A debut collaboration with Lil Durk, “Laugh Now, Cry Later” is the first single of Drake’s sixth studio album, Certified Lover Boy. The track is a light-hearted, catchy tune needed in these pandemic times. It was released along with a music video shot at the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.
Produced by Dave Meyers, the music video promotes the Nike brand. Drake and Lil Durk don Nike sportswear and shop in a Nike store. Athletes Kevin Durant, Odell Beckham Jr., and Marshawn Lynch make guest appearances. Blame Pusha T for this. Had he not ruined Drake’s Adidas rollout, this video would have never happened. We wouldn’t have seen the rare Mercedes Maybach concept car roll up to Nike Headquarters. And we wouldn’t have seen Drake’s basketball, football, swimming and jet-skiing skills.
The Back Story
The 2018 Pusha T release ‘The Story Of Adidon’ revealed Drake had a secret son amid a rumor that Drake was leaving the Jordan Brand for Adidas. Pusha’s diss catapulted the brand to the center of the ongoing controversy between the two rappers. It ended the Adidas/Drake deal.
The public feud between Pusha T grew to a head in 2018 when, on ‘Infrared’, Pusha-T claimed Drake used a ghostwriter called Quentin Miller. Drake’s lyrics “He’s just made an entire career off of it,” refers to the fallout with Pusha T. Drake responded to the ghostwriter claims on “Duppy Freestyle,” saying he had ghostwritten for Kanye.
“Laugh Now, Cry Later” is a mix up of thoughts reflecting on the oblique nature of success, the bad and the good. The catchy chorus speaks about the duality of life being tempered with laughing and crying. Lyrics “I took a half, and she took the whole thing” may refer to using drugs to ease pain. “Slow down,” yells Drake.
In the latter part of the chorus, Drake takes a shot at his competition. He is riding around the part of the town controlled by his rivals. It is like a ghost town now–dead and abandoned. Drake wonders where all the people are who said they will do this and that to him.
A Nod to 2Pac
“Laugh Now, Cry Later” song title is a nod to 2Pac’s back tattoo, and could also be a reference to Ice Cube’s 2006 album Laugh Now, Cry Later. 2Pac was an American rapper, songwriter, and actor. Many consider him to be one of the most influential rappers of all time.
References to Vintage Drake
The song is vintage Drake, similar to the 2009 mix-tape So Far Gone when he emerged to change up the genre. The fluidity of “Laugh Now, Cry Later” takes fans back to the 2009 breakthrough, which incinerated the rule book. Drake has been credited with bringing melodies to rap. Not true, but his approach has set the tone for modern pop.
The Rivalries Continue
Drake has had an ongoing beef with both Kanye West and Pusha T, long taken shots at each other in their songs since 2011.
Not so subtle references to unnamed rivals are found throughout the track. Here are some noted lyrics. In the first verse, the lyric “Distance between us is not like a store, this isn’t a closable gap,” refers to Kanye West. West signed with Gap to produce his Yeezy clothing label in June 2020.
Lil Durk performs the second verse, taking shots at a specific “rat” in the music industry. The “rat” reference was apparently to Tekashi Sixnine. Lil Durk also calls out Arrogant Tae, a hairstylist from Atlanta, rapper DaBaby, and Drake himself.
Chicago rapper Lil Durk’s guest verse is all about moving up in the trenches. Often talking about weapons in his own music, he pronounces the Romanian Draco AK-47 Pistol “Dracs” like “Drakes.” Changing the pronunciation of words is a Drake hallmark.
The third verse goes historical Drake. The lyric “Knocked that boy off and I don’t want no credit,” may be a note to many artists such as The Weeknd, Future, Lil Baby, and Tinashe, all of whom Drake snapped up to collaborate with early. Lil Durk is the latest of these promising rappers who Drake fits into his paradigm. The strategy of distraction and collaboration works for Drake. He leads them somewhat into his rap style bringing about consistent hip-hop micro-transformations.
Drake is now at a peak in his life and career. He’s along way from 2013’s “Started from the Bottom.” This release shows his acknowledgment of a simpler life. That his family and friends are taken care of and that he has a woman to share his pillow.
“Laugh Now, Cry Later,” though not Drake’s best, will be another hit and will generate excitement for the impending release of Certified Lover Boy.
The Drake-driven phenomenon of rap evolving into singing is one of the most significant of this decade. He continues to be a lead player in the emergent hip-hop-adjacent music scenes. His musical influences have impacted local music scenes the world over. The genre today is in his likeness and shape.
Certified Lover Boy is expected to release in late 2020.