Drake – If You’re Reading This… – The STiXXclusive Review

Drake works out of random, but at the same time you always know that he’s up to something. He’s this generation’s most connected artist because he seems to be right in the middle of everything while lurking in the shadows of social media. Whether you see him on TV at a Raptors game sitting courtside, or he’s dropping subtle pictures with 1-5 word captions on Instagram, he’s always up to something. This something was brought to light by way of DeMar DeRozan, announcing that Drake was dropping a mixtape in early 2015, but there were a lot of whispers as to if it was actually going to drop, until indeed – it dropped. For one, the title of this is entirely too long, so It’s Too Late will be the short-form version I’ll use going forward. Now, the 2nd part of my point behind this title is that it’s a subtle shot to Birdman to get himself out of a contract, and thirdly, it’s just another coined Drake phrase that’s going to get a lot of usage all of the place, or a variation of “If you’re reading this _______.” Believe me, it’s been all of over 72 hours and it’s already been drowned out. The Drake Effect. What he brings to the table is the element of surprise, because at ungodly hours of the night or crack of dawn, he drops something and by the time you wake up, or in the highlight of midnight, it’s all the rage about Aubrey Graham. It’s a common thing he’s done that doesn’t seem to get old, because he’s the hottest artist out. I think only Kanye West can have a bigger impact, and that’s a big compliment that I didn’t really need to mention, because it’s pretty much established. Based on How Bout Now, and 6 God being a couple of early releases, there really wasn’t a clear direction as to where this tape/album was going to go, but yet here we are. And don’t worry; if you’re reading this, it’s not too late. The Internet has all the answers. Let’s dive in.

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It’s funny that I was actually having a conversation with a friend, prior to the album releasing, about Drake’s stature in the state of Hip Hop, not only general, but in the city of Toronto. The common agreement is that he’s a Legend already. The music has definitely propelled that, but when you factor in OVO Fest, the countless singles, and even helping with the rebranding of the Toronto Raptors and making them visually appealing while helping to draw in a younger audience (it helps that the team is doing well), whether you love him or hate him, or simply are ‘meh’ about him, there’s no denying that he has already helped solidified his still-to-be-determined legacy, and he’s 3 albums deep on what could be end up being about 10. Who knows? Only time. The thing, when it coms to Drake, is that he doesn’t have an extensive variety in subject matter. You don’t have to listen to a full project, but you have a sense of what you’re going to hear anyways: solid production, some bragging, some inferiority complex about being from Toronto, heartbreak of some degree, and shout out to the haters. I mean, that’s his lane and he’s stuck to it from the beginning, but what separates good from great is not just singles, but it’s what else you can go into. Everyone has a story, it seems to be (with him) a revolving door with just new layers added. Speaking of production, track 1 of 2 with the Ginuwine So Anxious sample is melodic, and that’s what’s been consistent with his music since So Far Gone.

SEGUE! I feel like you can play a game of bingo with Drake’s subject material and it’d be hilarious to go through a full album without hitting it, but that’s neither here nor there (but seriously, look into that). The theme of this album is gloomy, it feels. But not in the “oh my god, let me call up my ex and tell her that we could make this work” that we’re used to, but more so a more aggressive tone that puts him in a light where people (like myself) prefer to see him in, as opposed to the norm. He starts off Energy by declaring that he’s got a lot of enemies trying to come at him (“come at the king, you best not miss” works here) and when you’re at the top, there’s those who’ll want to gun for your spot. But with so many artists in the game right now who claim to have the “throne”, then who’s really in command here? Drake himself is not one that will strike you as the hood-ish guy that rappers tend to have that background, but he won’t be afraid to tell you that’s he got those guys on deck. And here’s where I get hype, when he mentions that he’s got real ones that live past Kennedy Road, and if you know the background of people that he has in his camp, P. Reign hails from Galloway, which is a notorious neighbourhood in Scarborough, and down the street from where I used to live. They’re the real ones alright. I feel like this track could have been a little longer, but then again, this mixtape/album/whatever-you-want-to-call-it-because-it’s-too-annoying-to-pick-one is full of throwaway tracks that’ll simply hold over until Views From The 6 is released.

