Where do you go when your career starts at the very top? That’s the rare position Aubrey ‘Drake’ Graham finds himself in. No one has ever begun their career with the hype Drake has. But then again, Drake isn’t your typical rapper. For a start he’s not black or American but a half-Jewish Canadian. Then he doesn’t even rap on half his songs. He’s equally at home trading bars with Jay-Z or on a slow jam with The-Dream. In just over a year he’s turned internet buzz into phenomenal mainstream success.
Full review and a video of Drake dissecting the album track by track after the jump.
Before listening to Thank Me Later I had no idea what to expect. I couldn’t decide if I liked Drake or not. I’ve always thought his R’n’B songs were amazing but his rapping was hit and miss. Pretty much everything up to So Far Gone was sick. His rapping was great back then, his singing was on point, he was sampling artists like Lykke Li and Coldplay before sampling indie or rock became cool. There was a vulnerability to his songs that you don’t hear in hip-hop. Drake was a breath of fresh air.
After that, when he signed with Young Money, he adopted an annoying fake Southern accent and switched up his flow, making it a little too similar to Big Sean’s. His verses went from being introspective to the standard “I’m the shit” stuff you hear everywhere.
He may have been getting more critics after getting a record deal but he still had more buzz than anyone. So Far Gone was put into shops with less tracks than on the original version yet still sold almost 500,000 copies when people could have just got it for free with a Google search. It’s release put Drake’s career into hyperdrive and it hasn’t slowed down since. The man even got nominated for two Grammys with “Best I Ever Had”, a god damn mixtape song. Who does that? Not bad at all for someone who started out as a TV actor.
I still expected Thank Me Later to be a flop. His style had changed so much since So Far Gone that it seemed as if Drake had forgotten what made him successful in the first place. Every verse seemed to be about how rich he was, his cars, his girls. He’d become just another rapper.
He pleasantly surprised me. Thank Me Later is a great first album, somehow managing to live up to the hype surrounding it. Most albums, especially in hip hop, are just a selection of potential hits. There’s nothing holding them together as one body of work. No concept, no idea, no theme. That criticism couldn’t be directed at Drake’s debut. He holds nothing back, revealing what fame has done to his life. He documents the triumphs as well as the pitfalls. People will be surprised by how frank he is.
On the first track, “Fireworks”, Drake tells a story about a girl that he liked but nothing happened. Drake revealed in interviews that it’s about Rihanna, the R’n’B superstar. Most rappers boast about the hot girls they bang, not the one that got away. On “The Resistance” he considers how stardom has affected his relationship with people he knew before the fame, how his friends miss the way things used to be. It’s a million miles away from the standard rap fare.
Of course, he’s got some bangers on the album as well. “Miss Me” demands to be blasted at full volume out of the best sound system you can find and the beat and hook on “Over” are epic. Throughout the album the production is almost flawless. Even more impressive is that most of it was done by Drake’s crew from Toronto. He could have got anyone he wanted, but 9 of the 14 tracks are produced by either Boi-1da or 40. The rest of the beats come from heavy-hitters Kanye West, Swizz Beats and Timbaland.
Drake’s rapping is back. No more messing around. On “Light Up” Jay-Z drops by to deliver a verse and gets upstaged by the man of the moment. Drake has something interesting to say again. However I’ve always felt Drake’s real strength lies in his harmonising and R’n’B songs. “Find Your Love” is the perfect example. It’s produced by Kanye and the first time I heard it, it started playing and sounded very disappointing. The beat sounded like something I could have done myself with the right tools. Then it got to 30 seconds in and BAM! That’s why Kanye is a multi-millionaire with more awards than DMX has had run-ins with the law and I’m not. Drake’s vocals over the beautiful beat combine perfectly. He creates melodies that squirm into your head and stay there.
With this album Drake has finally managed to keep his balance on the tightrope between mainstream success and artistic integrity, after a few falls along the way. There’s something for everyone here: club songs, slow jams, heavy beats, sick lyrics. I was unsure about Drake before Thank Me Later, but now I’m definitely a fan. Then again, he does say “point the biggest skeptic out, I’ll make them a believer.” Haters, you’ve been warned.
Here’s a video of Drake being interviewed by Semtex on 1xtra. He reveals the story behind many of the tracks off the album, his plans for the future and more.
- In an age where people are buying music less and less it’s more important than ever for artists to get fans to like them as people as well as the music. Drake comes across as open, honest and truly passionate about his work. It humanises him and is a refreshing change from the macho bullshit most rappers you get from most rappers.
- He wants to work with Andre 3000 on his next album? 3K is the G.O.A.T in my book. Good move Drizzy.
- Semtex is the man. Great interview.