June 16, 2010

My Gut Reaction: Drake - Thank Me Later (June 15, 2010)

Terrible album cover aside, Aubrey Graham's Thank Me Later is one of the most highly anticipated hip hop albums of the summer.  With his debut album, the artist currently known as Drake hopes to build upon his large following with a musical experience that, hopefully, people will actually pay for, a tough proposition when you realize that all of his albums thus far have been freebies given away on blogs as if they were candy on Halloween.  It's a gamble that his new label home, Universal, hopes will pay off, and Drake has played his role as the employee of the month very well, promoting the shit out of Thank Me Later even after it leaked to the Interweb a full two weeks before its actual release date.  (Even with it being readily available, I chose to wait until it actually found its way to store shelves, and even then I didn't actually buy it: I'm basing this write-up on a borrowed copy from a friend and inexplicable Drake fan.)

None of this backstory matters, though, because all you two are concerned about is why Hip Hop Isn't Dead would devote space to the continuing exploits of Aubrey Graham anyway.  As I've mentioned in the past, I won't ignore today's commercial output simply because it's popular and mostly crappy: in fact, with the exception being Soulja Boy Tell 'Em, I won't automatically dismiss any artist out there.  Thank Me Later will sell tons of copies, sure (although not as many as the industry seems to believe - once again, Drake's fan following is made up of people that downloaded all of his other shit thus far), but that doesn't mean the entire album will suck: there might be a few throwaway gems on here that you two should know about.  Also, I briefly mentioned on my Twitter account the other day that every review of Drake's output (this would be the fourth such write-up) seems to garner more commentary than most of the underground and unknown artists: you two hold the power in your hands to guide the direction of HHID.

My wrists are tired at the moment, so I'm going to skip straight to the review, if you don't mind.

So it turns out that I'm already wrong: apparently Universal has no problem with Drake filling Thank Me Later with a similar lo-fi spectacle that permeated So Far Gone. While Aubrey still thrives in this environment (for now, anyway – I still have thirteen tracks to go, mind you), listeners are left in the uniquely awkward position of witnessing a man complain about his success when, technically, he hasn't actually seen any sort of reward from his new career choice just yet. (The second verse is also about his relationship with Rihanna, if any of you two care about gossip.) “Fireworks” also boasts a complete waste of a cameo from Alicia Keys, whose role on here could have truly been performed by anybody, up to and including an Auto-Tuned Max. Not a great start here.

It's my own fault: with a song title such as “Karaoke”, I was expecting a catchy number with a hypnotic hook that could easily translate over to a drunken night at a bar, or at the very least a tribute to singers who specialize in someone else's songs, kind of like that crappy Gwyneth Paltrow flick Duets. Instead, we receive more Aubrey navel gazing, as he both sings and raps to an audience of nobody, complaining about how his good fortune has negatively affected his love life, as if it's a huge inconvenience to be famous when he technically isn't that well known outside of our chosen genre. Yeah, way to get your fans on your side, Drake.

I suspect that this is going to be a running theme on Thank Me Later: multiple versions of “Successful” that slowly reveal that Drake is absolutely, positively not hip hop's savior and is also not someone that women should look to as a fine example of an honest man, unless you count the fact that he's upfront with his need to fuck anything that moves, no matter how shallow and empty he claims it makes him feel afterward. Aubrey works hard to gain some sympathy from the audience, but I'm not sure that he actually deserves any.

The poorly-received first single from Thank Me Later, although you're forgiven if you truly feel “Over” to be a success: Universal spent a pretty penny lining the pockets of radio deejays and music television programmers to create the illusion of a hit single. In reality, this song isn't that good of a marketing move for Aubrey: he almost goes out of his way to alienate the fanbase that So Far Gone created for him, so much so that only those who are familiar with the cocky, abrasive “Money To Blow”-esque Drake will even recognize him, and Boi-1da's instrumental can't decide between sounding dramatic or anthem-like, ending up lukewarm in the process. Kudos to Drake for somehow convincing the label to push “Over” instead of a “Best I Ever Had II”, but this still wasn't a great idea.

