At any given time in the world of hip-hop, spirited debates occur when the classic question of ‘who is the best rapper out’ arises. It is an immortal discussion, a topic that draws us in to the point of no return and is as consistent as the changing of the seasons. While there are several legitimate sides one can support in this matter, there is no denying that Drake is the most influential (aka the ‘hottest’) artist in the game. In a span of about 5 years, Drake has morphed from Lil Wayne’s potentially profitable investment to a well-rounded musician capable of monumental bodies of work such as Take Care and Nothing Was The Same. When we fast-forward to present day, Aubrey has immortalized himself as the ‘6 God’ and his devoted fans are living in the midst of the Views From The 6 era. But before Drake decides to unveil his official album, the Toronto icon fulfilled on the well-informed rumors that he would be dropping a project before VFT6. And while If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late may have surprised the general public, Drake previously declared he would have ‘spring of 2015 poppin’ on his Grammy-nominated one-off “0 to 100”, and there is nothing wrong with being early to the party.
Album. Mixtape (as Drake calls it). Commercial project. However you want to label If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, this is a project that feels like a mixtape and because it is coming from an artist who some may think is ‘beyond’ that sort of format, it makes the collection all the more interesting. Drake wastes no time on the self-confidence boosting front as he declares himself a “Legend” right off the bat on the PARTYNEXTDOOR-produced (and influenced) intro. And after we absorb track one, the overarching presence of ‘aggressive Drake at his sharpest’ casts its wide, unrelenting shadow over the listener. The haunting atmosphere of “Energy”, the head-nodding/neck soreness inducing “10 Bands”, the anthemic Toronto inspired “Know Yourself”; these three tracks hit so hard it causes one to wonder if Drake was chugging Michael Jordan’s “Secret Stuff” water in the studio during recording sessions.
The man responsible for Drake’s tenacious bars being packaged properly is frequent collaborator Boi-1da, a Toronto native who may be the early favorite for producer of the year based on this work alone. The two are a match made in heaven when Drake is in his angry ‘let me talk my shit’ mood, but before If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late becomes too reliant on its bangers, Drake wisely opts to switch things up. A prime example of this is on “Star67”, a Vinylz-produced track that showcases Drake’s masterful ability of changing his flows/cadences without skipping a beat. Between the conceptual strength of “Star67”, PARTYNEXTDOOR’s presence on “Preach”/”Wednesday Night Interlude”, and the experimental success achieved on “Now & Forever”, Drake effectively keeps us on our toes and this is essential considering the somewhat daunting 17-track length of the project.
While this mixtape may lack the more polished aspects of Drake’s previous albums and sounds a bit monotonous at some points, Drizzy doesn’t let the project end without feeding us with a few emotionally driven records (as he does so well). The ‘dear momma’ letter structured “You & The 6” is a shining display of Drake letting the world hear his personal thoughts/struggles and its inclusion is a welcomed life update of sorts. And though this mixtape is not focused on ballads, sentimental Drake appears on “Jungle” and the track serves as a great teaser for what he seemingly has in store with go-to producer 40 (who is less involved than usual on this project) on Views From The 6.
Overall, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late is the result of Drake being one of the most sought after rappers in hip-hop and being in possession of a boatload of music that deserved to be heard. Rather than let these beats be locked away in the vault, Drake used this project to prove yet again why he is deserving of his position amongst hip-hop’s elite. This mixtape does not excel due to its thematic narrative; rather it shows an artist who is on top of his world and has no problem in letting it be known. The lyricism on the project is nothing groundbreaking, but the wordplay is backed up by Drake’s consistently zealous delivery, which is aging like fine wine due to his fiery passion and unfaltering ambition. Toronto’s slang—powered by the entire OVO crew—and Drake’s punch lines are quotable as ever (Tyga gets roasted on “6 PM In New York”). Even from a sonic perspective, everything from the sample choices to the seamless beat transitions are crafted in an album-esque manner. Many artists would kill to have the quality of these records on their LPs. And while Drake continues to prove that is skill-set is unmatched, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late simply serves as a substantial precursor to the highly anticipated Views From The 6. How will Drake market this project and how soon will we hear VFT6 material in a year where the OVO leader plans to be a force to be reckoned with….we gon’ see.
Repeatable: “Energy”, “You & The 6”, “Star67”, “6 PM In New York”
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