February 1, 2018

Drake - If You're Reading This It's Too Late (February 13, 2015)

I've been reviewing my post history in order to gauge how realistic it will be for me to complete my mission on this blog within my lifetime. (The "finish what I started" of it all.) It isn't looking good, folks. But one artist that passed me by to a pretty significant degree is Aubrey Drake Graham, known professionally as Drake, because the world isn't ready for a rapper-slash-singer names Aubrey, I guess. I'm four projects behind in the man's catalog, which is silly to me, as I was only gone for two years. But now's as good a time as any to pick Wheelchair Jimmy back up, and as an added bonus, since my only real restriction this month is that I don't wish to repeat artists, this means you likely won't read much more about Drake for the rest of February. Celebratory wishes can be sent to the email address in the sidebar.

Drake's third full-length album, Nothing Was The Same, was released in 2013 to huge sales, some critical acclaim, and better songs than the entirety of his sophomore effort, Take Care. Yeah, I said it. Take Care wasn't very good. He had started recording his fourth effort, which he planned to call Views From The 6, "the 6" being both a nickname for his hometown of Toronto and a self-imposed nickname for himself, the next year, and the promotional engine started running almost immediately, as Aubrey couldn't shut up about the album no matter what the venue was.

If You're Reading This It's Too Late, labeled as Drake's fifth mixtape but sequenced and sold like an actual album, was a surprise release in February 2015. In theory, this was to act as a teaser for the eventual Views From The 6, an appetizer for the main course. In practice, dropping this "mixtape" was an easy way to placate fans of Wheelchair Jimmy by providing them with more new music, buying himself some time before he'd have to get back to the booth. The nature of the project was interesting to armchair conspiracy theorists: almost immediately upon it hitting the Interweb, rumor had it that Drake had always wanted to put out a true mixtape, but pushed If You're Reading This It's Too Late as a product to be sold in stores as a technicality to get out of his Young Money / Cash Money Records contract, in an effort to screw over the label that was, at the time (and currently, as this shit has never been resolved), failing to pay Aubrey's friend and boss Lil Wayne's royalties, which numbered in the tens of millions, if not higher. This theory was later debunked, but it made for some interesting thinkpieces at the time.

If You're Reading This It's Too Late plays like a haphazard compilation of leftover songs that Drake had no way of fitting onto any cohesive project. So, you know, like a mixtape. The guest list is kept to a minimum, as are the collaborators behind the boards: production and writing credits are limited primarily to go-tos Boi-1da and 40, along with Drake's OVO artist PARTYNEXTDOOR and his (alleged) ghostwriter Quentin Miller, claims over which had started a huge beef with Philly battle rapper-turned-Maybach passenger Meek Mill. Well, that, and the fact that at the time the currently-unfairly-imprisoned Meek was dating Drake's unrequited crush (and labelmate) Nicki Minaj. That beef, which Drake had surprisingly dominated, may be one of the other real reasons this project came to fruition, as his volleys toward Meek Mill had helped keep his name relevant within our chosen genre long after Nothing Was The Same's promotional cycle had naturally ended.

Enjoy! Or don't, it doesn't really matter.

Plays almost as a parody of a Drake song, as Aubrey sings his ridiculous threats and boasts over a PARTYNEXTDOOR instrumental that may as well not even exist, it’s that ineffective. This is the first track on the album, sorry, “mixtape”: shouldn’t the first piece of music you hear announce the host’s return, as opposed to facilitating his sneaking into the dressing room of the strip club, blaming the women for being in various states of undress around him, and then writing a song about how much he knows about the female struggle? Which kind of describes how I feel about a lot of Aubrey’s persona, now that I think about it. Anyway, Take it from a legend like myself: you can’t call yourself a “Legend”, and this shit sucked.

Honestly, “Energy” would have been a much better kickoff to this project, and not just because it has much more, um, energy than “Legend”. I have some issues with the intro, as it smacks of the cultural appropriation Aubrey is constantly found guilty of, but once Boi-1da’s surprisingly moody instrumental drops in to say hi and Drake begins actually rapping, my cares subside for about the length of the track. Aubrey’s trying a little bit too hard to convince the listener that he is a threat, no seriously, he is, don’t test him, he still has connections to some very bad people: hell, he even drops a “Man, fuck all of these n----z” before starting his final verse, because he’s edgy, motherfucker. But his bars do sound good against the beat, so “Energy” is still enjoyable overall.

