Honestly, Nevermind sounds like Drake at his most relaxed. The rapper’s seventh album isn’t a rap album at all, but a full-length club project, building on the sounds he flirted with to success on songs like “One Dance” and his 2017 “playlist” More Life. Sure, he’s still in his feels, but Drake has shifted to just about full crooner mode here, even against the jittery house beats courtesy of producers like Carnage and Black Coffee. Arriving at the beginning of summer, Honestly, Nevermind sounds like the sort of music to sink into on a balmy late night under the haze of your substance of choice. Well, up until that last song: “Jimmy Cooks” is textbook rap, a seeming loosie tacked onto the end of the album intended to jolt you back to reality. (It’s also promo for what he’s already teased will come next: the third installment of his Scary Hours EP series.) It’s the most high-energy, lucid moment of the record, thanks not even to Drake, but the album’s sole featured guest, 21 Savage.
“Jimmy Cooks” marks the latest in a tear of 21 Savage features that stretch back over a year, one of the best runs in hip-hop at the moment. On songs like J. Cole’s reflective “My Life,” Gunna’s confident “thought i was playing,” J.I.D.’s playful “Surround Sound,” and even Drake’s Certified Lover Boy cut “Knife Talk,” 21 has steadily perfected his ability to deliver immediate quotables in a cool, dejected tone. (There’s also Latto’s wonderfully horny “Wheelie,” YBN Nahmir’s loose “Opp Stoppa” remix and Nardo Wick’s posse cut “Who Want Smoke??” — the list goes on.) There’s a distinct art to a 21 Savage bar — at turns clever and intimidating. Just last week, he challenged Tyler, the Creator on Pharrell’s lively “Cash In Cash Out,” joyriding through expensive verses about expensive cars and somehow making the line “Kim Jong-un in my pants, it’s a missile” work. At 2022’s halfway mark, a 21 Savage feature has become a quality-assurance stamp for a track.
21’s “Jimmy Cooks” spot keeps the exciting momentum of “Cash In” going, only upping the bravado. It all relays back to gun talk, even the bars about Will Smith’s Oscars slap. (Let’s hear some commotion for this wordplay: “This Glock 45 came with a switch / If I was Will Smith I would’ve slapped him with a stick.”) None of his boasts grow stale, even down to the last line, dedicated to a man who was lucky he didn’t get shot a 21st time. What really keeps the attention on 21, though, are his subtle twists of flow throughout the verse, using his melodic gymnastics to drag out syllables (see: “It’s a stick-uhhhuuup”). He raps like a decorated Rollerblader, light on his feet while making the slightest pivots.
That’s also to say, 21 confidently upstages Drake, who slips back into one of his familiar, lifeless flows for his opening verse on the track. Drake treats “Jimmy Cooks” — a nod to his own Degrassi character, Jimmy Brooks — like heavy-handed fan service, a small comfort that he’s already back to doing what confused fans were missing (the rapping) after his night off at the club. But a few good bars (“Dread talkin’ to you niggas like I’m J. Cole”) can’t make Drake’s performance memorable, let alone worth the album’s wait. Especially not in the shadow of 21 Savage, who has nothing to prove and all the tricks to impress.