With his reputation amongst hip-hop “purists” as being a softer, less macho artist Toronto rapper Drake has often not been taken seriously. In the past songs like ‘Marvin’s Room’ have been extremely successful, if not in keeping with the jokes regarding soppiness, but Drake is arguably one of the most influential young rappers in the past five years. Singles such as ‘0-100’, ‘Started from the Bottom’, and ‘Hold On, We’re Going Home’ became hits instantly.
In February Drake dropped If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, à la Beyoncé, without warning, and excitement on social media ensued.
Lyrically there is not much variation from his past work. Drake discusses, as per usual, his discomfort in being famous with tracks such as ‘Used To’ which was featured previously on fellow Young Money artist Lil Wayne’s mixtape Sorry 4 The Wait 2. With the lyrics “They never told me when you get the crown/ it’s gon take some getting used to” he almost paradoxically highlights his uneasiness in being where he is whilst also acknowledging his own celebrity. This polarisation of how he sees his career mirrors how hip-hop fans view Drake – he is a polarising figure.
Sonically the entire album is stripped back as opposed to previous work such as the single ‘Worst Behaviour’. ‘Worst Behaviour’’s repetitive beat, and uncharacteristic leering voice is left behind for the atmospheric ‘Star67’ and ‘No Tellin’’. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late is not a noisy album. But, the quieter, more moody songs reveal a more confident artist, and it is by no means a bathetic or unaggressive mixtape. All seventeen tracks are relatively cohesive. The opening track ‘Legend’ sets the tone as he tells us “all I know, if I die, I’m a motherfucking legend” in reference to the 27 Club, and although this is boastful it could be a fair point following his success.
One of the more catchy songs on the album is ‘Know Yourself’ with the hook “Running through the six with my woes”. The hook and chorus are celebratory and joyful in contrast with the minimal instrumental of the verse and the line “I ain’t rock my jewelry, and that’s on purpose” highlights, yet again, Drake’s seemingly ever present anxiety.
Drake references his influences such as Erykah Badu, and samples her lyrics on ‘6 Man’. The low key instrumental in this track and throughout the entire album helps to signify his confidence; there is not any heaviness to hide behind.
Drake memes aside the album features more self assure and self aware tracks than ever before resulting in his best work to date.
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