Drake’s surprise mixtape yields few surprises

By Stefan Geller

(NRK P3/Flickr)
(NRK P3/Flickr)

Despite uncertainty over whether it should be considered an album or a mixtape, one thing for certain is that Drake’s new 17-song release has already made a huge splash. On Feb. 13, Drake released his surprise mixtape “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” on iTunes. Within three days, the mixtape sold 495,000 copies, and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

However, the amount of copies sold does not always correlate to how good the music is. Coming off his groundbreaking 2013 album, “Nothing Was The Same,” Drake’s newest work is satisfactory by his standards, but falls short of excellence.

To its credit, “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” has some incredible beats and production value, highlighted by producers Boi-1da and PartyNextDoor. Songs like “Legend,” “10 Bands,” “Used To” and “You & The 6” all have flow that will have you jamming harder than Smucker’s.

Unfortunately, when an artist is as distinguished as Drake, there is an expectation to break some sort of new ground with each released work, and this mixtape fails to meet such expectations. Drake revisits all the same themes in his songs; namely how awesome he is, the millions of dollars he makes, the fact that he too gets lonely and how he only cares about his close friends and family.

Combine that with the fact that “Star67” is the only track on the album to have multiple beats combined in one song – a style that was very prevalent on “Nothing Was The Same,” and it equates to a great rapper putting out a pretty good, yet mostly generic mixtape.

Drake opens with some incredibly weak lyrics on the tracks “Legend” and “Energy,” in which he overstates how legendary his rapping is and how many problems he has to deal with. While “Legend” has a very catchy beat, it comes off as nothing more than him tooting his own horn, while “Energy” sounds like Drake’s version of Jay-Z’s classic track, “99 Problems.” Not to mention, “Energy” has one of the worst lines on the whole mixtape: “I got bitches askin’ me about the code for the WiFi, so they can talk about they timeline, and show me pictures of they friends, just to tell me they ain’t really friends.”

“10 Bands,” “6 God” and “Used To” stand out as a few of the mixtape’s top songs, each featuring the best beats on the release along with some of its most fiery lyrics. Lil’ Wayne makes an appearance on “Used To,” and delivers one of the best verses on the whole release, even though his is the only household name guest feature on the tape. In addition, Drake delivers a heartfelt tale about his relationship with his mom on “You & The 6,” as well as a smooth slow jam in “Jungle.”

Unfortunately, songs like “Madonna,” “No Tellin’,” “Company” and “6PM in New York” bring the mixtape down a few notches. “Madonna,” for instance, combines uninspired lyrics and a flat-out boring beat into a song that is easily the most skippable. Something else that is disappointing about “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” is that its best songs are erratically dispersed throughout the tape, meaning that it has very poor flow from one song to the next.

To be clear, “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” is a solid mixtape with its fair share of good songs to rock to. However, the fact that it does not introduce anything new and has a fair share of bad tracks too makes it one of Drake’s lesser works. Drake says, “If I die I’m a legend,” but “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” is far enough from legendary that it ultimately does not help him validate that statement.

Stefan Geller can be reached at [email protected]