Drake’s latest is drenched in darkness. It’d be smart to wager that the entire album was recorded somewhere devoid of windows and only when it was late at night. The result induces a feeling of dissonance if it’s listened to while the sun is still out.
Night drips off of the bassline of “Legend,” the opening track. Drake wants you to know he’s been up to something sinister.
“If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” blindsided even the most ardent of Drake fans when it dropped seemingly out of nowhere last Thursday night.
The only warnings were a series of cryptic Instagram posts and a 15-minute short film that previewed songs off of the 16-track mixtape. And this is a mixtape, so yes, “Views From the 6” is still coming in the spring.
But make no mistake, although these are Drake’s loose tracks, the tape as a whole is his most cohesive work to date.
First, it’s a compilation of solely rap tracks, with the soft R&B crooning Drake’s come to be associated with kept to minimum. Secondly, there’s hardly a ray of sunshine to be found anywhere in the album. Previously, his success was enough for the Toronto rapper. Here, though, there’s a thread of aggression that runs throughout the tape.
“Brand new Beretta, can’t wait to let it go / Walk up in my label like, ‘Where the check though.’”
Ever the master of cryptic messages, Drake laced his mixtape with references to his desire to fly the coop from Birdman, who was recently hit with a $51 million lawsuit from Drake’s mentor Lil Wayne.
The lawsuit charges Birdman with refusing to pay Wayne $10 million for his upcoming “Tha Carter V,” as well as failures in paying overhead costs for the Young Money imprint and filing royalty reports for Drake’s recordings.
“To all my fans, I want u to know that my album won’t and hasn’t been released bekuz Baby & Cash Money Rec. refuse to release it,” Lil Wayne wrote in a series of tweets in December. “I want off this label and nothing to do with these people but unfortunately it ain’t that easy.”
Birdman isn’t the only one on the receiving end of Drake’s subliminal messages, however.
Tyga, Drake’s labelmate who’s also recently talked about going independent, gets a lyric in the album’s finale, “6 PM in New York,” telling him to act his age after he called Drake’s personality fake in a recent interview with Vibe magazine.
The mixtape’s release also stole the spotlight from Diddy, who was streaming his concert on Revolt TV at the time. The two rappers were involved in an altercation in early December during which Diddy punched Drake at a Miami nightclub. Reportedly, the feud was over “0 to 100,” a song that was given to both of them by Boi-1da (who helped produce seven songs on “Too Late”), but which Diddy left alone. Meanwhile, Drake hopped on the track and proliferated it last July.
“What if I pick you up from your house? / We should get out, we haven’t talked in a while.”
It wouldn’t be a Drake release without coded references to women, including those who have broken his heart as well as those whose hearts he’s yet to break.
“Madonna,” the mixtape’s sixth track, appears later than in the tracklist than expected and only after five tracks of chest puffing. In it, the bleeding heart treads familiar territory, proposing a late-night rendezvous with someone whom he hasn’t talked to in a while and has to work a 9-to-5 in the morning. It’s more or less the sequel to “Come Thru” off of his last album.
On “Company,” Drake’s not satisfied unless his partner walks up to her ex and tells him he’s nothing compared to her new man.
To his merit, however, Drake keeps the simp quotient to a minimum. A heads up for the sad boys (and girls) coming to the mixtape expecting lyrics with which to project your own heartbreaks onto. You’ll have to wait until the back third of the 69 minutes in order to reach the portion of the tape to cry to.
Instead of sorrow, however, the leading theme here seems to be a bittersweet catharsis. “Now & Forever” fades in the tape’s downtempo emotional valley with Drake’s desire to leave a relationship that’s he’s outgrown.
If the Internet reacts anything like it did when he referred to “Courtney from Hooters on Peachtree” on “Nothing Was The Same” we’ll also soon know the identity of trainer that works with Drake’s mom at the gym. Apparently, however, she’s too much of an angel for Toronto’s reigning prince.
Never one to forget the most important woman in his life Drake inserts “You & The 6,” an honest confession to his mom.
“I hate really hate using this tone with you, momma,” he apologizes.
Without missing a beat, though, he reminds her that he has to take care of the snakes.
“I pull the knife out my back and cut they throat with it momma.”
For half an hour, before it was posted on iTunes, “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” was uploaded to SoundCloud.
The title of Drake’s latest compilation served as an omen even before think pieces were drafted about how his fourth commercial release is a contractual obligation meant to free him from Cash Money.
If your SoundCloud, Twitter or Instagram game wasn’t on point, you were met with an error message denoting that the tracks were removed.
You were too late, Drake was saying.
Drake has always been his finest when he’s flipping his shortcomings and insecurities into successful records. Perhaps more more game changing than “Nothing Was The Same” claimed to be, “Too Late” sees him shoring up his skeletons after already having done right and killed everything.
Along the way, his message is clear: if you’re not keeping up with him, you’re going to have to pay.
RECOMMENDED: Even the staunchest of Drake skeptics will have to admit he’s finally found his edge. It may be Yeezy Season soon, but not before a storm rolls in from the north.