Take 2 Album Review: Drake’s “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late”Posted June 11, 2015 by Nathan S.
Two years ago, when Nothing Was the Same dropped, I called Drake a cheeseburger, and since then I've only grown more convinced of his cheeseburgery essence. While I'm fully aware that comparing Drake to a piece of meat covered in dairy product sounds like an insult, I mean it as a compliment. Seriously. Cheeseburgers are the flagship American food - fast food spots, upscale pubs, pool parties with the family, cheeseburgers are adaptable, as close to guaranteed goodness as you're going to get. Even a bad cheeseburger's not that bad. They may not be your favorite food in the world, but only the most philosophically strident vegetarians actively hate them, and even then they're probably chowing down on a Double-Double when no one's looking. The greatest burger isn't blowing anyone's mind the way some experimental molecular gastronomy dish is, but come on, no one's living off sea foam and frozen Parmesan air. When it really comes down to it, in the right setting you're always taking a cheeseburger. You just are.
If that analogy truly works I shouldn't even have to explain how it applies to Drake. About five years and five albums (give or take) into his career Aubrey Graham is very much a known quantity. Kanye's a nearly schizophrenic chameleon, Eminem's the hermit Rap God who only occasionally comes down from the mountain to deliver a new commandment, but Drake is Drake. He's really not that complicated. He likes money and fame and attractive women and sports and wants to be liked and loves his mom and makes cheeseburger music. Sometimes that cheeseburger's on the fancy side, it's got aoili and some fine-aged cheddar, sometimes it's more backyard BBQ style, a white bread bun with some Kraft singles and ketchup, but it's always a cheeseburger; hugely popular and almost always enjoyable.
The exact same logic applies to If You're Reading This. Four months later the album has proven to be exactly what I thought it would be when I first heard it, and despite what Drake says, I'm calling it an album because in 2015 everything's an album. There's free albums and albums you
have are supposed to pay for, completely original albums and albums over jacked beats, great albums and shitty albums, but they're all albums. So back to the album at hand...over the last few months I've seen huge crowds lose their minds singing along to "Legend" and found myself turning to "Know Yourself" when I'm driving and want something fun to bang. I've listened closely to "6PM In New York," breaking down Drizzy's emcee skills and if I was ten years younger I almost definitely would have memories of that night with that girl I met in the club while "Star67" played. The same way that "Started from the bottom now we here" was the tag line of 2013, "Runnin through the 6 with my woes" is the tag line of 2015 so far; everyone with even a passing interest in hip-hop, even the vegetarians who would never be caught dead listing to If You're Reading This, knows that line. You may not eat at McDonald's, but you still know what a Big Mac is.
This many days after it dropped though, this many listens in, I feel comfortable saying that If You're Reading this is one of Drake's weaker albums, which is probably why he attempted to hide behind the outdated "it's a mixtape" defense. It isn't as sonicly and thematically cohesive as NWTS, I'm perfectly happy skipping the PND songs and "Used To" and "6 God" are both recycles from other projects. Even the most loyal OVOites would be hard pressed to call it a classic. Still, I'm not sure how much that really matters. Every artist's catalog is going to have better and worse albums, impressively Drake doesn't have an outright flop or critically panned album on his resume yet, and by nearly any measure it's been successful. It did shocklingly big number for an album released so suddenly and confusingly, a few songs made an impact on the music culture, he's touring off it, mission accomplished.
Although it is interesting to note that the other most popular albums of the last six months from Drake's peers, albums like Forest Hills Drive and To Pimp a Butterfly, are challenging albums that are unafraid to address challenging times and the larger world. By contrast, Drake's music always has been and continues to be entirely and completely about himself, his life and his life alone, which in turns is why he's so relatable. Whether it's Rolling Stone magazine, that guy at work trying to get a promotion over you or a bitter ex-girlfriend, we've all got enemies, got a lot of enemies, got a lot of people trying to drain us of our energy. Songs about Mike Brown and police brutality can change lives, can be a window to a world many don't see, but they can also be alientating. I'm white and well aware that the "we" in Kendrick's "we gonna be alright" is not referring to me. How many people turned away from TPAB because it just wasn't easy enough to conenct with?
Girls asking for the code for the wifi though? You know how that shit go, we all know how that shit go. Now there's a cheeseburger we can all bite into.
Editor's Note: For the people who really care about the "1 Listen/Take 2" format, Lucas did the original review, but he's currently driving across the country on a spiritual quest or whatever, so I'm stepping in because I'm the boss and I do what I want.
[Nathan S. is the managing editor of The DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. He also occasionally talks in podcast/radio form. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.]