10 Bands brings back the bragging aspect of Drake’s riches, but for me it was the beat that had me grooving for the duration, and it arguably has the most quoted line of the entire album (“My ex asked where you moving, I said on to better things” ) and if you haven’t seen it around town or heard it by somebody in the last 3 days, don’t worry, you’ve got time. People like the slick talk that made them embrace Hov for a good duration of his career, but for me personally, not really a factor for me. The beat was knocking, so that’s what I was there, but as always and what he’s known for, the catchy one-liners or the hooks always grab you in one way or the other.

Which leads to Know Yourself. Now, students, if you were paying attention to Nothing Was The Same, specifically From Time, there was a gentleman at the end of the track that goes by the name of Baka aka Not Nice, who had an outro and in said outro, he mentioned the phrase “know yourself.” Now, if you want to go back to 0-100, Drake also uses this line in the first few bars (“Oh Lord, know yourself, know your worth”), and that leads us here with the continuing phrase being the track title of choice, and as he continues to break out the slang of the city, this track also delivers another line that’ll be used all over the place from people in Toronto and outside.

“I was running through the six with my woes!”

Let me be quite clear for a second. I don’t call Toronto ‘The Six’, and quite frankly I think it’s a stupid nickname. The 4 made more sense (416, 647, 4th biggest city in North America) if he was going to use numbers, but I’m a TDot/T.O user since Bakardi Slang, and I’m not converting over. There’s those who take pride in having a stronger nickname to give the city some style and having their own name, but I can’t succumb to referring to Toronto as ‘The 6ix’, ‘6ixside’ or any other form & usage of the number 6. That’s just me, and it needed to be stated. And also, I thought that (and a few people agreed with me) that ‘woes’ instantly reminded me of ‘woahdies’ like how No Limit, Lil Wayne & the rest of the Hot Boyz from Cash Money introduced us to their language. ‘Woe’ in this case, has to be something new, because I’ve never heard of it being referenced to about a group of people ever. We usually just say ‘squad’, ‘mandem/gyaldem’, ‘fam’, ‘niggas’, etc. But not ‘woes’, never that. Outside of that one line, Drake goes into some detail about just how he’s feeling about other rappers trying to come at his spot, whereas he sees them as simply peasants and don’t deserve to hold the seat from whence he sits. He also goes into a bit of his past life where he had a job selling Girbaud jeans and rocked a Technomarine watch. When you look at the short movie, and then combine it with the music, it paints some perspective. He’s talking about how he used to get it with his boys from way back doing whatever kinds of odd jobs in and around the city, and no this isn’t just Degrassi, but on some street hustler type. Can’t be mad at it. It’s when the beat switches that gets me hype, and in every venue that plays this, you know it’ll be wild. If you watched the ‘wtf’ of a short movie that was Jungle, then you heard the snippet prior to. I had the instrumental on repeat because it was just too nice, and it still is.

“I’m turnin’ into a nigga that thinks about money and women
Like 24/7, that’s where my life took me
That’s just how shit happened to go”

I mean, we pretty much knew that’s where his head was at, but at least he acknowledges it. Drake’s been known to have good ties to Jamaica, whether it’s with the Gully God, Mavado (he’s the ‘boss man’ in the Find Your Love video) or in this case, the Unruly Boss, Popcaan (there’s only one boss, and that’s Worl Boss aka Vybz Kartel aka Addija Palmer, thank you very much). Popcaan does the outro and shows you that real bod mon don’t play if you mess with OVO. That’s pretty far outside of Kennedy Road, but Drake’s team rolls deep (watch 6 in the 876 for more background).

 

Interesting comments revolve around Drake’s music and a lot of times it’s that most of the beats used are just different versions of themselves. I had to pause and take that in for a moment, and sometimes, it’s pretty true. In the case of No Tellin, the beginning gives you that same kind of feel that reminds me of 0-100, but then the beat drops and that’s the bounce presumes. I think this is one of the better ‘hype tracks’ on the album.

