By Justin Rocksund
Drake shocked the music world when he took a cue from Beyoncé and released his new album, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, without any forewarning.
Drake is arguably the hottest artist in hip-hop at the moment. He boasts several platinum-selling records to his name, and Billboard stated he currently has a record-tying 14 tracks on their Hot R&B/Hip-Hop songs list. While any new music from Drake is immediately note-worthy, the unanticipated release of a full-length album takes the excitement to a whole new level. Released on iTunes and Spotify, and technically called a mix-tape, the 17 tracks and production level of the songs have the vibe of a featured album. Additionally, since most mix-tapes are free, the price tag of $12.99 for If You’re Reading This undermines what many consider the best aspect of a mix-tape. Coming a day before February 14th, this album could easily be considered Drake’s Valentine’s gift to his fans, if only it consisted of more songs featuring his softer side.
While Drake is expected to release an official follow-up to 2013’s Nothing Was the Same later this year, this appetizer is a move away from the typical rapper-singer formula he has mastered during his career. His first foray with a full-fledged hip-hop vibe is done mainly alone, with a few guest appearances provided by Lil Wayne, PARTYNEXTDOOR, and Travis Scott. The album has a running time of little over an hour and a consistent symmetry of content throughout. With a steady stream of rhythmic tempos combined with Drake’s melodic voice, it is an easy listen once one gets past the hubris and language of Drake’s lifestyle.
The album opens with “Legend”, which showcases Drake’s typical arrogance over a slow, rhythmic beat. The sample is Ginuwine’s “So Anxious,” which harkens to his R&B side and is a refreshing throwback to 90s R&B. On “Energy” he is speaking to his haters over a haunting piano underscoring a mid-tempo beat. The overarching theme of his multitude of women and rich items he can buy them continues in full here. “10 Bands” is a mid-tempo song where the bands refer to his copious amount of money, and he brags about, amongst other things, being able to pay his mother’s rent, for his lavish condos, and the Jordans that Nike sends him for free. “No Tellin’“ continues this subject matter of slow beat braggadocio, referencing never telling police any information, as well as being unable to tell where his next paycheck or girl will come from, how big the check will be, or how hot the chick will be. However, the line “Please do not speak to me like I’m that Drake from 4 years ago, I’m at a higher place,” seems out of place after a string of songs that seem to have the same subject matter of previous albums.
The rhythmic ego-trip continues on “Madonna”, a short, slow, foreboding beat that has Drake mumbling the intro and claiming he can make any woman famous simply by being with her. And while Andrea Stricklin enjoyed the nice rhythm and transitions of the album, she said, “I don’t like the way he talks about women; he refers to them as possessions to be used and given away to others.”
“Wednesday Night Interlude” is exactly as it sounds – a R&B interlude that signals the less aggressive portion of the album has begun, and the track is a welcome break. “You & The 6” is unquestionably the most personal song on the album. This song finds Drake speaking to his mother and flexing his ability to be introspective and speak about issues in society. The line “I used to get teased for being black and now I’m here and I’m not black enough” shows personal perspective not only on his life, but speaks to how people in general still judge, and are judged, based on the color of their skin.
Christina Rullan, who is an avid Drake fan and purchased the album immediately, said her close relationship with her mother makes “You & The 6” her favorite song.
“6PM In New York” is a continuation on his geographically themed series of songs – “9 AM In Dallas” and “5AM In Toronto” – and the song starts off strong by stating that Lil Wayne could not have picked a better successor; a claim that certainly holds weight listening to his lyrics and seeing his name featured on numerous songs by other artists. With an uplifting chorus of keys and a strong snare beat, this song is an excellent, energetic close to the album, which will only raise the anticipation for Drake’s next release.
While opinions on the content of the album will vary widely, the popularity of Drake cannot be argued. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 the week of its release, and according to Christina Rullan the reason is obvious: “I believe Drake is lyrically untouchable in today’s music,” she said. Keeping that in mind, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late doesn’t say anything new, but typical of Drake, it is always said with style.