Proves that, regardless of how much money he's thrown at computer programming to show otherwise, Drake isn't that great of a singer. The mere fact that he does sing separates him from the pack...actually, wait, no it doesn't: every single popular rapper out right now seems to have longed for a singing career, from Lil' Wayne and Eminem to Kanye West and B.o.B. Either way, this does not mean that the man should continue singing. Lyrically, Aubrey sounds like the same cocky motherfucker he portrayed on So Far Gone, dropping far too many names and making random references that hip hop nerds will catch and, as a result, think he's cool (such as the shout-out to the late J. Dilla), and 'Ye's beat will probably fit onto radio playlists easily, but this song still sounded weirdly devoid of joy.

Surprisingly, the first Young Money family member to make a guest appearance on Thank Me Later is not Lil' Wayne. What isn't surprising is that Nicki Minaj scored a cameo: Universal is also trying to repurpose her as the next female rapper worth watching, a cross between the sexuality of Lil' Kim and the overt strangeness of Missy Elliott, which is offensive to both of those ladies, as they are both still in the game somewhere. (I think I left them both by my car keys.) Boi-1da's beat isn't that bad, but Drake should have looked past the Young Money synergy and Nicki's (probably fake) ass to nab a guest verse from someone with actual talent. What about one of your friends from Room For Improvement or Comeback Season, eh?

Swizz Beatz, best known these days as the father of Alicia Keys's unborn child, provides an uncharacteristically soulful instrumental that is more in the vein of early Kanye West and less “Ruff Ryder's Anthem”, so that was interesting. (This is probably due to the fact that this track features a co-producer, Noah Shebib; actually, now that I think of it, nearly all of the tracks are produced by more than one person.) His insistence on performing the hook fucks everything up, though. I understand why Drake would want to align himself with the big guns in hip hop (maybe a reference to “big guns” when discussing T.I. Is inappropriate, but I don't care), but the tactic backfires, as Clifford is much more skilled at the “shitty radio song for the chicks” sub-genre. Aubrey is left grasping at straws, at least until the beat switched to trademarked So Far Gone territory at the very end. Also very surprised to see Mary J. Blige credited with “additional vocals”, as she is a much bigger name than Clifford and Swizzy combined.

Attempts to sound cinematic, but only manages a “meh” from me. And why the fuck did Drake feel the need to tack an extra two minutes onto the song at the end?

Credit where credit is due: Drizzy goes out of his way to find beats that have an actual musical quality about them, as opposed to all of the other horrendous artists currently populating radio airwaves who are more concerned with creating goofy new dances than saying anything important. Not that Aubrey or Jeezy act like motivational speakers on here or anything, as both men talk circles around themselves to draw attention away from the lack of a cohesive theme. I liked the beat, though.

Seems to take forever to get started, but when the drums kick in over this Noah Shebib and Tone Mason-manned creation, “Light Up” turns into the best track on Thank Me Later thus far. Aubrey's verses have quickly exposed him as a punchline rapper who confuses depth with observation, but his ability to spit with a false air of confidence (false because, if you take his lyrics literally, all Drake seems to do is get dumped and whine) help him stand shoulder to shoulder with Hova, who kicks what appears to be a discarded verse from an alternate-universe version of “Run This Town” before he decides that what Drizzy really needed to hear was some advice from a grizzled war veteran regarding how to survive in the rap game. I will say that it was interesting to hear Shawn admit that he doesn't have many close friends anymore, far less than when Reasonable Doubt dropped: one hopes that he's thoughtful enough to also impart these words of wisdom to his own apprentice, J. Cole. The hook on here was ass, but everything else was actually pretty entertaining.

Thankfully, Weezy's mandatory guest appearance is limited to this one song, but his absence most certainly did not make the heart grow fonder: his verse is so asinine and embarrassing to the mere concept of rap music that “Miss Me” will probably become a fucking monster hit. Drake also spends time professing his love for fellow Young Money sellout Nicki Minaj, which will leave the listeners feeling all sorts of uncomfortable, hoping that someone, anyone, will step in and change the subject.  The beat was alright in that “well, for 2010 I guess it works, but it cannot compare to how rap sounded last year”-kind of way, but that's all of the praise I have.

