Drake’s intros aren't usually radio staples, but they still get play. Track No. 1 on his most recent chart-topping, highly anticipated sixth album Certified Lover Boy vitalizes that reality as “Champagne Poetry” mimics the formula that made Nothing Was the Same’s “Tuscan Leather” a well-regarded classic: lyrics that take aim at Drizzy’s doubters and find him comfortable in his seat on the throne, three hook-less verses equipped with their own beat, plus a goosebumps-raising outro laced by Noah "40" Shebib. Distant from the typical archetype of a commercially successful record, “Champagne Poetry” debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100—a feat that, with no shade, a lot of artists can’t reach with the 20-plus tracks on an entire project.
Untwining the DNA of Drizzy’s intros on his projects reveals that distorted samples are his cheat codes. Tracks from the 20th and 21st centuries are often remolded to snatch the attention of listeners right out the gates, forcing melodramatic pulses to command people’s attention. “Legend,” off 2015’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, flips Ginuwine’s R&B Hall of Fame entry "So Anxious,” a top 20 hit that was birthed in the year 1999. And Care Package’s Take Care loosie “Dreams Money Can Buy” floats on the foundation of Jai Paul’s "BTSTU,” released in 2011 via MySpace. Even looking at more minuscule examples like “Over My Dead Body” from Take Care ends with the vocals of DJ Screw, taken from E.S.G.’s 1995 track "Sailin' Da South.”
Production on the backburner, the lyrical content of the Canadian megastar’s preludes is also very consistent. Perhaps he was referring to the shots he takes at his peers when he rhymed about being Chef Curry on “Energy.” For example, 2018’s Scorpion cut “Survival,” on which he raps about his beefs with Meek Mill and Diddy. He also includes a shout-out to one of his idols Jay-Z or, in other cases, Lil Wayne and the YMCMB empire: “I've had real Philly niggas try to write my endin'/Takin' shots with the G.O.A.T. and talked about shots that we sendin’/I've had scuffles with bad boys that wasn't pretendin'.”
Hours can be spent breaking down what makes these tunes special, but considering how there are about 15 now in the vault poses a question of which one is the best. Here, XXL narrows that down and provides rationale as to why certain songs ascend past the others. Debate with your friends. Check out a definitive ranking of Drake’s intro songs from every project.
Project: Comeback Season
Drake wasn’t too far removed from his role as wheelchair Jimmy by the time Comeback Season was released in 2007. Tapping into character as if he was shooting a new episode of Degrassi, he confidently delivers a bundle of lines over empyrean strings on his second project-launcher, reflecting straight from the pit of rock bottom. Drake notes that he has no choice but to elevate his game from that point, to which he did.
His manifestation was real; you can’t knock that. But clocking in at just 30 seconds and containing not one bar nor melody, “Intro” is just as underwhelming and basic as the title. It wasn’t until the following years that Drake put more effort into the first sounds on his projects that graced people’s ears. And rightfully so.
Drake recruited southern mixtape giant DJ Smallz to host his first project, Room for Improvement, in 2006. And for the intro to an effort that was supposed to blast his name throughout the game, Drizzy gives a quick toast to the elevation that’s about to follow. The effort in its entirety was an early demo to an undefeated formula of blending rapping and singing that the 6 God would eat off in the ensuing years.
Yet, none of that is present in the beginning. Back then, talking on mixtapes was way more prominent so it’s not surprising. What is though is dry, other than the slight cadence used to inform that people aren’t perfect as well as shout-out his home of Canada every 15 seconds.
Drake was rambling or rolling through the intro of Dark Lane Demo Tapes, as the song was previously referred to before the project of throwaways dropped in 2020. The mixing on “Deep Pockets” sounds vintage, like it’s playing straight off a cassette tape. The entire vibe is staticky in that way, sometimes distracting from the stories that were put forth. However, what can be caught and appreciated is the vivid flashbacks to a time where MySpace bred stars instead of TikTok.
“Back when the house I owned was my homescreen,” the MC rhymes from the lens of being younger than 25 and on the grind. It’s reminiscent of the early days when a lot of his older fans now began growing up with him back then. A heater as it is, “Deep Pockets” is also underwhelming in terms of Drake's true artistry. It makes sense why he didn’t put this on an official album where he put his best foot forward.
There’s no room for fault on the first track of a 25-song album. Scorpion, released three years ago, is Drake’s longest offering to date and it all started with “Survival.” Combing flexes like “my Mount Rushmore is me with four different expressions” and “house on both coasts, but I live on the charts” through a beat that sounds like it samples the 3D pinball game Space Cadet, Drake showcases his usual candid view about some industry situations that made him load up the clip and start blasting back at his enemies.
