kendrick Lamar and Jay-Z as secretive as it was unwinnable, Drake seemed prepared to tap out, at least temporarily: “Maybe getting back to my regular life will humble me / I’ll be back in 2018 to give you the summary,” he mused on the final bars of More Life closer “Do Not Disturb.” Aside from the release of a few tepid loosies (the best of which, “Signs,” sits at No. 43 presently on the R&B/Hip-Hop charts), he’s been as good as his word. He’s a tremendous star still, but it’s seems he’s hit his limits: After all, stars are never more huge than the moment before their collapse.
In a way, making an exit is the smartest thing Drake can do. It’s a short step from being ubiquitous to being played out. Retreating will allow his fans and even his detractors to miss him, something that’s impossible when he’s always in the spotlight. (And Drake loves nothing more than to be missed by people.) Admitting that he’s overstretched and regrouping will give him the time and calm required to adopt a new tone, sound, and image. Things he desperately needs, by the way: Times have changed, and Drake’s apolitical, career-focused equivocations seem as ill-suited for the Trump era as they were a perfect fit for the Obama years — it’s striking how those 430 weeks from 2009 to 2017 match up with with the period of the 44th president’s administration. Obama, too, has been keeping out of the public eye recently, and given Drake’s stated admiration for, and deep affinity with, the ex-president, it makes sense that he would follow suit.
Much like Obama, he’ll be back eventually: At last week’s OVO Fest, Drake announced that he was recording a new album in Toronto. Here’s hoping that his time off the map will give him the keener perspectives (views, even) that a life spent performing under constant scrutiny never could. Still, even if he ends up having learned nothing and forgotten nothing, his chart dominance was impressive. He was never quite God’s gift to music, but so far as music journalists in search of new angles go, he really is the best we’ll ever have.