I'm sure even CeCe is wondering why Drake would attach her name onto such a boring fucking track.

Thank Me Later's second single, produced by a committee led by Kanye West, features Aubrey's softer side speaking directly to the ladies (and, as my wife pointed out, fans of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, what with his numerous “hey hey hey's” and all). Early word on this track was negative, but this could have been much worse: Kanye at least got a somewhat decent vocal performance from Drake, which makes this track actually not that bad. At the very least, Aubrey will fulfill his dream of becoming your girlfriend's favorite new rapper. “Find Your Love” is instantly forgettable, though, which is a trait I'm sure 'Ye isn't very happy with, but hey, it isn't on his album, so...

Thank Me Later ends with the most boring Timbaland instrumental I've heard in the past five years, and don't forget, I've listened to The Blueprint 3. How dull is it? It sounds like Timbo stole an mp3 from Pharrell's house and scraped away all of the burnt part. It seems as though Drake was simply ecstatic to have a Timbaland track to call his very own, failing to realize how fucking weak it sounded. Lyrically, Drake fails to impress, but then again, he's been repeating the same shit since So Far Gone dropped. “Thank Me Now” runs four minutes too long, but I am thankful that this sonic experiment is finally over.

European and Japanese audiences get to end their evening with a selection of bonus tracks culled from the So Far Gone EP. (I suppose Universal didn't go out of their way to pose Drake as an international star until now.) iTunes customers who purchase Thank Me Later receive a bonus track as well, but since I don't have that version, I can't review it in good faith. Let me know if it's worth the effort.

THE LAST WORD: Thank Me Later is fucking weak. There, now that I've gotten that out of the way, allow me to extrapolate. With his debut album, Drake has provided listeners with a two-tiered throwback: a recall to the 1990s, when Hype Williams-directed videos and multiple references to “hoes” on the radio were prevalent, and to the much less desired year of 2009, when Jay-Z's The Blueprint 3 hit store shelves. That album only came out nine months ago, and is undeserving of any such nostalgic feelings at this time, but Aubrey hits all of the major points: songs produced by Kanye West and Timbaland, guest appearances by Alicia Keys, Swizz Beatz, Young Jeezy, and Hova himself, and a general apathy to how the radio is “supposed” to sound these days. I appreciate the fact that he didn't cave in to label pressure and record fourteen versions of “Best I Ever Had” or “Forever”, but the So Far Gone blueprint (ha!) worked exactly one time: there should be no need for Drake to already head back to the well. His verses remain far more interesting than his vocals, but the audience is less sympathetic this time around, as everyone is aware that Drake is now a fucking millionaire who was already living a privileged life as an actor (even if he was spending money he didn't really have), as opposed to a struggling artist who finally hit it big that he is still trying to portray. The production work on Thank Me Later is pretty interesting (the actual music was my favorite component of So Far Gone, as well), and Drake's delivery has, admittedly, grown much more confident, but without pairing said confidence with a message of any sort, he sounds like a whiny emo rapper whose friends are all sick of hearing about his self-imposed “problems”. Thank Me Later turned out to be completely nonessential. Better luck next time, Aubrey.


Catch up on the other Drake write-ups by clicking here.


  1. AnonymousJune 16, 2010

    Whatever happened to street cred? I don't understand what makes this douche acceptable... If you're going to front, you should get called out... Instead everyone allows this rich asshole to weave his own narrative... He should be called out Vanilla Ice style. If you're not being true to yourself, I'm sorry, you are a fucking poseur. This guy is a poseur, plain and simple. I HATE fiddy cent, but he made a good point: When was the last time you saw a mix tape track be the most played song on the radio? He has a huge group of A&R men pushing his shit, paying radio to play him, then he whines like some backpack douche trying to get a deal. Fuck this asshole. - WillKC

  2. AnonymousJune 16, 2010

    Its not as bad as ur making it out but not brilliant

    Find Your Love
    Thank Me Now
    Light Up
    Miss Me
    Up All Night

    were all good songs imo
    the rest is pretty poor
    7 good songs out of 14 isnt bad

    P.S stop hating on lil wayne

  3. AnonymousJune 16, 2010

    see max? i told you this album was going to be a piece of shit

  4. stop reviewing drake please!!!!

    how about some j dilla?

