Drake Disappoints in Surprise Release This Past Week

Image from sandrarose.com

Image from sandrarose.com

Drake is a polarizing figure in the hip-hop community. Some artists praise him for his ability to sing and rap in his songs, combining elements of R&B into what is typically rap music. On the other hand, many other hip-hop figures consider him repetitive and overrated because he tends to sing more than rap in most of his songs. And, going through his discography, the Canadian rapper provides evidence for both sides of the argument. Consider his break-through mixtape So Far Gone: the two big singles that established Drake as a household name, “Successful” and “Best I Ever Had,” are different stylistically. The former contains a catchy R&B hook provided by Trey Songz, while the latter is a straightforward hip-hop track with Drake rapping the refrain. This dichotomy in Drake’s music would only persist throughout his career, with his debut album Thank Me Later being largely hip-hop focused and his sophomore LP Take Care showcasing Drake’s R&B arsenal, pulling off some extremely well-produced music with soulful and personal lyrics as well. So what is Drake best at, rapping or singing?

The solution lies in his third album Nothing Was The Same, that clearly shows Drake’s weaknesses as a lyricist. Though the record contains Drake singing many of his lyrics, it also shows the emcee attempting to recreate himself as a hardcore rapper. This is a likely result of his Take Care album, which, though a commercial and critical success, proved Drake to be an emotional singer-songwriter who wrote R&B love songs for a largely female artist. This image led many to believe that Drake was not truly a hardcore rapper but a soft, emotional singer. Sadly, I felt that there was no reason for Drizzy to reimagine himself again; Take Care easily proved to be a better LP than Thank Me Later, showing Drake finally creating his own unique sound in the R&B/hip-hop fusion that was gaining more popularity with the likes of The Weeknd and even Chris Brown and Jason Derulo to some extent. With his third record, Drake deviated from the path that seemed to have been paved just for him. After Nothing Was The Same, I hoped that he would return to his well-produced, R&B roots in his upcoming album Views From The 6.

However, the little bit of hope that I had for the Canadian rapper dissipated when he pulled a Beyoncé a few days ago, releasing his mixtape-packaged-as-an-album If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late without any promotional singles or advertising.

It is hard to imagine what Drake was thinking of with the bare-bones club-sounding beats on this record. So many tracks contain hard-hitting and fast instrumentals that don’t compliment Drake’s style at all. Only on the tracks produced by PARTYNEXTDOOR (who, I must admit, did good work production-wise on the songs he was involved in), “Preach,” “Legend” and “Wednesday Night Interlude,” were the instrumentals interesting and would have fit snugly as bonus tracks on Take Care. By the end of the mixtape, however, most of the instrumentals blended together into a one-dimensional piece of generic gangster rap instrumentals that could have been made by GarageBand.

The tracks also merge together because Drake’s flow, with the exception of “6PM in New York,” remains the exact same. Maybe this wouldn’t be a big deal with an emcee such as Notorious B.I.G. or Eminem, who are known for their intricate flows, but Drake clearly demonstrates his lack of lyrical ability on all of these tracks. Oddly enough, some of the songs on here sound just like bad-outtakes of other songs, and wouldn’t be worth putting on a mixtape, let alone an album. Take the second track “Energy,” which sounds like a cringe worthy outtake of Drake’s own “0 to 100,” or “6 God,” that has the artist shouting his lyrics as if he were doing a horrible rendition of Meek Mill. This music is an insult to his previous albums and the other songs and artists that he is shamelessly copying off of.

The record also is a step backwards for the Canadian when it comes to lyrical content as well. On tracks like “Now and Forever” and “Know Yourself,” he repeats the same boring lines like “You know how that shit go, running through the city with my woes” and “no more” for a majority of the song, sounding like a broken record that takes 4-minutes to fix itself. And, besides a couple of tracks like “6PM in New York” and “You and the Six” towards the end of the mixtape, he really has nothing to say except brag about his fame and money. At least Take Care and Nothing Was The Same had some meaning on occasion; this is just braggadocios filler the entire way through.

Drake fans will remember the insane amounts of old-school references in his last LP, going so far as to use Notorious B.I.G.’s lines, sampling Wu-Tang Clan’s hit song “C.R.E.A.M.” in a song and even titling a track “Wu-Tang Forever.” Well, he does something similar in this new project, but instead of referencing classic hip-hop, he references the few artists currently that I think are actually worse than him. The obvious example is on “No Tellin’” when he actually says “Club going up on a Tuesday.” It’s obviously not enough for Drake to make his own garbage; now he feels the need to throw in other artists’ trash as well into the mix.

Just like the album/mixtape cover, which is just the title of the record in Drake’s terrible handwriting, the songs on here are barebones and mediocre, even by Drake’s already low standards. However, the fact that he’s called this piece of work a mixtape while making it only available through purchase is another issue with this work. The songs on here are not worth anything for anybody but die-hard Drake fanatics, and even they would be hard-pressed to say that this contains some of his best work. Some speculate that, by relabeling the mixtape as an album, Drake can finally squeeze out of his Cash Money contract that he has outgrown with his new found fame and commercial success. If that is true, then it is a sad and pathetic end to the Cash Money-Drake relationship that heralded him as Lil Wayne’s protégé and made him as popular as he is today. I could forgive his work on Nothing Was The Same because he was at least trying to make good music on that record, but If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late just shows Drake sacrificing musical quality and ambition for a larger amount of press and popularity, proving him to be one of the most second-rate and largely overrated artist in today’s age.

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