Producer: Aubrey ‘Drake’ Graham, Noah ’40’ Shebib
Label: OVO Sound / Young Money / Cash Money / Republic
Is Drake flipping off the man with his new mixtape? Surprise-released on iTunes (and briefly hosted for free on Soundcloud before promptly vanishing), the 28-year-old Toronto rapper’s latest is rumoured to be a ruse; a ploy to run down his contract with label Cash Money before the release of his new album proper, ‘Views From The 6’, later this year.
And yet, (deliberate?) lack of singles aside, it’s hard to see Cash Money crying into their fat stacks over ‘If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late’. In America, ‘If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late’ racked up half a million sales in under a week – lucrative, as thinly veiled ‘fuck yous’ go. Fans are unlikely to feel short-changed either, since it represents a gorgeously moody, if rather low-key, offering with a clutch of classy production turns from long-term collaborator Noah ’40’ Shebib: see the paranoid synth pulse of ‘No Tellin”, or the way ‘Madonna’ uses a cut-up piano line to suggest a sense of ghostly disconnect (“Pilled up, filled up, damn girl / I’ll be getting back to you for sure”). ‘Know Yourself’ crackles with strung-out intent, morphing at the midway point to reveal the record’s strongest vocal hook, and ‘Star67’ is similarly thick with compelling melancholy.
But for all the music’s cagey intelligence, Drake sounds like the kind of guy who comes sauntering out the traps in a 100m race and immediately breaks out into a victory lap, pausing only to remonstrate with hecklers. “All I know, if I die, I’m a motherfucking legend,” he croon-raps on opener ‘Legend’, which mightn’t be a problem, necessarily, but consider: while Kanye West raps of being a God, Drake brags peevishly about having two mortgages worth a combined $30 million (‘Energy’). Also irksome are his stream of ‘web 2.0’ name-drops (“Man I’m talking way before hashtags”) and endless, inane attempts at generating memes (like referring to his hometown as ‘the 6’).
For all that, it’s striking that Drizzy is such a blockbuster draw even when he’s in form as edgy and uncommercial as this. Such are the perks of being a #legend, we suppose.