Review: Drake’s ‘If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late’ Will Do… For Now

Album Reviews

It’s still hot up in the 6, according to Drake’s new LP

It’s been about six years since Drake signed to Young Money Records. In 2009, The Boy had the industry on stakeout after releasing his So Far Gone mixtape, which featured the viral bae anthem “Best I Ever Had” and the Trey Songz-assisted “Successful,” records that revealed Drake’s fluency in both rap and R&B. “Today is a definitely a comfortable day for me, having my team now that’s been in place for a couple of years. It’s just a great day,” Drake told MTV News at the time of his signing with YMCMB. “It’s something new, but it feels familiar.” These days, the Cash Money-Young Money camp is almost unrecognizable. With Weezy’s hefty lawsuit against CM and its co-founder, Bryan “Birdman” Williams, putting Tha Carter V on gridlock and Tyga slashing all ties with the collective, the negative press has only presented the perfect opportunity for Drake to drop a surprise project. On Feb. 13, Drizzy set iTunes aflame with a $12.99 mixtape titled If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. Outlets immediately viewed the project as a direct shot at Baby & Co., a possible end to his four-album requirement under Cash Money. While Drizzy dedicates four minutes and 42 seconds to the fall-out on “Now & Forever,” the seemingly severed relationship between Weezy and Birdman isn’t the only source of fuel for Drizzy on the 17-track offering. From jump, Drake cements his position in the rap game on the Ginuwine-sampled “Legend.” As the hook of Elgin Lumpkin’s “So Anxious” wafts in the background (it also appears later on the lethargic “Madonna”), Drizzy rap-sings about his “Chosen One” status. The mood takes a haunting turn by the second track “Energy,” a laundry list of worries that shout out his enemies, two mortgages (worth $30 million in total, he claims) and chicks trying to log into his WiFi. “I got enemies, got a lot of enemies/ Got a lot of people trying to drain me of this energy,” he spits, “Tryna take the wave from a nigga.” But if there’s one guarantee in Drake’s music, it’s making his own hype. At first spin, the project’s D.I.Y. appeal isn’t as instant as 2013’s Nothing Was The Same (“Started From The Bottom” made the proverbial top relative) or 2011’s Take Care. The dark, emo abyss that was the latter had many a timeline thug in their feelings while NWTS was a handy dandy guide to a millennial’s roaring ’20s. IYRTITL is, at first, a swift time check (who exactly is late when reading this album title?), but ultimately, a salute to the city and squad that made him since day one. The Aubrey Graham Enterprise can be considered a major tourist attraction for Toronto. Blast “6 God” and try to pry yourself away from for a one-way ticket to T-Dot. On “Know Yourself,” Drake’s sound trip through the 6 sounds like a sport. Running through the city with his W.O.E.S. (an acronym for his OVO crew that means “Working On Excellence,” according to loose OVO Sound affiliate Devontee) is a testament to his boss mentality. “I’m turnin’ into a nigga that thinks about money and women/ LIke 24/7, that’s where my life took me,” he says. “That’s just how shit happened to go.” Hence, why Drake’s work resonates beyond Canadian borders. Of course, the Drake of past remains present. “Company” is “Come Thru” plus Travi$ Scott and the after-dark text message lines are in abundance (See ‘em all here). “You & The 6” provides the signature “Hi Mom” record that has become a sub-category in Aubrey’s catalog alongside “Too Much” and “Look What You’ve Done.” Like before, Drake admits being a good son is one of his toughest gigs. “Know I don’t call enough, momma/ I just been working with so little time for personal, momma,” he raps. “Hard labor let me pay the price/ You and the six raised me right, that shit saved my life.” There aren’t any tricks up Drake’s sleeve on If You’re Reading This, which is where the magic happens. When Aubrey says that shit from his chest, we listen. Gone is the focus on strippers he had relations with or the rappers he’s taking shots at (which, in this case, is everybody, especially Tyga on “6PM in New York”). If this is the appetizer for his forthcoming LP Views From The 6, then Drake has successfully whet appetites for a more conceptual ride-along. It may not tackle the status quo of Black lives in America like Kendrick’s recent releases but it follows the trend made famous by N.W.A. in Compton, Nas in Queensbridge or J. Cole on 2014 Forest Hills Drive. Setting up the scene so hip-hop can move to a new state of mind, if only temporarily. May the record also show that you can take the god out of Toronto but you can’t take the 6 out of the man.—Adelle Platon ()