I realize there is a version of this track that exists without Drake, but I guess I’m just a masochist. Drake’s verse isn’t a total mess, but it’s amateurish and charmless in comparison to the three other rappers on the track. It’s not just that Drake is a terrible lyricist and has a totally uninspired flow – this is pretty much a given – but that he’s just incapable of the warmth and depth of character that comes so naturally to the other guys here. Jeezy, not even a particularly great rapper himself, is very compelling here, particularly as he barks out “I’d do anything to leave here with you tonight, Sherri.” I love the specificity of the name; there’s a touch of vulnerability that comes through in how he says it, like he’s just too weak in the knees to maintain his bravado in that moment. Jay-Z’s verse is intended to sounds like it’s about marriage but is actually about drug dealing, but he’s not fooling anyone – it’s easy to tell where his heart is here.
Andre 3000 is typically excellent in his exquisitely crafted closing verse, which lays out a realistic fantasy about meeting a smart, cool, devout woman and raising a smart, cool, devout daughter. Every syllable of his verse overflows with a humanity and respect for women that Drake entirely lacks – he and Andre both have lines about wanting a woman who will grow old gracefully, but you can tell everything about the difference between the two men by noting that while 3000 wants that woman to do so on her own terms, Drake just wants this for his own shallow benefit. “I just want a woman that looks 30 when she’s 81,” he says, sounding like a total tool. Shut up, Drake.
It’s a waste of your time to listen to the 4 minute edit of this thing; in the grand scheme of the song, it’s just an elaborate warmup for the spectacle of Andre 3000 freaking out over an extended James Murphy punk-funk vamp. Three Stacks tosses out the meticulous structure of his regular verses to go totally unhinged here, and in the process reconnects with the rock spirit of songs like “Gasoline Dreams” and “Hey Ya.” It sounds like it had to have been a very physical performance – it’s hard to imagine him not acting out and flailing around for this, even if he was confined to a recording booth. I wouldn’t be shocked if he came out of this session a bit bloodied and bruised. Murphy too, for that matter.