Album Review: Drake – Thank Me Later

Drake – Thank Me Later
Young Money: 2010
Purchase on Amazon

The advent of digital media really sucked the grind out of the rap game. Any rube with a laptop can reach an audience of thousands without so much as lifting a finger. The lucky ones are millionaires before the first single is pressed. The sudden windfall of attention and publicity around new talent has made for a different kind of hip hop star, one who’s painfully aware of fame and its attendant pleasures and pitfalls out of the wrapper. Canadian former child actor turned singer Drake shot to the spotlight in the wake of So Far Gone, a mixtape almost mathematically designed to pique the interest of every listener. It had a Bun B feature and chopped and screwed beats for the Southern contingent, spitfire lyricism for the backpackers, syrupy and introspective R&B for the ladies, Peter Bjorn & John and Santogold samples for casual indie rock spectators, and Lil Wayne features aplenty for the kids. Everyone fell for it. Drake’s debut album, Thank Me Later, doesn’t venture very far from the territory charted on So Far Gone, but as far as sequels go, Thank Me Later is more Phantom Menace than Empire Strikes Back: same concept, similar cast, no soul. The earnest Don Juan veneer put forward on So Far Gone disintegrates upon closer inspection, revealing an admittedly pompous, self-absorbed lady killer with a penchant for over-sharing, womanizing, and blowing money.

Thank Me Later deals almost exclusively with Drake’s feelings about being in the spotlight. “Fireworks” is a celebration of fame. “The Resistance” is about his hesitance to accept being famous. “Over” is about the shock of sudden fame. “Unforgettable” is about, well, wanting to be unforgettable in the same way that “Successful” was about wanting to be successful. “Light Up” is about making the most of fame while it lasts. “Miss Me” is about wanting to be remembered when the fame is gone. “Cece’s Interlude” finds Drake wishing he wasn’t famous. Thank Me Later is the musical equivalent of an episode of My Super Sweet 16, haughty, shallow and deadly certain that the problems of the author are the only things that matter in the world. As a singer, Drake gets by, but he’s no Al Green. His range and tone are lacking, but he rarely oversteps his boundaries. He has a good ear for breezy, effortless melody, and his hooks often save the songs from his more annoying tendencies. His microphone skills, however, are iffy. He’ll spit bar after poignant bar, then drop a “Baby, you finer then your fine cousin” or an “I’m a star, no spangled banner.” Thank Me Later‘s stream of legendarily ill-conceived one-liners and teenage diary grade melodrama often ruin the songs. Luckily Drake’s co-conspirators keep things fresh and interesting. Producer Noah “40” Shebib is as crucial to the sound of Thank Me Later as the guy who’s face is plastered on the cover.

40’s trademark ethereal keyboards and muted drums are in no short supply here; he produces roughly half the album, and his fingerprints are all over the rest of it. The barely there swatches of ambient synth on “The Resistance” sound like somebody bumping Stars of the Lid outside the studio. “Shut It Down”, with it’s spacious, loping beat, balloons out to seven minutes, starting out strong and limping slowly into soupy ambience. Swizz Beatz tosses Drizzy a summer banger in the T.I. assisted “Fancy”, and 40 tacks on an extended coda with a warped, corroding synth that sounds like the Neptunes playing in hell. He takes Boi-1da’s trumpet fanfares on “Miss Me” and plunges them underwater mid-verse. 40’s flourishes are refreshingly unbecoming of a major label hip hop album, and they keep things buoyant whenever Drake drops the ball. The only real production misstep is “Karaoke”, produced by New York band Frances and the Lights. Where most of Thank Me Later‘s sound is a futuristic update of stately ’80s pop like Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” and Phil Collins’s “In the Air Tonight,” “Karaoke” just goes ahead and rips off Collins’s easy listening standard “One More Night” while Drake whines about a girl who left him years ago because she couldn’t handle dating the guy from Degrassi.

Thank Me Later is still a decent listen despite Drake’s glaring and myriad flaws. The guest list is ridiculous. Any album featuring guest spots from T.I., The-Dream, Jay-Z, and Lil Wayne is probably going to be worth at least a cursory listen. He coaxes great performances out of all of his guests, and his lyrical skills improve when he’s provided a little challenge. The production, supplied by 40, Boi-1da, Swizz Beatz, Timbaland, Kanye West, and No I.D. is state of the art. If you can stand Drake’s tales of dumping good girls, blowing money on cars and liquor while neglecting his father and grandmother, if you can handle his assertion that he’s a good, honest and caring guy, if one 808s and Heartbreak wasn’t enough for you, then Thank Me Later is the album for you. If not, just grab “Find Your Love”. It’s excellently produced and performed, and its arrogant but soulful desperation sums up the guy’s contradictory persona quite nicely.

★★★☆☆
3 out of 5
[audio:http://potholesinmyblog.flywheelsites.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/10-drake-light_up_feat._jay-z.mp3|titles=Drake – “Light Up f. Jay-Z)]

15 thoughts on “Album Review: Drake – Thank Me Later

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  1. Compared to Pac, (classic) Nas, and Biggie, EVERYBODY is a nobody. It’s not really fair to hold every MC to that standard. Drake’s all right at what he does, but I think the fascination/obsession the rest of the country has with him has caused a lot of hip hop heads to shovel reactionary hate on dude like it’s his fault his songs are playing everywhere you look. It’s pretty unfortunate cause the record’s got it’s moments.

  2. This album is horrible, the guy cant rhyme and is only a decent singer. Since most of the people now don’t remember how 90s hip-hop sounded they think these kind of pop rappers are actually good, when in actuality the album has shallow topics, poor rhyme schemes, and almost no thought put into it. Compared to real MCs like Nas, Tupac, or Biggie; Drake is a nobody, jst a overhyped sub-par rapper.

  3. Paul Christiansen|

    hype, expectations and whatever people like to think he means for hip hop aside, this release was boring. good review.

  4. Justin, that needs to happen.

  5. CondoleezzaRice|

    At least you didn’t bullshit like The Smoking Section (which gave this guy a 4.5/5!).

  6. I definitely look forward to an actual rapper getting ahold of these instrumentals and making a real album with ’em.

  7. Thanks a lot guys.

  8. frank_be|

    I haven’t heard the album yet. I will, I’m interested, but this review was great. The breakdown of the sound and content is quality writing. The descriptions/examples already give me a sense of what ill be getting into. Whether I like it or not is another story after listening, but big kudos on the review!

  9. This is the first review of this album I can really agree with. Exactly my thoughts on the album. Also, the album is sequenced extremely well in my opinion. And every song is decent or good. But none are outstanding by any means.

    After watching that MTV documentary about Drake and hearing this record … all I know is that he better be giving 40 a whole lot of money.

  10. The advent of wack pop-rap garbage really sucked the grind out of the rap game.

    FIXED.

  11. I’ve Got Too Much Money

    …should have been the title.

    ps, I was so bored I almost feel alseep, I will never listen to this “mall-rap” album again.

  12. A good portion of this LP is the equivalent to the hook on “Fancy”. I say that because of all the fame, money & materialism Drake discusses. It’s cool to talk about your current existence but that fancy shit gets repetitive after 2-3 songs. Tracks like “The Resistance” and “Light It Up” were great though. Good review you really highlighted some of the same impressions I had.

  13. Thanks. Now for the comment section war…

  14. David Reyneke|

    Get a room, you two.

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