“I got a blunt, can I get a light?
Yeah, I took the summer off to get it right
Yeah, I gave these boys a shot and they fuckin’ failed
Niggas like “you took the summer off? we couldn’t tell”

The flow combined with the beat, and then you have the It’s like the Worst Behaviour attitude that’s brought out on this project, in which Drake flexes his muscles a bit. It’s evident here and it’s one of the better ‘rapped’ songs that he’s put out. What’s even more impressive about the song is the beat switch that brings back Popcaan to reinstate that it’s a “6 to 876 ting.” I like that he puffed up his chest a bit, because if he wants to claim that’s he’s the boss of this, damn it, stake your claim sir. Let it be known. It keeps things interesting.

I don’t know how I really feel about Madonna. I feel like the song just skimmed through and didn’t hold me over in any particular way, except that he did his best PartyNextDoor impersonation and pretty much mumbled through the whole thing, although the beat was chill and presented the 2nd sampling of Ginuwine’s So Anxious. I thought it was cool that Madonna posted on Instagram about the song, so that was cool. This track really just served as filler, but then again held lines that’ll definitely be used in current and future text messages to initiate going out.

What if I pick you up from your house?
We should get out, we haven’t talked in a while
We should roll to see where it goes

This guy really wants people to go back and collect their old rummages to see if it’ll clear up and shine the same as before it got thrown out in the first place. You’ve got to respect the tenacity he brings. Boy’s determined to get back with all of his exes (even the ones from Texas).

The first time I heard 6 God? Hated it (I admit, I admit it). Every time I have to hear it while I’m at a Raptors game? Hate it (I admit it, I admit it). This song is one that really kicked off the ‘6’ movement in terms of everyone using it at a frequent rate to the point of no return (it’s like “fetch” in Mean Girls, but it’s really happening). I can’t stand this song, and that Worst Behaviour reference from earlier that I brought up earlier- this is essentially the song that I initially thought of. It’s just a whole lot of nothing for me, and it was this song where I said that Drake can put out anything and no matter how lazy it comes off, it’ll be hot regardless, because of who he is. That’s just what’s the norm, but because the whole city will gravitate to it and embrace it, doesn’t mean that it’s a good song. It’s not. It’s noise.

In the words of Jamaica’s own, Busy Signal, “who’s calling me from an unknown number?” is the operative question at hand as Star67 comes into the album rotation with an introduction from Lil Weezyana. If you’re not familiar with the usage of ‘*67’, it’s when you want to make your number private so that the recipient of your phone call doesn’t know who’s calling them (and then bring in the Busy Signal reference). It’s funny, when Drake tweeted ‘*67’, I caught rapper, Luu Breeze mention ‘Worthy’ as in GTA producer, Daniel Worthy, who might have had a hand in it. He deleted the tweet, but the power of the screenshot prevailed. The beats to this track are dirty, and brought me back to that sound that’s relative to SFG, just the mood of it. Phone scams are (were) a common thing, and that’s the premise of this song, going back to the beginnings and really the street side of Drake that most (self included) aren’t that familiar with. It’s definitely been a long way that Drake’s come, so to reflect on that and see where he’s currently at, it brings nostalgia, but at the same time being under the influence can help that as well, which he always makes references to. It’s a dope track from start to finish, one of the better ones I’d say.

It now turns into the PARTYNEXTDOOR variety hour, as Drake’s protégé takes over the next two songs in Preach and Wednesday Night Interlude. How my feelings are towards Party, it’s either a hit or miss for me, but then again a lot of his songs sound relatively the same to me. There are the couple of songs that I can dig, but he’s not an artist that I can listen to consistently, because I know I’d be annoyed (his most recent EP, PARTYNEXTDOOR 2, isn’t bad though). Even with Drake’s verse, I don’t think it saved the song as a whole, for me. I can only deal with so much autotuned mumbling at a high pitch for so long. There’s a lot of people who are against Drake’s nickname of ‘The 6’ for religious reasons, so I wonder how they felt about Drake’s closing line in the song

But hearing the scripture with that many sixes, you should be afraid”

No one likes to joke around with the Mark of the Beast, but with the implication clear as day, I wonder if conspiracy theorists will come out of the woodwork in this case. See now, Wednesday night seems like a random day for people to catch the feels about being lonely. I’m not judging it, but you know, traditionally there’s the weekend for when people want to huddle up and kick it with someone. I mean, it’s still the workweek; people have jobs. This song really served as the transition from the aggressive nature, but then got right into the softer Drake that would get more so the women’s approval (at least a good majority of them), and to be honest with you, I had to listen to it in full to get what Party was saying in full (marble mouth strikes again), but it’s full simp mode that’ll come in handy as the (bitter and deathly) cold weather is still inhibiting people from going through with their full flourish mode.