3. 10 BANDS
Maintains the same, um, energy as the previous track, but has a much better instrumental (courtesy of Boi-1da and Sevn Thomas), one that seems built for Aubrey’s approval specifically, as opposed to the last song, where the beat could have been co-opted by literally anybody. “10 Bands”, silly title aside, clicks because Drake sounds like he’s amused, talking and singing his shit again (well, I suppose it’s technically ghostwriter Quentin Miller’s shit?) while the music worms its way into your subconscious. He clearly enjoyed delivering the line, “My ex asked me, ‘Where you moving?’, I said, ‘On to better things” a little bit too much, anyway. He knows that he’s the only person that refers to Drake as the “6 God”, though, right?

It’s obvious to me that Drake didn’t write enough of a song for the Boi-1da, Vinylz, and Syk Sense instrumental (not bad, sufficiently moody), choosing to perform some half-assed bars and to repeat the “hook” a bunch of times to fill the empty space, and when he runs completely out of ideas, hey, why not drop some context-free dialogue right into the middle of that motherfucker? There’s nothing about “Know Yourself” that says anything about determining your own self-worth, let alone Drake’s, but I will give him credit: he could have easily built this track around his “Know yourself, know your worth n---a” line from Sprite cans the popular loose track “0 To 100 (The Come Up)”, so.

I stopped taking this song seriously almost immediately, as Aubrey boasts about having a blade on him at all times whenever he visits lady friends at various hotels because who knows what shenanigans he could get himself into? There’s “No Tellin’”. Good thing the rest of this track was boring as shit, too, so there’s no fear of missing out on anything.

This song is the most Drake that Drake has ever Draked in his entire damn Drake.

7. 6 GOD
I didn’t hate 40’s “Madonna” instrumental, but the lyrics were the epitome of everything Aubrey has ever stood for within our chosen genre, whereas “6 God”, ostensibly lifted from our host’s self-imposed nickname, runs in the opposite direction, as he spits his boasts-n-bullshit at a faster pace than usual in order to keep up with Boi 1da and Syk Sense’s repetitive beat. If the man hadn’t been stingy with the rapper guest slots on If You're Reading This It's Too Late, “6 God” could have made for a decent posse cut, although that would have rendered the song title nonsensical. Ah well.

8. STAR 67
I remember getting into a discussion about the merits of “Star 67” with a friend while at a house party. Well, not so much a “discussion” as it was “I couldn’t stop laughing”, as he tried unsuccessfully to convince me that the song was so good, while I couldn’t get past Drake’s opening bar, “Brand new Beretta, can’t wait to let it go”, without eclipsing the rest of his lyrics with cackling. In my defense, I was drunk as shit. My friend made one excellent point, though: the instrumental behind the first verse is fucking great, and when it switches to something moodier and weaker for the remainder of the track, it’s a true loss. Our host isn’t bad or anything on “Star 67”, even if the telephone theme grows old quickly. But man, the idea of Aubrey playing with a gun fresh out of its box was my number one comedy of 2015.

I want to write, “I’ve aged out of the demographic that PARTYNEXTDOOR creates music for,” but what would that group even consist of, five year olds? Because absolutely nothing I’ve ever heard from the dude (which, admittedly, is very little: I think it’s… well, it’s this song) has been appealing in the slightest. Maybe I’d have to be lit in the club to appreciate “Preach” I realize that environment and your mood can affect how you listen to a song. But come on, “Preach” just isn’t very good, right? Right.

“Wednesday Night Interlude” is nearly as long as “Preach”, both of which feature PARTYNEXTDOOR, who seems to be all (auto-tuned) style and very little substance. But again, aged out. The kids like him, I guess, which, you know, good for him: he can make his money while I continue to not give a fuck about him. I have to assume this song is tagged as an interlude only because Drake graciously chose not to participate, shades of the Kendrick Lamar solo shot “Buried Alive Interlude” off of Take Care. Our host isn’t stupid: of course he’s use his mixtape to promote an artist on his OVO label. This feels kind of shoehorned in, though.

