Album: If You're Reading This It's Too Late
Record Label: Cash Money Inc.
Release Date: 12th February 2015
Drake's latest Album/ Mixtape finds him occasionally more creative and confident than ever, though it's often slightly unfocused and haunted by monotony
Despite the fact that he's one of the most successful Hip-Hop artists of his generation, explaining Drake's appeal is not always an easy ordeal. Almost perennially choosing to stay clear of the "hard man" rap persona pastiche he's carved his niche out of a lyricism largely concerned with money and women, with varying kinds of mentality towards the latter in line. In many ways, Drake is the epitome of the 21st century hip-hop star; banging, catchy beats and simplistic wordplay entwined with hooks galore means that mainstream radio and TV channels have lapped up every drop of him released.
One's enjoyment of "If You're Reading This It's Too Late" (released initially as a free mixtape and then turned into a purchasable album overnight) is likely to revolve around how much of a Drake fan the listener is in the first place. There's nothing particularly new in terms of subject matter or production aesthetic in regards to Drake's previous work here, but it's true that in terms of creativity and flow he sounds rejuvenated. The monotony of much of Drake's previous output is once again a serious calling card occasionally here, but on the whole he sounds more confident than ever.
On the opener "Legend" his braggadocious claims of "If I die, I'm a legend" are more infectious than they are irritating (if slightly inaccurate). He still indulges in vulnerability (sample lyric: "It's so hard for me to let new people"), but generally he sounds like he's going in as a reaction to criticisms that he's too "soft". "Energy" rolls along an uncharacteristically sparse beat that's reminiscent of an off-cut from Mobb Deep's "The Infamous", all the time Drake dropping cocksure hints that he gives less of a fuck than people previously assumed.
On "6 God" is as though his days of whining about heartbreak are over as he retorts "just like everything in my life, you can have her when I'm finished". On "Used To" he's feeling the pressure of life in the spotlight but adapting to it adequately. On "6 Man" he references both The Matrix and John Carpenter's classic horror Halloween before firing "I didn't make this fuckin' tape for CNN". The real highlight is "You & the 6", a touching paean to his mother and perhaps lyrically the most favourable thing Drake has ever written. When referring to the dog-eat-dog- world nature of the music industry he pulls out his most brilliantly volatile lyric yet as he spits "I'll pull that knife out my back and slit their throats with it mumma".
The times that Drake's monotony comes back to haunt him are in his more average moments lyrically, especially as he's out-shone by the production, like on the gorgeously reflective "Now & Forever" and the more ambitious "Star67". On moments like this and "No Tellin'" the fact that Drake still isn't that creative is impossible to ignore. "Preach" features a nigh-on unbearable auto-tuned gambit from PARTYNEXTDOOR which is every bit as vapid as you'd expect, and Drake largely fails to add any meat to the bones. Again, PARTYNEXTDOOR's R. Kelly-lite pastiche on "Wednesday Night Interlude" ruins a potentially sensual nigh-time tune, and "Company" features one of the album's clumsiest allusions as Drake raps "I only text her man I never call; I'm a canine at heart I'm still a dog".
There's a fine handful of moments on "If You're Reading This...", upon which Drake sounds more flavoursome and effortless than ever. Overall it's a patchy affair, and one suspects that Drake has honed his craft as much as he thinks is necessary, but with a little more focus and more of the brighter lyrical moments scattered around here, the next Drake album could be something rather special.
Key Tracks: "You & the 6", "Energy", "6PM in New York"
For Fans of: Lil Wayne, Frank Ocean