Recently Drake premiered a new video called ‘Jungle’, which was a music video in the sense that he’s a musician and it was a video. There was no music, just a lot of sad and/or concerned Drake being driven from one place to another. While this was sort of odd, his people confirmed that he was dropping some new tracks – some went ahead and said “mixtape” – later on, so no one was too weirded out by the whole thing.
As midnight approached, the hype train went into full gear. Mixtapes are a vital part of the modern hip hop release cycle and Drake had only released three before – the first of which, many were quick to point out, was So Far Gone, released six years ago to the day. So when it suddenly appeared on Soundcloud and iTunes, 17 songs long and bearing the cryptic title If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, the explosions could be heard for miles. But wait! Was it a mixtape? Mixtapes are free, traditionally, and this one got pulled off of Soundcloud pretty quickly – many were in mid-listen – leaving only the $12.99 iTunes link. As it turns out, it’s both. It’s a mixtape, spiritually, but in a very real sense it’s Drake’s fourth album on Cash Money Records, an official release that was just Beyonce’d onto the internet last night in the guise of something else. The rationale for this may be more interesting than at first glace: Reddit user /u/jarobizamboni brought up an interesting point when he said “yo drake just fucked bird man by dropping this as an album under cash money his contract says he has to release 4 albums and can whenever he wants and the album art is a direct message to bird man lol and now he’s a free agent 6ix god”. Who knows – we’ll know a lot more when his much-hyped Views From The 6 drops theoretically later this year.
I have the strong feeling that a lot of what is on If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late is stuff that was cut from Views From The 6. It’s all much better quality stuff than you typically find on a free mixtape, and the significance of that number – The 6, which Drake is using as a reference to his hometown of Toronto – is inescapable. One of the early tracks (‘Know Yourself’, one of the best singles all year) makes reference to running through the 6 with his woes, five of the tracks use the number in their title, and of course there’s the 6 that’s right smack on the cover of the album. The album finds Drake going hard, in the vein of last year’s “0-100/The Catch-Up”; it doesn’t always suit him, but he makes it work throughout the album to his advantage. There’s some real edge here that both references and outshines past braggadocio like ‘Worst Behavior’. There is, of course, the usual Drake shenanigans: specifically ‘Madonna’, a weeper of a track that will make you call up all your exes and send flowers and stuff. So in a sense it’s a typical Drake album, only the balance is reversed: more hard stuff, less staying home and pining for your ex.
Is it just a collection of the less-commercial cast-offs from the hype beast that is Views From The 6? Time will tell, but I know this: if this is the quality of Drake’s cast-offs, then the actual album is going to be a juggernaut.