As one A-list album rollout ends, another begins. Kanye West’s Donda finally arrived officially on Sunday, and now Drake’s Certified Lover Boy is confirmed for release this Friday, September 3. There’s already a confirmed cover, possibly by the English artist Damien Hirst, and in general Drake’s rollout seems set to be more, well, fine-tuned than Kanye’s.
After Drake bragged on Trippie Redd’s recent track “Betrayal” that “Ye ain’t changin shit for me, it’s set in stone” (meaning CLB’s date was always locked in regardless of Kanye’s moves), the first clue came last Friday in the middle of ESPN’s SportsCenter no less. During the broadcast, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it image of someone holding a sign that read ‘CLB September 3’ flashed, with ESPN cheekily referring to it as a hack on their Twitter account. You can watch the moment here:
Now Drake has confirmed the date, along with the album cover, which features twelve pregnant women emojis. Naturally, speculation as to what this might mean already runs rampant.
For one, the rapper tagged the prolific English artist Damien Hirst in his Instagram post, which might imply that Hirst made the cover, though neither party has confirmed that. A popular Drake fan account posted a photo of what seems to be the original artwork to Instagram–it has not been seen before–with the caption “1 of 2 by Damien Hirst,” seeming to imply either that there are only two copies of the piece, or that it’s one of of two that Hirst designed specifically for the album.
Others are parsing the image for meaning—does the number of emojis signify the number of tracks, meaning Drake finally made his first concise album since 2013’s Nothing Was the Same? (Something many fans have been begging him to return to for years.)
It’s unclear how the rollout will progress between now and Thursday night. If no song is released before then, this would mark the first occasion that Drake has released an album proper (remember: by his own distinctions, he doesn’t consider If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late and More Life albums) without a fresh single to buoy it. “What’s Next,” released in March, is aeons ago by Drake standards, to say nothing of the album’s initial single “Laugh Now, Cry Later,” which dropped over a year ago.
Both will still likely appear on the album (because streams) but regardless of how many tracks are on CLB, we know almost nothing about the majority of them, which is rare for Drake. That, coupled with the album’s numerous delays, during which it was rumored that Drake was retooling things, have only heightened anticipation for the finished product.
Drake’s personal photographer and frequent music video director Theo Skudra’s recent post has led fans to believe a new visual is imminent, perhaps for “Not Around,” a song Drake’s been teasing since last year. Either way, this is just the beginning of what will surely be a very long Drake Week.