Drake - If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
It must get cramped up there, The Top, that spectacular apex where the finest players fight and scuffle for space, spitting on the losers below.
In 2010 My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy secured Kanye’s spot, extremely comfortably. That record will be forever remembered as the turning point at which Y2k’s hip-hop got legit. It was a once-in-a-generation type of album, our Illmatic, and it was something that caused critics and fans alike to eat themselves with excitement.
Next, it was Kendrick’s turn. And he officially stole that shit from ’Ye in 2012 during the opening bars of that bat shit insane “Control” verse:
“One at a time I line them up
And bomb on they mom while she watching the kids”
Indeed, no one wants bombs on their moms, fuck dat!
K. Dot’s earth-shattering word missiles injected adrenaline into the entire rap game, forcing freaks and fiends from all corners of the weird and nasty world of hip hop to up their gangsta stance, loosen their lips and sharpen their scribe. (Meanwhile, poor Kanye wept from behind the commercial chastise of Yeezus, attempting to convince us all that he was, in fact, a good rapper. Nope, not so, ’Ye.)
Nestled amidst a slew of top-tier 2013 hip hop releases, Drake’s Nothing Was the Same, like its prodigious predecessors, enraptured the attention of critics and fans alike, quickly propelling the emo rapper to uber-legend status. It certainly helps when your lead single is named Pitchfork’s Track of the Year and the public’s perception of you is that of a mischievously dorky, overwhelming likable, spoilt rich brat.
Personality aside, the emotionally charged beats and lyrics of Drizzy’s Nothing Was the Same and the subsequent one-off singles released throughout 2014, transcended much of what pop-rap has produced before. The dude can actually sing and rap (unlike Kanye) and the hooks and beats never sound out of place on mainstream radio (unlike Kendrick).
So, apparently, 2014 was Drake’s year, despite no actual album release. A few throwaway singles and an anthemic collaborative track, a few remixes and guest spots; when compiled together Drake’s year looks pretty fucking spectacular. Meanwhile, Kanye and Kendrick remained relatively quiet throughout 2014, frantically finishing work on their extremely anticipated forthcoming releases.
Now that 2015 has sluggishly rolled around, all three rappers have emerged with promising new material, rotating that Top Spot somewhat weekly. Kanye West, seemingly thrust into some kind of neo-psychedelic whimsy following the birth of his daughter, has released a handful of descent-to-good pop tracks, promising critics a fresher and lighter sound. Kendrick is now three from three with post-good Kid singles and his recent “Blacker the Berry” is probably his best work since 2012. And Drake, well, If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late.
Indeed, if you’re reading this, it’s definitely too late, as Drake has gone and pulled a Beyoncé on us all. (Note: “pulled a Beyonce” may become 2015’s top phrase, alongside “where can I buy a selfie stick”) Yes, Drake took to Twitter last week and dumped a delicious 17-track mixtape, seemingly comprised of “leftovers” from his forthcoming proper album Views From the 6.
And it’s good. Worryingly good. And Drake knows it’s good, too. Only two minutes in and he is already telling us that he is “the One” and a “motherfucking legend”. CHARISMA IS EVERYTHING and Drake seems to have been closely observing the scriptures of Jesus and Yeezus: if you stand on stage in front of your disciples and proclaim victory, victory shall be yours.
This newfound transition from egoist to messiah surprisingly works in Drake’s favor. Now, Drake is both The Emotionally Connected Poster Boy and The Badass playing entirely by His Own Rules. Throughout the mixtape, Drake dismisses and disses those in His Zone (aka Kanye, Kendrick) and admits that life can get pretty lonely sitting atop The Throne.
Though not entirely true (The Throne is still currently split three ways, in my opinion), Drizzy really delivers some of his punchiest and fiercest material on If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. The beats, provided by a slew of producers both known and unknown, are some of his best to date, particularly on the album’s far-superior first half. Minimalist space and glitch ruminate in an esoteric mix of bounce, trap, aggression and ambience. Imagine a quiet Yeezus, or an angrier Nothing Was the Same.
Here, his flow closely resembles that of his mentor and label mate Lil Wayne, in that it closely resembles nothing at all, besides spectacularly unique chaos. This sporadic flow, paired with aggressive lyricism propels the albums best tracks into stratospheric territory (“No Tellin’”, “10 Bands”, “6PM in New York”).
However, this audaciousness is at times poorly miscalculated, resulting in some of the flat-out worst tracks he has released in years (“Preach”, “Company”). Similarly, the back half of the record could do with some serious trimming. But, I guess, it is a mixtape after all and those aren’t known for their swiftness.
So the jury is still out and The Throne still remains up for grabs. With If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, Drake certainly seems to nudge the other two slightly, and if anything, it will challenge and propel the competitive trio to release some seriously serious shit throughout the remainder of this year.
Or we can at least hope.