Drake dropped a brand new 17 track album on Thursday night, titled If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late. What’s strange about this album release is that Drake had revealed that the follow up to Nothing Was The Same would be Views From the 6. It was also widely believed that Drake would release a mixtape in early 2015, after DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors let it slip to NBA TV a few months ago that Drake had a mixtape planned for January. Now not even a full two weeks into February, we have If You’re Reading This.
As I listened to the album, I couldn’t help but be disappointed. Drake is a leader of the “New School” of hip-hop, and is generally considered the leader. However, the production on this album lacked its normal vigor, and Drake’s normally charismatic flow rarely showed up. Most of the early tracks focus on the braggadocio, as his first song, Legend, has him crooning about his already impressive legacy. On Know Yourself, he raps, “I’m turning into a n***a that thinks about money and women like 24/7.” This isn’t the Drake we’ve grown used to.
Each of the tracks sound like a rejected song, ones that didn’t make the cut onto the final album. No track is terrible, but neither are any great. Drake, as scrutinized as he is, has been lauded with each of his releases, and it’s clear he has a critical ear when it comes to his music.
Also of note is a handwritten letter Drake wrote, thanking friends and contributors. Not only was Birdman not listed, but the YMCMB label was left off the extensive list.
That leads me to my theory…
Lil Wayne’s contract dispute with Birdman’s YMCMB Records is well known. Drake didn’t sign to Cash Money for Birdman – he signed for Lil Wayne (after being courted by several labels). Now that Birdman is intent on holding Wayne’s album back, Wayne has threatened to take Drake and Nicki Minaj from the record label.
The situation reminds me of Lupe Fiasco’s struggles to be released from Atlantic Records. Lupe wanted no part of the label, but needed to release five albums before his contract was up. That led to the release of the infamous LASERS, an album that was torn apart by critics and fans alike.
Could If You’re Reading This be Drake’s attempt to fulfill his contract, while taking Views From the 6 to a new label? Regardless of why, the album feels like a tremendous step sideways. Hopefully Views From the 6 can be a step forward.