Aubrey kicks PARTYNEXTDOOR to the curb for “Used To”, a duet with his own label boss, Lil Wayne, that isn’t great. And I’m not just saying that because I have a well-documented passive attitude against Weezy which may or may not be justified in 2018: “Used To” is just kind of… there. Neither Aubrey nor Dwayne seem all that interested in recording anything that comes out of their mouths, and as a result, this is no “Believe Me”, a Wayne and Drake collaboration that is legitimately fire. Yeah, that was me, I just said that. Moving on…

12. 6 MAN
In which Aubrey outs himself as a fan of The Roots (let’s be real, though, who doesn’t love The Roots? Raise your hands so that I can kick you all the way off of the blog) by singing his own interpretation of Erykah Badu’s / Jill Scott’s hook from “You Got Me”. And yes, the fact that I dedicated that much space to some of Aubrey’s tossed-off vocals toward the end of the song means I found “6 Man” to be not worthy of your time. Obviously.

I can tell I’m losing patience with this overlong “mixtape” because my track descriptions are getting shorter. So I’ll just say that I liked the beat on “Now & Forever”: it sounded like a someone describing what a Fever Ray song sounds like through a game of Telephone.  But I can’t remember anything else about it.

Aubrey comes across as the worst type of romantic partner: he’s self-aware enough to know that he’s terrible in relationships, and yet wants to put some unlucky woman through the motions anyway, all because he wants some “Company”. Ugh. Drake’s the type of guy who considers himself a feminist only so far as it benefits him. Normally I don’t give two fucks about guest star (and one of the producers of the track) Travi$ Scott because I have ears, but, admittedly, he sounds better on here than our host, mostly because there are no mixed messages layered within his performance: dude’s all surface level, he just wants to bone.

15. YOU & THE 6
Canadian readers: are there folks in Toronto who roll their eyes every single time Drake promotes “the 6” as though he’s the only person from there in history that ever found success? Rappers shout out their stomping grounds all the time, and yet Aubrey has a tendency to sound extra obnoxious while following that trope. I’m shocked he had enough restraint to not throw the number 6 into every single song title on If You're Reading This It's Too Late and, later, on Views, which, as you’ll recall, was once titled Views From The 6.

Significant chunks of the 40-produced “Jungle” are dedicated to Aubrey asking his date to put her phone down and pay attention to him. No, I’m not joking. And then he only talks about his work (how it’s “everything”) and if she’s still “down for the cause” when he wants to bone. Jesus fucking Christ.

The following is labeled as a bonus track.

The latest entry in Aubrey’s travelogue-slash-shit-talking session is classified as the bonus track on If You're Reading This It's Too Late, which makes sense, as it’s the most straightforward rap song on here. Our host throws some bars at his then-mortal enemy Tyga, which is the main reason anyone paid attention to it in the first place, but his lyrics are often pretty good when he’s focused. It’s a shame that “6PM In New York” ultimately wasn’t memorable, as Drake clearly put effort into his Cappadonna “Winter Warz”-esque long-ass verse, but it just doesn’t compare to the peak in this series, “5AM In Toronto”. Still, there are far worse ways to end a “mixtape”.

If you happened to pick up the physical release of If You're Reading This It's Too Late for some reason, you were gifted with two additional bonus songs. I’ll write about them… now.

I believe “How About Now” was a loose track Aubrey unleashed to the Interweb promoting nothing in particular, at least before he formally adopted it and gave it a roof over its head on this project. Drake angrily attacks women who paid no attention to him when he was a starving artist, to which I say as I roll my eyes all the way out of the door: hey Aubrey, you were on TV before you were even a rapper. You were never down. There was no fucking struggle. So any issues you have with women now have nothing to do with anything other than the fact that you may not respect women. Have you ever considered therapy?

Stick around for “My Side” if you want to hear our host sing over a 40 and Boi-Ida instrumental that sounds like it’s being played in reverse while Aubrey says dumb shit such as, “Why are we wasting our relationship on a relationship”, and other faux-deep musings that mask the fact that Drake only wants you around when he’s feeling lonely and doesn’t want his sperm to be wasted within a sock or a Kleenex, and never at any other time. Oh, you’ve already bailed on this write-up. Good choice.