Sike. Seems like Drake wasn’t finished with the hype. A big shout out to WondaGurl for lacing this beat as she’s continuing to build upon her young (yet impressive) résumé that’ll certainly carry her into the game for the next decade, if that’s what she intends on doing as a career (I don’t see why not). Used To is one of my other favourites on the project, strictly for the beat, and for once in a long time, Lil Wayne didn’t annoy me with idiocy like the streak he’s been on since Carter 4. It was actually Drake who I didn’t care for. At this point, nothing he was saying was sticking to me, I was just vibing to the beat. That was pretty much my sentiments for the duration of the project in full.

Now, if you didn’t know it already, Drake is the Global Ambassador for the Toronto Raptors. I’ve been a fan of the Raptors for a long time. I was 13 the first time I saw a game, and I haven’t looked back since. Over the past couple of years, I’ve gone to games more frequently, and for good reason – it’s a winning team now, and the atmosphere in the city behind the team is the best I think it’s ever been. Now, 6 Man is dedicated to one player in particular – Lou Williams. If you stalk Drake’s Instagram enough, you pretty much caught a teaser when he posted a picture with him sitting in his designated Courtside seat, talking to Lou Williams as he, DeMar & Kyle were about to check in. Louis Williams took on a very big spotlight when it came out that he has 2 girlfriends. His girlfriend dates a woman, so in essence, they both date her. There’s a song about that (My Girl Gotta Girlfriend) and his lifestyle has taken the whole NBA by storm, and thus you know it would make itself into a song or two, and who else but none other than the Ambassador? I anticipate that snippets of this track will be used at an accelerated rate at every Raptors home game, whenever Lou hits a big bucket, or even when he subs into the game. It’s a hype track overall, not jut for the Lou Williams references. How the flow rides the beat is bouncy and it’s enjoyable from start to finish. (Loooouuuuuuuu)

Someone wake me up when Drake says any other lyrics besides “I’m leaving, I’m gone” on Now & Forever. Because I’m pretty sure he went 95 seconds while repeating the same thing over and over, and that warrants a skip every single time. This is the end of his Cash Money venture, and this track is his “Na na naaaa na, hey hey hey, goodbye” song that lets it be known that it’s now and forever that he’ll be answering to himself (still attached to Young Money, however). I’ve been saying since after Take Care, when he started to really push OVO Sound, that he should have left CM. He’s big enough to do so, but everything takes its own time. Not a huge fan of the song itself, however.

If you were to tell me on Company that it was Travis Scott on the track and not PARTYNEXTDOOR, I would have definitely called you a liar, that’s how much these people are sounding like each other with the autotune overkill, but Travis Scott’s sound that surrounds his vocals actually compliments it overall, and if this the first time you’ve heard Travis Scott, go listen to Owl Pharaoh & Days Before Rodeo to get yourself familiar. He’s got bangers, and his live shows always bring the energy that’s emphasized in his music. As for Drake, it’s much of the same when it comes to the simp lines (if you haven’t noticed by now, it’s not something I care for). For me, it was all about Travis. He darkened it up a bit, but still…if you put PND in his place (minus the rapping), I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference a whole lot.

Now, two of my favourite Drake songs are Fear & Look What You’ve Done, because to me those are two tracks where I really felt him lyrically that I could relate to in a way that showed him at vulnerable points. I felt some of that on Too Much as well. When he gets away from the girls, and the money, and just keeping it real to bringing out some heartfelt emotions that doesn’t translate into whining, that’s what I’m here for (it seems like asking a lot, but you know how it goes). The relationships between Mothers & Sons aren’t uncommon in Hip Hop when it comes to the storytelling aspect behind them. It’s brought out some of the best songs in Hip Hop, period. So Drake taking his time out to talk about some of the conversations that he and his mother have now at this point in his life on You & The 6, I feel like this could have been saved for the album. If there’s a lot better than this song on it, then I’m looking forward to hearing it.

