Conveying a harder outer shell...
'If You're Reading This It's Too Late'

If you're reading this you'll know that Aubrey 'Drake' Graham recently dropped a mixtape out of nowhere. Because how couldn't you - Champagne Papi is so ubiquitous he's now a living, breathing meme. "If I die all I know is I'm a motherf*ckin' legend", he sings on the hook of the first track - and (as Jay-Z once said) numbers don't lie: Drake's already had more Hot 100 singles than The Beatles. He's immortalised in popular culture already.

Beat-wise, 'If You're Reading This It's Too Late' is fire. It samples Ginuwine - twice - along with Cutty Ranks, The Roots, Popcaan, and, weirdly, glossy house mainman Henry Krinkle. 'Now And Forever' drops a Clams Casino-like beat courtesy of Eric Dingus and Jimmy Prime, while his protégé PartyNextDoor contributes a delirious slow jam in the form of 'Wednesday Night Interlude'. The 17 instrumentals are a sullen, sorrowful selection that mainly come from the hands of Boi-1da and OVO in-house producer Noah '40' Shebib. While the sad-boy's sung melodies (for instance, "no more, no more, no more" on 'Now And Forever') are as enchanting as ever.

But at times the lyrical component can leave you cold. It's unfortunate that this cropped up at the same time as Kendrick Lamar's 'The Blacker The Berry' - a no-holds-barred tackle of race issues that'll surely be amongst the best tracks of 2015. Perhaps it's unfair to compare the two, but Drake's efforts were bound to look emptier in contrast. Lyrically, the Toronto rapper hasn't exactly lost his touch; at times he's heartfelt and paranoid, at others brash and plain unrelatable. Addressing his mother on 'You & The 6', he explains how he feels bad for not replying to her texts; leaving her forced to check Google Alerts for news about the son she raised alone. "I just been working with so little time for personal, momma," he admits, bitching about her trying to set him up with a girl at her gym, because she wouldn't "want this life".

Despite previously not being one to drop a diss track, he's now firing shots - at Tyga (via a Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz quote): "thinkin' they lions and Tygas and bears, I go huntin". He also side-eyes Makonnen, who he made into a celebrity overnight by jumping on 'Tuesday', yet who used to think Drake was 'corny'. Rolling Stone magazine is also treated to a serving of his beefs.

Social media, of course, has allowed the Canadian's personal brand to flourish - but this mixtape/album seems to revolve too heavily around the commercial side of his success. On '10 Bands' he says '"fuck it man" to the difference between $10,000 and $100,000, but talks constantly about updating his net worth. He later shouts out his sponsors Nike ("checks all over me / I need a FuelBand just to see how long the run has been"). As a figure who is so culturally vital, as someone moulding the shape of not only the future of rap but pop culture, this emphasis on the monetary side of the game can grate.

That being said, you could take 'If You're Reading This It's Too Late' as Drake honouring his four album deal with Cash Money: staking his place in the industry while hinting at resentment towards Birdman (i.e. not naming him in the album thank-yous and bringing in Lil Wayne - who is suing the label for $51 million - for a verse on 'Used To'). On '0 to 100/The Catch Up', released in July last year, he raps that "bein' humble don't work as well as bein' aware". Though this could just be a transitionary phase before we get 'Views From the 6', which this album was supposed to be.

'If You're Reading This It's Too Late' sees a Drake who's wary of his enemies. Despite calling himself '6 God', he can't quite shrug the glare of his haters. "Okay I had to switch the flow up on you n*ggas / The shit was gettin' too predictable" he reveals on 'No Tellin'. "They think I'm soft, think I innocent" - for someone who's been repeatedly mocked for his aesthetic, you can hardly blame him for wanting to convey a harder outer shell. But you should really text your mum, Drake.

6/10

Words: Felicity Martin

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