He’s talking extremely greasy as the victor, alluding to sending out actual hits. But this isn’t one, respectfully. It lacks that face-scrunching effect that an intro should have, especially when closer to two hours is being asked for someone’s listening time on an entire project. In this case it’s clear that Drake saved the meat of his musicality for the main course and not the appetizer. Can you blame him? He had to keep people's attention throughout.
10. “Keep The Family Close”
“Keep The Family Close” is a dramatic venting session conveyed over a symphony of woodwind instruments. On the track, Drake dashes swiftly between punchy and melodic cadences, speaking truth to pain in his heart from being betrayed by both the lovers and peers in his life. “And it's all because you chose a side/You're supposed to put your pride aside and ride for me/Guess it wasn't time/And of course you went and chose a side that wasn't mine,” he purrs on the bridge.
Matching the darkened clouds that float over Toronto in the winter, the track has a somber feeling to it, fit for that chilled North Face weather. It’s a gaping entry into the whirling sounds and emotions of 2016's Views. However, a good amount of people still overlook “Keep The Family Close” when they click into this album, as it honestly might’ve hit harder in the middle of the project rather than at the start.
9. “Lust For Life”
Project: So Far Gone
So Far Gone’s intro “Lust for Life” is among the most nostalgic and relatable on this list. By the time of this song’s release in 2009, the masses were falling in love with Drake’s vulnerability, which was often delivered with the sincerity of an evocative man who didn’t care to have a hard shell. You get that here, on top of an enchanting 40-crafted beat that floats into the air like burning embers. Drake raps about being a dejected mack with the ladies, conscious of how they’re treating him as a famous person, though he remains married to the game.
A lot of day-one fans were going through similar growing pains at this time. So hearing this today probably brings back memories of that deep-fried mirror pic you took with a childhood ex. Other than taking you back to a younger version of yourself, musically, “Lust for Life” serves its purpose as a sample-sized prelude, but the efforts were minimal in comparison to the intros that would follow.
8. “Free Smoke”
Project: More Life
The beginning of “Free Smoke” from the 2017 playlist More Life takes you to church. You can just visualize paper fans waving and passionate “amens” in the air as the sample of Hiatus Kaiyote’s “Building a Ladder” plays. The production, tag-teamed by Allen Ritter and Boi-1da, does a complete 180 and spins back to an ideal foundation for the more rugged Drizzy who previously gave us IYRTITL and WATTBA.
Though the gap sits only at two years, his flow got 10 times better than what was already on the top shelf. He double- dutches through the beat here with stories that evidence his rise from sending texts to J. Lo that bounce back to having more baddies than the lineage of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. Heavy on sending off shots and flexing his muscle, “Free Smoke” is exactly what its title suggests. In all actuality, this track could rank higher if you prefer bars over blues.
7. “Fireworks” Featuring Alicia Keys
Project: Thank Me Later
It’s time that we put some respect on Thank Me Later’s “Fireworks.” Leveling up the fuse between Drake and Alicia Keys on wax, which was previously exemplified on “Un-thinkable (I’m Ready)”, this 2010 song features the Canadian-bred thespian moonwalking through rapping and singing styles. Using a telescope to look deeply into his life of “truth over fame,” Drizzy pours his monologue over a hazy beat provided by the trio of 40, Boi-1da and Crada, plus Alicia’s soul food-esque harmonies.
It was one of the best songs on the album over a decade ago, for sure, but lyrics like “Wayne put me right here, that's who I get the paper with/I hope that my success never alters our relationship” hit even harder in 2021 considering the run that followed. Passionately answering questions that Drake would dodge in interviews, “Fireworks” marked the beginning of his confessional intro approaches. When he busts open his psyche like this, fireworks truly do fly into the air. Credit has to be given.
Drake had a tall task rapping alongside cowboy Future on What a Time to Be Alive. Obviously Hndrxx is among the gods when discussing the echelon of trap music, but Drizzy held his own as exemplified on the speaker-busting “Digital Dash” that starts off the project. The song’s producer, Metro Boomin, was in sicko mode while making the beat, lacing the turn-up anthem with a bassline that will melt your earphones and slapping 808s that sour your face like a shot of apple cider vinegar has just been ingested. And Future went dummy.