“At least I always, at least I always see it through
At least I’m always being true to what you taught me
Retired teacher, but your words still got me evolving
Never get sloppy drunk, but alcohol is problem solving”

There’s no denying that this song can make you feel some type of way, especially if you’re like me, coming from a household raised by a single mother. It makes you appreciate the struggles that you had to deal with (or still are dealing with, whatever the case may be), because it’s not easy, and to the single mothers or fathers (because they always get excluded) of potential future artists, these conversations will come up, whether it’s about girls, or simply caring about the well being of your child, regardless if they’re famous or not. It’s one of the more favourite songs on the album for a lot of people, but it hits home on my end, so that appreciation definitely goes up (way up?).

If there’s any song that got the emotions on high (especially for the women, based on my audience surveillance), it’s Jungle, and I can pin that on the sample, for one. But always, it’s the theme around it regarding relationships. That always takes one shot or two to the chest and brings about memories that you wish weren’t brought up. A damn shame.

“Still findin’ myself, let alone a soul mate, I’m just sayin’
Feel like we one and the same, our relationship changed
That or it never existed
Whenever they say somethin’ bout us you listen”

It takes a level of maturity to bring about the fact that you messed up and you want make things right but it may not be the right time, but then again you want to do everything in your power to make sure that that person doesn’t go away and then you kill yourself regretting letting that person go. We’ve all been there, and Drake serves (as he’s been serving his entire career) as that reminder of the feels that we get when his music hits particular nerves. It wouldn’t surprise me if this is a song that causes a lot of September-October births, or if it’s the reason why certain couples will try to work things out. I know I’m not going to listen to this song on a regular basis, but I won’t deny that it’s a good song.

The grand finale is what caused the most controversy and usually it comes with the Time Series tracks. First it was 9AM in Dallas, then 5AM in Toronto, and now – 6PM in New York. Beat wise; this was the weakest one to me. Lyrically, after listening to it over and over, the reason why it gets a pass over 5AM is because of the diss to Tyga, which is what caused the internet to explode in the first place when it came out.

“I heard a little little homie talking reckless in Vibe
That’s quite a platform you chose, you should’ve kept it inside
Oh, you tried
It’s so childish calling my name on the world stage
You need to act your age and not your girl’s age”

Short version – Tyga (25 years old) said some stuff about Drake in an interview; Tyga’s linked to Kylie Jenner (17 years old), whom everyone (except Tyga) thinks are dating, and here we are. Tyga also let off a tweet calling Drake a bitch (obviously deleted), and then went on The Breakfast Club to say he just had “a lightskin moment.” I’m tired of these people, man. People are comparing this to the likes of Ether, Takeover, and Hit Em Up. First of all – no. It was a nice diss, but no names were dropped and it was an “ouuu, aahh” moment, but it was just that – a moment. You’re not going to hear about it beyond 2 or 3 weeks from now. So let’s not throw this in the Hip Hop diss track Hall of Fame so soon.

For the first time in a long time, I felt like this was a Drake project that was more rapping than singing, but even still it still balanced out towards the end. I know that this is full of throwaway tracks, so that’s why I’m not treating it as if this was the album that was supposed to be the greatest thing since sliced bread, because that’s just how every Drake album has been approached. When you’re engulfed in the Toronto atmosphere, if you don’t mess with the music, you’re looked at different. Believe me, I know the feeling. He got back to spitting some bars, but he didn’t do anything to wow and amaze. Whatever you want to call it: Autopilot, Cruise Control, a Plateau; that’s what Drake’s been on for about 2 years. He can put out whatever he wants and it’ll be perceived as hot regardless of what it sounds like. This project had a bit of the traditional Drake that we’re used to, but he messed with different areas of sound that at times were repetitive, but he went for more of the hype factor. Between this and Views From The 6 (which I don’t know what to really anticipate), Drake’s music will be all over the place for 2015, which he pretty much set in place on NWTS. As of right now, the strategic move to get out of his deal and onto the next phase of his artistic independence it just proves that it’s not too late to get a move on with more important things – in all phases. I wouldn’t pay for this (because it is on iTunes), I’d put money into the album (depending how that all goes), but for now, this is my opinion, this is my review

That’s My Word & It STiXX

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