Late Thursday night, Drake tweeted a link to If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late after teasing it with the release of a short film titled “Jungle” earlier in the day. He’s calling it a mixtape, but within an hour it was off the Internet, and only available to purchase on iTunes. Mixtapes don’t cost money; they’re usually found in the crevices of the Internet. And they definitely don’t span over 70 minutes like this one does. Of course, I still found myself spending $12.99 for it while at a party before leaving so I could have my own personal listening session.
If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
Cash Money Records
But the 17-track project, which features collaborations with Lil Wayne, PARTYNEXTDOOR and Travi$ Scott, works because he’s calling it a mixtape, rather than a full-blown album. It doesn’t feel like the follow up to 2013’s Nothing Was The Same because it’s not supposed to. There was almost no promotional work, unlike NWTS and his 2011 effort Take Care, where we’d essentially heard the whole album before the release. None of the tracks on IYRTITL could have been obvious singles. And their content sounds different: more urgent, aggressive and cold. It’s the Toronto rapper’s way of telling people, if they didn’t already know, he’s not one to be fucked with. He’s only getting bigger, and he knows it. That could be what Drake’s referencing with the project’s title; If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late serves as a statement to fellow rappers and fans alike, implying we can’t keep up and that’s how he likes it.
In fact, the whole tape feels like a statement. It can’t be a coincidence that Drake decided to drop the thing the same day Kanye West unveiled his new fashion line with Adidas, as well as a surprise track, during New York Fashion Week. And the tracks are littered with shots at other rappers, even friends like Jay Z and West. He explicitly calls out Tyga during “6PM in New York” – “I heard a lil’ lil’ homie talking reckless in VIBE / Quite a platform you chose, you shoulda kept it inside/ Oh you tried it, it’s so childish calling my name on the world stage/ You need to act your age and not your girl’s age” – and finally breaks his silence about the beef with Cash Money Records in “Star67” – “Walk up in my label like, where the check though?/ Yeah I said it, wouldn’t dap you with the left ho.” This brings up an interesting question: Does this “mixtape” fulfill Drake’s four-album contract with Cash Money? That would explain why it was up on iTunes for sale, as opposed to the usual Internet upload that mixtapes recieve. With both Drake and Wayne on the outs, this could be the death of the famous hip-hop label.
If this tape was a goodbye, it’s a hell of a good one. We get the Drake that goes off in bangers like “Know Yourself” and “6 God,” but also the introspective, moody-broody Drake – my favorite Drake – in songs like “Now and Forever” and “Jungle.” We get a bunch of millennial references no one will understand in 10 years but that still really resonate right now – “Call your ass an Uber, I got somewhere to be.” We get Drake talking about his mom because he can’t not talk about his mom. “I can’t be out here being vulnerable, momma” is the most Drake lyric I’ve ever heard. We get an abnormally long mixtape that feels short, which makes it easy to listen to on repeat.
But we also get a mixtape that might be trying a little too hard to be hard. Drake has always been acutely conscious of his position in the rap world. But all these shots at other rappers? Or the gunshot features on “Energy” and “Know Yourself?” Like, come on Drake, we know you’ve never shot a gun in your life. Or on “Energy,” he raps over and over again about how he’s got enemies, like a lot of enemies. We get it, Drake, people don’t like you! It feels inauthentic at points. Drake wants so terribly to prove himself, and he says just that in “6PM in New York” – “I wanna prove that I’m number one over all these niggas.”
Still, something has changed with the rapper. He even notes in “6PM,” “‘Best I Ever Had’ seems like a decade ago.” IYRTITL marks a transition for Drake’s sound, attitude and, potentially, even his label. He’s completely confident doing whatever he wants now, like dropping a whole mixtape unannounced. He knew we were all thirsty during this dry period before the release of his actual anticipated album Views From the Six, so he gave us a taste of what’s to come later this year.
And I don’t regret leaving that party to listen.