The Boy rightfully left his back brace at home, as Pluto and Metro globetrot through a style they do best. But overall, thanks to the effort of all three, playing this in the whip will always have the potential to break your speedometer. It’s a fitting introduction to a collaborative mixtape of fireballs. And a more polished version of the concrete vibes that Drake was headstrong on in 2015.
“Champagne Poetry,” the first sound heard on Certified Lover Boy, finds Drake strapped into a roller-coaster of being the most favored and hated all in one. Considering the drama and beef that surrounded 2018’s Scorpion, the first line uttered picks up exactly where things left off. “I been hot since the birth of my son/I remain unphased, trust, worse has been done,” he raps over a dizzying sample of Masego’s “Navajo.” More than two minutes in, Drake remains in his bag but jumps into another pocket over a 1970's sample that would make his dad Dennis smile.
Drizzy bears his soul throughout the track with his heart on tilt, as if he’s venting to the bartender. The record gets better with each progression, down to the chilling breakdown in the outro. Considering the weight of every layer, “Champagne Poetry” clearly belongs in the first half of this list. And it just might climb its way up with time.
Remember how you felt upon hearing the first track of Drake’s 2015 surprise drop, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late? “Legend,” though it serves as an A-side pump fake to a project full of B-side records, has pure “run that back” energy. The absorbing production, complete with reverberating and chopped drum patterns, notably samples Ginuwine's “So Anxious.” The song’s beat-architect PARTYNEXTDOOR, who gave his OVO label head the original reference, can be thanked for that.
Using a taste of PND’s sauce, Drake croons through the grooves on “Legend,” cementing his legacy in stone as a G.O.A.T. His tank was filled up with gas and despite the personal touch, could make any listener see fire and goat emojis when they look in the mirror. Hats off to a solid effort.
3. “Dreams Money Can Buy”
Project: Care Package
“Dreams Money Can Buy,” a 2011 loosie from the golden Take Care era, thrives most from the creeping sample of Jai Paul’s "BTSTU.” The woozying melodies and whispering of the phrase “Don’t fuck with me” helps plummet listeners into the subconscious of Drake’s mind. On the Care Package intro, a hungry Drizzy dribbles bars about being a boss-level simp that’s torn between working toward true love and working toward a bigger check over the airy rhythm.
“I want women to cry and pour out they heart for me/And tell me how much they hate it when they apart from me,” he spits before flexing that he sends out pricey Maybachs to scoop his company. This track in its ghostly sonics and sermon-like lyrics is a potent puff of honesty and reflection. “Dreams Money Can Buy” is a soul-touching seed that’s grown even more beautiful with age.
2. “Over My Dead Body”
Project: Take Care
“Over My Dead Body” is a weightless introduction to the detached depths of Drake’s best album, 2011's Take Care. The buoyant piano chords delivered by Canadian singer Chantal Kreviazuk and her vocals on the chorus gives off a hushing melody that puts listeners into a limbo. With additional production from 40, Drizzy utilizes the roping bedrock to lay his thoughts down as he rhymes about luxury, lust and the laps he was running around his competition.
Loaded with introspective quotables like “Yeah, it's whatever/You know, feeling good, living better,” “Over My Dead Body,” which got its flowers once again on Rod Wave’s 2020 track “OMDB,” in its simplicity is undoubtedly one of the most effective intros Drake has ever crafted. Euphoric vibes like this will have you cornrowing the grass in someone’s lawn with no complaints. That’s powerful.
The cover of Nothing Was the Same shows Drake’s head in the clouds, but he was neck deep in his bag when he made “Tuscan Leather.” It was here that he introduced the formula of each verse having its own respective beat, all threaded by producer 40. The first oozes the distorted vocals of Whitney Houston’s "I Have Nothing" into the ear as Drizzy raps about dominating the past and present with album sales and chart placements. Standing tall like Shaq in the paint, he acknowledges that he’s just as famous as his legendary mentor Lil Wayne, and he wasn’t capping.
After giving his acceptance speech for rising to the top of the game, something he claimed early as his friends Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole were also making noise in hip-hop at the start of their careers, the beat transforms with the ante upped on the drum patterns. Drake is still going off, defining his life as having a completed checklist. “I'm tired of hearin' ’bout who you checkin' for now/Just give it time, we'll see who's still around a decade from now,” he raps.
For the last verse, the woozying production calms things down as Drake continues to let his pen bleed, rhetorically asking, “How much time is this nigga spendin' on the intro?” The outro is mesmerizing and features the voice of Curtis Mayfield. It doesn’t get much better than this. Simply put, there isn’t much that needs to be said to defend this track taking the cake.