Last night, in true “I’m a very famous artist and can release my music randomly” fashion, Drake pulled a Beyoncé and dropped his project If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late out of nowhere, an hour before the stroke of midnight. The free-stream-yet-gone-to-retail project brings varied versions of Drake — from the braggy bars of Champagne Papi to the aggressive rappity-rap of Drizzy.
Above all, this is a turning point for Drake.
He’s weathered the critical storm of judging his legitimacy in the game in the midst of crying to the bank over solid hits. Now he can passionately pursue his artistry and achieve the thing he seems so desperately eager to garner: true respect as a lyricist. Check out the breakdown of what to expect from the project. If you’re reading this and still haven’t heard the project, then you’re right on time.
Album vs. Mixtape
The never-ending quandary of determining if a project is a mixtape or an album isn’t made any easier when listening to If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. Some circles will call this an album (it’s available on iTunes), while others may describe it as a mixtape for various reasons. First, there’s no single. Not one. If you’re a Drake fan and think one of these 17 tracks can live on the radio, it’s because you’re a Drake fan and not because he’s made radio-friendly records. This is what the inside of Drake’s mind sounds like. It’s his social media accounts set to music, where he can floss one moment and get pensive the next. That level of creative schizophrenia is absent of the care and concern of a major label’s opinion. For that it’s a mixtape. But it’s monetized, and more than likely an inching out of his deal with the tumultuous YMCMB. For that, it’s an album.
It Lacks Punctuation
Kudos to Drake for using “you’re” properly, but check the cover, and there’s no punctuation. It’s even scribbled, allowing for mistakes and imperfections. That sums up the project completely. Drake’s popping off with one extended stream of consciousness, not taking any breaks to punctuate or edit. He writes with no eraser and spits with no pauses. This is a progression from his early days with So Far Gone, as he’s had more to prove since then. Here’s a guy who was a teenage actor, with memes of him circulating in a wheelchair from his Degrassi days, yet rhymes with the ferocity of a kid from the streets. That counterbalance has always been a gift and a curse for Drake. He’s got the face for Hollywood and the bars for Hollyhood. They come together magically here. Keep your pause on cuts like “Know Yourself,” “Star67,” “6 Man” and “6pm in New York” especially. Sure, there are sing-songy moments, but really Drake is snapping here, and unlike his Instagram account, he arrives with no filter.
The Cast of Characters
There are a lot of helping hands on the beat side here, and that’s typical Drake. One thing about him is when it comes to producers he puts on for his guys. You’ll find something like four producers on a Drake track at a time, mainly because he aims to give them their proper credit — even if it’s the addition of an extra synth here or there. The usual suspects are ever-present: Boi-1da brings a level of his A-game that you’d think should be reserved for a swan song, tackling a large portion of the production. Noah “40” Shebib comes a close second, bringing that tailor-made-for-Drake beatstyle that can only come from best friends creating together. PartyNextDoor inches Drake into the ethereal, providing abstract soundbeds like Clams Casino did for A$AP Rocky back in the day. Others are thrown into the mix as well (Wondagurl gets two creds, including the already buzzed up “Used To” with Lil Wayne), but because the project is sequenced so idyllically, it sounds like one cohesive work. Drake’s bars are the stars of the show, but the beats are the theater where you’re watching it.
Come on now, did you think we were going to carry Drake’s luggage throughout the whole trip? If you’re looking for radio Drake, he’s not available at the moment, so leave a message. He may take a moment to sing a bridge, but you won’t find hooks that have you chanting like his yesteryears delivered. No, this is mixtape Drizzy, who just keeps going…and going…and going. And yes, he gets all Future on us with a sometimes trappish cadence (sans Auto-Tune, thankfully), but really he’s just rapping. He wants you to understand he knows how to do that, and if you’re swimming in from the mainstream to listen, you might get bored. Fair warning. If you’re the guy who laughs at Drake’s athlete fetish yet has him as your ringtone, listen up because he’s got a few things to say to you, too. This project is a fork in the road for Drake, and he’s using it to eat up the moment. Let’s see where it takes him.
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(Photo: Cash Money Records)