After nearly nine months of delays and bizarre promotional stunts, Drake’s long-awaited new album finally has a due date.
If that sounded like a pun, it’s because it is. When the rapper recently took to Instagram to confirm that his sixth studio record, Certified Lover Boy, will be released Friday, September 3, he also shared the cover art: an image of a dozen pregnant women emojis set against a white backdrop.
And that wasn’t the only surprise. Per Drake’s reps, Damien Hirst was indeed responsible for the painting upon which the cover is based.
Real Hirst-heads may not have needed the confirmation. Squint your eyes enough and the rows of equally spaced, multiracial women almost look like some of the British artist’s signature dots. Hirst has also turned to the pregnant woman as a symbol before, such as in his 2005 public sculpture Virgin Mother.
For Drake, though, the cover is harder to justify. Maybe he’s implying that his is music to make babies to, or that the tunes themselves are simply so sexy that you’ll conceive a child listening to them? At least one person online suggested he’s secretly fessing up to having fathered 12 children.
Indeed, Drake’s announcement this week sent Twitter into a tizzy, with many users taking the opportunity to dunk on the cover like Jimmy Brooks at a high school basketball game (before the wheelchair, that is). For his part, fellow rapper Lil Nas X promoted his own album’s release by parodying Hirst’s design, replacing the emoji women with pregnant men.
Some saw a conspiracy, connecting Hirst’s pregnancy-themed art to the album’s gestation period and abor Day weekend release as if with a piece of red string on a basement bulletin board. Others pointed to Drake’s on-again-off-again beef with Kanye West, who earlier this month tweeted a picture of Hirst’s sculpture The Incomplete Truth. (West’s post has since been deleted.)
Fueling the latter theory was the fact that West’s own long-delayed album, Donda, came out just days ago. The record dominated the news cycle upon release, with plenty of people scratching their heads over its own curious cover.
First announced last August, Certified Lover Boy was set to debut in January of this year before being delayed for various unknown reasons. To promote the record, Drake has made a habit of shaving a small heart into his hair. Earlier this month, he broadcast a cryptic message on ESPN’s Sportscenter to tease the release date.
Hirst’s studio did not immediately respond to Artnet News’s request for comment on the cover.