We knew it was coming. Countless nights were spent speculating, early birds became night owls, all waiting, hoping, that Drake would finally drop his mysterious mixtape. The internet loves to troll, fake covers floated across Twitter, rumors of a So Far Gone sequel had eyes glued to his social media, while the words from Toronto Raptor’s DeMar DeRozan and OVO’s P. Reign haunted thoughts.
Just when I began to give up hope, not allowing Aubrey to play with my emotions, I saw a link come across my timeline: not Datpiff, Audiomack or LiveMixtapes, it was a link to iTunes for a brand new Drake album. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late came without warning, no big budget promotion, no captivating marketing, this is a Beyonce-esque secret release designed to break the internet. I imagine this is what J. Cole wanted, but outside forces spoiled his surprise. Some are calling it a mixtape, but I’m convinced this will be cataloged as an album. For fans these are just meaningless words, album or mixtape it’s all music when the day ends, but when you look beyond the surface, wait...did Drake just dropped his final album on Cash Money Records? Cue the Meek Mill.
I’ve searched high and low for anything resembling Drake’s actual contract with YMCMB. The biggest hint I uncovered came from Drake himself. On "Tuscan Leather" he said, “Paperwork takin' too long, maybe they don't understand me, I'll compromise if I have to, I gotta stay with the family,” lyrical evidence that there were negotiations happening during the making of Nothing Was The Same, and that Drake seemed determined to stay at the label. Then everything changed.
Looking at the current Cash Money debacle, the word “compromise” sticks out - it makes you wonder how seriously Cash Money's golden boy had been trying to leave. Back in 2012, J. Prince sued Cash Money claiming Drake was being scammed out of millions, but Drake never commented on the allegations. In public he continued to preach the gospel of Birdman, but in private? Another interesting fact, Drake’s label, OVO Sound, is independent with a publishing deal through Warner Brothers, so none of his artists are affected by the Cash Money spilt. The only thing that was keeping Drake under Cash Money’s umbrella was loyalty, but now that the empire is crumbling, this is his opportunity to escape. Theoretically, if Drake owed the label four albums under his deal, as many seem to assume he does, he's completed his contract with the release of If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. Hence the iTunes link, hence the "album."
Drake has been very vocal that his next album will be titled, Views From The 6. When an artist makes verbal announcements they aren’t always final. I remember when Kanye’s fourth studio album was called, Good Ass Job (*insert sad emoji*). It’s possible that Drake felt this new title was more fitting for that album, but I have to believe these are two entirely separate projects. Drake's taken such care (pun untended) with all of his previous albums while this project feels rushed. Plus, there’s five songs with the number 6 in their title, which suggests the two have similarities and were possibly in development together. Maybe it was always the plan to drop a Views From the 6 leftovers project, maybe they just came up with it and labeled it as an album after things fell apart with Lil Wayne, maybe either of the above, but those are some gripping maybes.
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And if this isn't Views From the 6, what if this album isn't just a surprise to us, what if it's a surprise to Cash Money too? What if that title is aimed at Birdman specifically? By the time Birdman saw that an album was out and read its title, it was already too late to try to keep Drake at Cash Money any longer. This is all just speculation, but just picturing the scene, the surprised look on Birdman's face when he realizes he's been outmanuevered by Aubrey, is too fascinating to skip contemplating.
And the album itself is full of some pretty direct evidence that this is all more than just rampant guessing. Lines like, “I got rap niggas that I gotta act like I like / But my acting days are over / fuck them niggas for life” makes me believe Drake’s bird hunting. Then, on "6 PM in New York," the fiery finale, Drake states, “Lil Wayne could not have found him a better successor” before sending a missile in Tyga’s direction. The “family” he revered is toppling, but his admiration for Wayne as a mentor hasn’t faltered. The album cover is under much ridicule for being unbearably sloppy, but I’m certain there's a deeper meaning behind it.
Is Drake masterminding the greatest escape since Michael Scofield? If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late as a whole sounds like good ideas packaged together as a teaser. The music isn't bad, it's what we'd expected from a “mixtape,” but Drake's albums have always been more polished. I’m assuming this music is Views From The 6 leftovers, with a few recorded specially for the new release. Simultaneously breaking his chains and delivering a solid appetizer to field the fiends; if that was Drizzy's plan, he's playing chess not checkers. If this was a free release, it likely wouldn’t count as an album binding him to the suspected four album contract. A few rumors suggest that he owes Cash Money five albums, and that Views From The 6 will actually be his last round with Baby, but either way, Drake seems to be actively working towards independence, and doing it with a Machiavelli state-of-mind. What does Drake sound like without the influence of a label? Since the release of Take Care, his music has felt untouched by outside opinions, but who knows what kind of madness might be concocted once he's in a free creative space.
Last night, during the frenzy, the album was uploaded to Drake’s OctobersVeryOwn SoundCloud. The stream was abruptly taken down, and added again hours later. An OVO intern could’ve uploaded the album too soon, or it could be a deeper internal struggle with “the label” who wanted to get more sales before allowing a free listening experience. Birdman is promoting the release via Instagram and Twitter, still tagging posts with RG, OVO, and YMCMB. It's hard to tell if he was aware of this project before the release, he isn't featured nor mentioned throughout the 17 songs. Lil Wayne hasn’t mentioned Drake’s album via social media either. Could these two have plotted on taking over All-Star Weekend and getting one step closer to liberation? Imagine if Wayne and Nicki sign to OVO? It’s a label that could potentially be more monstrous than Young Money. Drake is in the prime of his celebrity, making music that people adore, and might finally see some royalties.
This is all speculation, but with each listen, it becomes clearer that Drake has a hidden intention. The internal war within Cash Money Records is now hitting its climax, who will survive?
[By Yoh, aka OVYoh, aka @Yoh31.]