Post by StevePulaski on Oct 14, 2015 13:26:59 GMT -5
If You're Reading This It's Too Late (2015)
It would be acceptable to call Drake's mixtape If You're Reading This It's Too Late a return to form for the Toronto-based rapper if he went anywhere since storming on the scene with his breakout EP and record deal with Lil Wayne. However, being that Drake has merited unbelievable success in such a short time-span, all while emphasizing his snappy wordplay, lyrical introspection, and unbridled sense of star-studded vulnerability with each release, If You're Reading This isn't a return as much as it is an affirmation of a young genius destined for continued success in a game he went from admiring to dominating.
Just from the first three tracks, we get where Drake is headed on this and it's in a direction that takes a sharp left from where we thought he was heading on his last album, 2013's Nothing Was the Same. That album had Drake in a triumphant, almost emphatically careless mood, so it seemed. He didn't seem fazed by those calling him out for his alleged "acting" on his previous album Take Care, which I still hold as his greatest achievement as an artist, nor did he seem too bothered by critics forcing him to check his privilege after the admittedly exaggerated "Started from the Bottom" single hit the airwaves. With If You're Reading This - initially released on Drake's OVO label's Soundcloud account before Cash Money Records quickly deleted it and made it a premium release, despite branding it as a mixtape - Drake feels like he's been running on fumes, working day and night with his extraordinarily talented producing team of Noah "40" Shebib and Boi-1da, to craft a mixtape that expresses intense feelings of disillusionment and sadness.
This is a bit paradoxical, because right now, as hip-hop critic Ben Westhoff puts it in his review of Drake and Future's collaborative mixtape What a Time to Be Alive, released a little over seven months after this particular mixtape, Drake should be running victory laps to celebrate his unbelievable success as an artist, rather than wallowing in self-doubt and insecurities. However, Drake has always been one of the most ostensibly vulnerable voices in the rap game, frequently expressing doubt in a way that makes him relatable despite the exorbitantly high number of zeroes in his net-worth. The predictable rap-brags in If You're Reading This are only sporadic interjections between the uncompromising sadness that lingers throughout the mixtape.
In fact, one of the only unabashedly positive songs on the entire project is the opener "Legend," which serves as a fine thesis as to where Drake is headed with this in terms of production. Working with PARTYNEXTDOOR, who produces and guests stars on "Preach" and "Wednesday Night Interlude," two of the tape's more experimental, and, as a result, lesser songs, Drake delivers a "good die young" message embodied over a minimalist, almost free-verse beat that allows for him to assume several different flows. This one song shows everything I admire about the young MC, for he works best as a writer and even a hip-hop poet if he's simply left to his own wits on a very abstract, free-form instrumentation.
Following up that are joints like "Energy" and "10 Bands," deeply melodic and ambient tunes that, once again, showcase Drake's ability to flow on any particular beat. "No Tellin'," on the other hand, seems cut from a more mainstream cloth than any track on the album, relying on a basic hook concept, much like "6 God," which sets the recurring theme of the number six to represent Drake's hometown.
Drake gets decidedly personal on tracks like "You & the 6," where he talks directly to his mother about how her and his homeland should have no regrets about the way he turned out, for his problems all stem from others who don't understand him or his way of life. Finally, the mixtape comes full-circle by concluding just as strongly as it began with songs like the ambiance-heavy "Jungle," where 40's hypnotic beat makes it almost too easy in which to lose yourself, and Drake making the choice to conclude the entire project (save for the deluxe edition tracks) with the latest installment in his signature time/location series "6PM in New York" was a wise choice. The song recounts all that has happened, affirming Lil Wayne's - who appears on the surprisingly unpredictable "Used To" - choice to grant him with such a lofty deal and how more creative range has gotten him both to think clearly and hazily.
If You're Reading This It's Too Late is one of the most fascinating rap releases of the year, right alongside Future's DS2, which also sits in that foggy area between an album or a mixtape. Where DS2 worked to humanize trap rap, If You're Reading This looks to give conscious hip-hop a more introspective sound and allow it to toy with more experimental, cloud rap tendencies to make it just as much about lyricism and thematic significance as it does about the ambiance. Drake's dissatisfaction with detractors, his label, and himself, at times, all bleed through like a poorly bandaged flesh-wound, and if one chooses to pull off the layers, they'll reveal something totally original and terrific in terms of sound, lyricism, and depth.
Recommended tracks (in order): "Legend," "10 Bands, "Energy," "6PM in New York," "Used To," "Star67," and "Jungle."