If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late has had one of the most interesting releases in recent memory, combining the effects of a surprise release with the recent controversy between Drake and his label Cash Money. Because of its surprise release with no official singles or news about the album, many have speculated that Drake’s latest is mostly a way for the artist to complete his four album contract with his label and is in turn just a compilation of songs rather than an actual album. Whether it’s an album, mixtape, or compilation, the fact of the matter is that the media buzz surrounded If You’re Reading This is far more interesting than the project itself.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the album is the idea that it may just be a handful of tracks thrown together rather than a specifically crafted work. Sure, the album delivers its share of enjoyable tracks, but it’s difficult to shake the notion that one is listening to a contractually-obligated mixtape of sorts rather than listening to a true Drake album. While this does bode well for Drake’s creative freedom in the future, this project is a true mixed bag containing a few gems, but mostly forgettable songs.
For those who don’t care for Drake’s more somber, R&B tracks, If You’re Reading This may actually be more enjoyable than the rapper’s past work as most songs feature mostly rapper over more aggressive beats. The track “6 God”, a track the rapper released last year, shows off Drake’s more energetic side, as he raps in a higher register over a simplistic trap beat. However, like much of the album, the instrumentation feels thin and underdeveloped, and is further detracted by poor sound mixing. On many of the album’s 17 tracks, Drake’s vocals and the beat don’t seem to mix, but rather feels like Drake’s raps are just thrown on top of the beats without any overlap, reminiscent of mixtape rather than an album.
However, Drake’s latest also delivers its share of solid tracks, namely the early hit “Energy”. It’s a simple track, featuring a beat consisting of a repetitive piano riff and a catchy trap beat. Similar to his 2014 hit “0 to 100”, Drake benefits from a minimalistic beat that allows him to craft an infectious flow and sound that is not easily forgotten. The track “Know Yourself” is another excellent track, with slower, atmospheric instrumentation as well as Drake’s signature mixing of singing and rapping that gives the song a distinct nocturnal feel. The hook is one of the catchiest Drake has ever made, and the additional instrumentation brought in during the chorus makes it a true standout on the album.
Unfortunately, most of the album is rather boring, with the album’s moody vibe and somber atmosphere beginning to weigh on the listener near the half way point. The album’s middle is a particular drag, especially the two tracks featuring PARTYNEXTDOOR, which feel like throwaways from Drake’s 2011 album Take Care. In fact, the album’s second half is mostly worth skipping, with the exception of superb “You & The 6”, a track near the end of the album. The song features Drake’s most interesting lyrics on the album, mainly because of their honesty and emotion. Most of If You’re Reading This sees Drake talking trash and rapping about his place in the rap game. “You & The 6” showcases Drake’s at his best, rapping about his parents, his mother in the first verse and his father in the second. It’s one of Drake’s most interesting tracks in recent memory and would be far better suited on a more complete album.
If You’re Reading This makes a far better news story than an album, which is disappointing from one of the biggest artists out right now. Hopefully, Drake’s planned album Views From the 6 is still slated for a 2015 release, and will be a better effort from the rapper. Until then, the handful of decent tracks from this project will have to hold over fans until his next release.
Standout Tracks: “You & the 6”, “Know Yourself”, Energy