Not Like They Used To: Drake’s Statement With IYRTITL


What is minimalism? It has emerged as a buzzword – a word that is thrown around quite loosely, losing its meaning in the mainstream. If you look the term up in a dictionary or an encyclopedia, it will likely be defined as an artistic movement that emphasizes through understatement. In other words, it is artwork that is made up of only the skeleton, with all the meat and extra stuff thrown out; essentially, the bare minimum. Kanye West’s Yeezus was part of a quiet revolution at the forefront of which were the likes of The XX and Lorde. Slowly but surely, the minimalist and raw emotional tones of Kanye’s  2013 polarizing LP as well as that of his contemporaries, have begun to creep into popular music. 2014 saw the domination of radio waves by producers such as DJ Mustard, whose staccato synths share ancestry with Kanye and Rick Rubin’s reductionist philosophy. Last week, R&B singer songwriter Drake, offered his spin on this phenomenon. From the cover alone, it becomes clear that his album is as minimalist as Kanye’s last. While Kanye had a simple CD case as his album cover, Drake’s album cover is the LP title scribbled on a white background. At the same time, the project is far more personal and far less political than Kanye’s, making it more acceptable to the listener. This accessibility will shroud the fact that it follows in Yeezus’ footsteps. The difference is, while Kanye was trying to make an artistic statement and create a new art form, Drake has set out to perfect an already existing one.

If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late is the new album/mixtape from Toronto artist Drake. He is known for his duality: his R&B crooning and his braggadocios and triumphant raps. On previous projects, Drake’s back and forth swinging between these two personas clouded the purpose of his work. It led to instrumental breakdowns in songs that were unnecessary, included almost as if to simply showcase his abilities. It was superfluous. On his 2013 album Nothing Was the Same, he set out to make his writing more concise, and to do away with all the extra bits that made his songs messy. In hindsight, Drake definitely made great strides in that regard…but his new work has taken his technique and execution to a whole different level.

If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late is a project that oozes confidence and bravado. Even in his most emotional moments, Drake owns it: “she’s just a little too perfect, she’s just a little too worth it…I’m a canine at heart, I’m a wolf I’m a dog”. It seems as if he has finally accepted his fame and his place at the top of the food chain, and has achieved some kind of clarity. On past records Drake almost sulked, often evoking feelings of regret. This time around he proclaims that “some nights I wish I could go back in life/not to change things/but to live things twice”. He embraces his roots and triumphantly states that “[I] used to get teased for being black, and now [I am] here and [I’m] not black enough/ cause [I’m] not acting tough or making stories up about where [I’m] actually from/But [I] just roll with it momma, rolling stone with it momma”. On “Energy” even though he may claim that “[my] acting days are over”, his training in drama has contributed to his elocution. This is made obvious by his ability to switch between flows and add character to each verse. Drake’s singing ability has also seen vast improvement, reducing any cringeworthy attempts at harmonizing. The combination of this acceptance of his identity, and his improvements in technical ability have translated into a tour de force of a project.

If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late is full of beautiful production, crafted by an incredible roster of producers and OVO affiliates such as Boi-1da, Noah “40” Shebib, Vinylz among others. “Legend” contains a Ginuwine sample that is trying to break-free at all costs. It is held under control by PARTYNEXTDOOR’s powerfully crisp snares and drum kicks. The sample echoes in the background like a beautiful muffled scream, and finally fills the landscape of the song once Drake finishes cruising on the beat. While many rappers would get lost on the spacey production, Drake never wastes a second. Every rap line is purposeful, and every melody is catchy and moving. The rapper side of the artist brings new flow after new flow, cadence switch after cadence switch, and witty line after witty line – “thinkin’ they lions and tigers and bears, I go hunting and put heads on my fireplace”. What sets Drake apart from the rest of the pack is his ability to write mean hooks. While most artists would have resorted to calling upon R&B singers to come in and help out on hook duty, Drake is able to craft anthemic choruses repeatedly: “Energy” contains an anti-hater anthem and “Know Yourself” is the theme music for a group of friends exploring the city and nostalgically looking back on youthful adventures.

“You & the 6” is an ode to his mother and to his city. It samples his own venting track “The Calm”, which appeared on his mixtape So Far Gone, 6 years ago. While the rising star at that time seemed troubled and almost insecure with his newfound fame and celebrity, the sample is flipped on this new track: symbolic for Drake’s acceptance of his reality. In a way, everything has come full circle. So Far Gone was Drake’s 17 track debut, and it released February 13th, 2009, establishing the Canadian singer songwriter and rapper as a star. On the same day six years later, he released the 17 track If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late – a project that has only added to Drake’s resume as a future legend. The project shows growth, and a more focused direction, and builds excitement for what is to come. Triumphant, minimalist and honest, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late is a must listen for any and all music lovers.

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