FINAL THOUGHTS: So If You're Reading This It's Too Late sold a bumch of copies because it's a Drake album and people like buying Drake albums. But is it any good? The tracks I liked, I happened to enjoy more than the entirety of Take Care (which I think has only one song I listen to today, the Just Blaze-produced "Lord Knows"), but the songs I hated, of which there were many, were awful. Overall, I truly believe there's a place for the Drakes of our chosen genre, unlike some hip hop purists: the dude can rap, his singing voice has gotten a bit better, and sometimes he manages to choose instrumentals that most artists wouldn't give a second look to and turns them into fine art. But If You're Reading This It's Too Late isn't a fire mixtape or album: it's a collection of throwaway tracks that Drake had chosen to sell to his diehard fans instead of giving them away on the OVO Soundcloud as he normally did at the time. His attempts at faux-gangsta shit are laughable, but not purposefully so: I've seen Drake on SNL, so I know he has an actual sense of humor. And his views (no pun intended) on the opposite sex are only going to grow more problematic from here. I'm trying to remember what the climate was like in February 2015, but I don't remember this project playing any differently than it did when I wrote about it today: there are some pretty good beats, some decent lyrics, and occasionally the two worlds intersect, but not nearly often enough. I'd like to think Drake would reconsider pushing this as a paid product today.

BUY OR BURN? Don't spend any money on this shit, folks. Just listen to the tracks below to get your fill of Wheelchair Jimmy.

BEST TRACKS: "10 Bands"; "Energy"




  1. Great first review!

    This album received critical acclaim and I still have no idea why. I do think Know Yourself is good in the right situation (i.e. pregaming, when everyone can yell along during the first beat drop), and 6PM in New York is also cool. But yeah, this is overlong and mostly terrible.

  2. yo yo max did you know 6 god contains a donkey kong country sample...sorry that's the only thing of note i have to say

    1. I did not realize this and I feel this is a trick to get me to listen to "6 God" again, but I'll take your word for it.

  3. When I'm reading this it's too late to make me give a fuck about Drake. But great to see you back!

  4. Hey, I just wanted so say that I found this site from your review of The Infamous by Mobb Deep, and after reading it I’ve come back over and over again recently, and I’ve actually been inspired to start writing reviews of my own. Keep it up!

  5. The 6PM in New York song was aimed at Tyga, not Meek (if I’m not mistaken), The Meek and Drake feud didn’t flourish until July of that same year.

    Also dunn I gotta respectfully call BULLSHIT on your twitter concerns about Primo man... you were doubting 2014 PRHYME a lot before that dropped THEN said “it’s only because he was focused on sampling Adrian Young” NAH man! His leftover shit he would give to other rappers were hit and miss BUT Primo is a musician who knows how to make an ALBUM and actually any album he’s been hands on with he has never disappointed, from Group Home (his case is dismissed at least) to Royce’s Street Hop (which he executively produced and Shake This is still my shit) Stop doubting the man and allow him to bless us with excellence.

    1. Good catch: the Tyga beef fits the timeline anyway, as the Meek stuff didn't even happen until later that year. I'll correct that when I'm able.

      My Twitter concerns regarding PRhyme 2 are caused by the number of tracks: the first entry had 9, so why the fuck do they suddenly need almost double the amount? I'm worried about potential filler here. I enjoyed the first PRhyme album, and not just because of the Younge samples, although they were nice.

    2. "Surprise! We made Nas an unofficial third member of PRhyme, so he appears on all the tracks except the Dave East one. So please, stop bugging him about the goddamned album already."

    3. I can't be the only person who both (a) somehow still want Nas to retroactively pop up on "Wishin'", and (b) think that him being a part of PRhyme would be a terrible idea.

    4. he would have no lasting chemistry with Royce. He'd be an awkwardly serious older brother at a party where most of the humour derives from dick jokes. That being said, on this new type of Primo beat he would thrive

  6. Energy is not bad, thanks Maxwell