  5. Seeing as I can't make it past the 4th track of his So Far Gone EP, I figured this would be ass. Then again, the only acceptable Canadian rapper in my opinion is Shad because he does everything Drizzy doesn't, and that's not singing and rapping with a purpose/message.

    Anyways, I can't wait till 2011 when this has been is finally gone. I'm so sick and tired of Young Money anything getting play, it's like watching the worst sitcom ever. Just can the labels Weezy, your fans will still be helplessly devoted to you if you go underground. Trust me, it's in your best interest to not be in the public eye ever again.

  6. AnonymousJune 16, 2010

    I agree, some of these songs grew on my after more listenings. But sure as hell not worth the hype..

  7. Stop with the Drake already, he's trash just like Wayne. If you want to review a good Canadian rapper review Shad.

  8. I was so disappointed by this disc that I almost pulled out my Snow CD to comfort me. Almost.

  9. I am commenting on the review to tell you to not review stuff like this, but by doing so, your own rules state it will cause you to do more of this type of review. This is far too paradoxical for a hip hop blog.

    P.S. Very enjoyable review, in the vein of your Cappadonna or U-God trashing style.

  10. AnonymousJune 17, 2010


    I would love to get your thoughts on how hiphopsite.com could give this album:
    "@@@@@" <--Classic?

    -I don't think they even gave Supreme Clientele that much grace...

  11. AnonymousJune 17, 2010

    Next Up: J. Cole? Who is a way better rapper then Drake or Jay-Z.

  12. I'll probably never listen to this album. I have no real interest in doing so anyways. However, I can see the value in reviewing albums like these since this is Drake's contribution to hip-hop. Eff it, I'll just listen to it - maybe I'll disagree with your review but most likely I wont.

  13. Muddy_DonutsJune 18, 2010

    How come the mixtape was better than this?
    Also the fact that the mixtape was overrated speaks volumes about the album
    P.S. The new Eminem album isn't good either

  14. AnonymousJune 18, 2010

    ok...now can you please review MF DOOM???

  15. To the anonymous commenter that brought up the Hip Hop Site review -
    I did actually read that review. I appreciated that Pizzo explained in detail the reasons why he felt that Thank Me Later would become an eventual classic (i wholeheartedly disagree), but I feel that, by giving it a higher ranking than Supreme Clientele, he killed his entire argument. However, all music reviews are subjective anyway, so I'm not the best judge.

    I thought it was weird, though.

    Thanks for reading!

  16. To the anonymous commenter that brought up the Hip Hop Site review - i saw that review, it was a pile of bullshit, don't visit that site period! they support mainstream rap garbage

  17. AnonymousJune 19, 2010

    A good Canadian rapper = Rugged Intellect.

    Drake = Trash, not really worth any attention.

  18. Besides being an awful rapper by biggest beef with Drake is his whole woe is me shitck is bullshit he's handsome, a successful childstar, and one of the biggest names in hip hop currently before his album ever dropped. What in the hell does he have to be depressed about?

  19. AnonymousJune 20, 2010

    a good Canadian rapper you need to review is Saukrates max, better than Drake

  20. I never liked the album. Far from Hip Hop's saviour... just another overrated watered down rapper who could have been so much more.

  21. AnonymousJune 22, 2010

    I really think people read too much into it. You have to take it for what it is worth. Just look at it as a single piece of work. And to say that he "fronts" is ridiculous. He doesn't come off as something he isn't in this album. He jokes about not selling drugs and going with a sprite endorsement. Or joking about low fat muffins and lattes. The dude isn't trying to be a hard rapper by any means. I think people just make it what they want to be because it's what is "popular". This is coming from someone who didn't like anything this dude did UNTIL this release.