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Review: Drake - 'If You're Reading This It's Too Late'

Updated on October 4, 2016
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Unleashed yesterday without warning, Drake’s latest release ‘If You're Reading This It's Too Late’ briefly got me thinking about a figurative hip-hop classroom.

If his mentor Lil’ Wayne is the class clown and let's say, J. Cole is the imaginative outsider who’s always being told off for staring out the window and drawing on desks – then surely Drake is the sports-head?

The jock who’s sympathetic to the school’s lesser folk because he still can’t quite believe he's managed to claw his way into the cool crowd by just being himself?

Anyway

‘If You're Reading This It's Too Late’ gives fans another dose of the rested hip-hop and R’n’B that’s made Drake the kind of rapper that can release an impromptu collection of tunes and have it trend for most of the day.

The mixtape has nothing overly-standout on it, however the general level of the new material is high, and the beatwork is eased – veering attractively from menacing, yearning, spacey and then back again.

Matthew Samuels, aka Jamaican-born, Canada-raised producer Boi-1da is behind the majority of IYRTITL’s more memorable moments and 28-year-old Drake doesn’t hesitate to use the project to repeatedly hold up the six amalgamated cities of his hometown Toronto, Canada.

Driven by an almost-experimental quality, ‘Know Yourself’ is an interesting concoction.

Within the tune’s transforming setup, Drake is impressive showing off his versatility.

At one point, the track’s chunky beat is halted to make room for a seemingly random smattering of West Indian vox pops and gun effects.

The cut shouldn’t work, but ‘Know Yourself’ has more intent than IYRTITL’s other similarly outlandish efforts combined, and eventually wins out.

‘10 Bands’ and ‘Energy’ can resemble the crunk of Drake’s 2013 hit ‘Started From The Bottom’ – still, the undeniable tunes do their job well enough to get a pass.

OVO signee and Canadian singer/songwriter/producer Jahron Brathwaite aka PARTYNEXTDOOR, breathes his lit, wavy vibe into three tracks on ‘If You're Reading This It's Too Late’.

‘Wednesday Night Interlude’ is enticingly melodic and could set the scene within the background of anyone’s Valentine’s Day.

Completely immersed in Brathwaite’s hazy outlook, the electro undertones on ‘Preach’ are enhanced every time the tune's dormant hip-hop beat is ushered in.

As one of a couple tunes on IYRTITL to utilise a Ginuwine sample, Drake raps passionately about trying to get close to an unnamed female on the lightly intricate, luxurious ‘Madonna’.

A photo posted by champagnepapi (@champagnepapi) on Feb 2, 2015 at 10:51am PST
A photo posted by champagnepapi (@champagnepapi) on Feb 2, 2015 at 10:51am PST | Source

Drake peaks when he’s indulging his unhurried nature in a way that is sharp and on the ball, as if he were playing with more conventional, boisterous hip-hop material.

The best examples of this include tracks like ‘6 Man’, a Noah "40" Shebib-helmed cut that successfully wakes the mixtape up a little.

Ebony Oshunrinde, aka Canadian/Nigerian teenage production powerhouse Wondagurl, follows up ‘6 Man’ with the equally grinding ‘Used To’ featuring Lil’ Wayne.

The collab sees Drake introduce some flair into his bars and veer between a hyper, fevered tone and his trademark low-end, moody singing voice with consummate ease.

‘Now & Forever’ on the other hand is a listenable, but jumbled affair that lacks the clarity and basic stab of the tracks that surround it.

Co-produced by Wondagurl and Houston, Texas-born rapper/beatmaker Travis Scott, ‘Company’ – which also features the latter – feels mismatched and impacts in bits and pieces.

Drake’s lyrical content is mostly uninspiring on ‘6 God’, that being said, the bold cut squeezes the most out of a vibrant Boi-1da and Syk Sense production loop.

Accompanied by a short film of the same name, the sincere back seat R’n’B chill of ‘Jungle’ immediately provides listeners with space to contemplate and unwind.

Overflowing with social commentary and family shout outs, Drake manoeuvres freely in and around bonus track ‘6pm In New York’.

In a skillfull display of wordplay, Drake openly admits that all the hate fired at him eats at his confidence, and even calls out celebrity culture – as well as the rappers that depend on paparazzi for exposure.

In an ode to his mother and his beloved Toronto, ‘You & The 6’ candidly revisits moments in Drake’s school days when he was teased about his African American heritage.

It then fast-forwards to the rapper being labeled not “black enough” for hip-hop, after refusing to conceal truths about his often-comfortable upbringing.

There are inflections within Drake's delivery on ‘You & The 6’ that give everything that comes out of his mouth a very personal touch - like you’re really getting to know the guy.

Disregarding what is expected from artists in the rap game, the tune strongly showcases the reasons behind Drake’s popularity – and the rapper’s powerful ability to connect with his now heaving fanbase.

Verdict: ********8/10

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