by AARON MEGAR
Drake, one of the hottest and most popular names in all of music, surprised the world on Thursday with If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. Though Drake deemed the 17-track record as a mixtape, it’s been selling on iTunes and is streaming through Spotify, currently standing as the #1 most popular album on the iTunes charts.
In comparison with Drake’s past work, however, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late falls short of what we’ve come to expect from the 27-year-old Toronto native. While his lyrical ability seems to be elevated and his flow on point, the album doesn’t supply the “bangers” that set his previous records apart from the rest of the industry.
What has made Drake so special over the past five years is his keen ability to appeal to all sides of the hip-hop spectrum, releasing both soft, easy-flowing tracks alongside his more up-beat, club-worthy songs like “Worst Behavior” off of 2013’s Nothing Was the Same and “Lord Knows” from 2011’s Take Care. It is in regard to these up-beat tracks that If You’re Reading This Its Too Late falls short, creating a more shallow, one-dimensional album than we’ve ever seen from Drake before.
The album begins with “Legend,” featuring a beat and style that epitomizes what exactly is wrong with the entire album. The song is a really slow way to start off an album, as Drake continually sings “If I die, I’m a legend,” which, though true, could be said with a lot more swagger and confidence. He doesn’t rap on the track, but it doesn’t have the strong R&B credentials that one finds in past songs like “Marvin’s Room” and “Find Your Love.” Overall, the album’s opener generates no momentum for the rest of the record, and is far from being a song I’d ever want to listen to as its own entity.
The next two tracks, “Energy” and “10 Bands,” are definitely two of the best songs on the album, as Drake rhymes with a dark, calm flow over simple yet mesmerizing beats, together creating a feel similar to some of the later songs on Nothing Was the Same, such as “305 to My City” and “The Language.”
While “Energy” and “10 Bands” are two strong tracks, they don’t bring the vibrant tempo needed to kick-start this album, and would have better served as fillers, like the songs in Nothing Was the Same that sound amazing alongside the more heavy and exciting songs that we’ve learned to love from Drake.
From “10 Bands” on, almost all of the album sounds the same, with few songs managing to stand out after listening to the record three or four times through. While “6 God,” which was originally released on SoundCloud this past October, is one of the best songs that Drake has ever made, not a single other song on If You’re Reading This… comes even close to it, prevailing as the record’s obvious top track. The album only features three artists, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Lil Wayne, and Travi$ Scott, and almost entirely consists of Drake rapping over repetitive, standard beats.
The album ends on a high-note with “6PM In New York,” where Drake exhibits the same competitive, confident, and exciting flow that makes songs like “6 God” and “Trophies” (2014) so enjoyable and fun to listen to. “Used To,” supported by a verse from Lil Wayne, gives off a similar vibe and is also one of the album’s better songs. But while these two songs, along with “6 God,” “Energy,” and “10 Bands” are all good and/or great tracks, they aren’t enough to carry the rest of the album.
I’d like to make clear, however, that I am not a Drake-hater at all.
I love Drake. I’ve been following him since he jumped into the rap game with the help of Lil Wayne and 2009’s So Far Gone mixtape, and Nothing Was the Same is, in my opinion, one of the best rap albums of the first half of this decade. But If You’re Reading This… fails to achieve what Drake’s past work has done so easily. It has a bunch of long, emotional Drake tracks without the intense and exhilarating “bangers” that managed to balance his past albums so eloquently.
Though it has its highlights – like anything by Drake should – the album, to me, was a disappointment, earning 3 out of 5 stars.
Check out the album for yourself via Spotify: