RATE THANK ME LATER:
I have so many thoughts rushing to the forefront of my mind regarding Drake’s latest album, Thank Me Later, that I worry that the vitriol I feel for this record will overtake my review. So I’ll start by saying that I think this album has a few redeeming qualities hidden amongst dreadful tendencies. Some of the songs are catchy, occasionally Drake spins a clever turn of phrase instead of an oddly juxtaposed reference, and the sour taste in my mouth is nearly as much a product of the universal acclaim for this album as it is due to the album itself. That being said, I do not like this album. I do not like this album at all.
The amount of privilege implicit in Drake’s persona and verses is simply staggering. Within the scope of hip hop – a genre historically focused on escaping desperate youth – Drake is Richie Rich. He’s a spoiled brat using his newfound rap fame to spout the most useless verse ever, full of complaints and emo whines. Drake has literally NOTHING of substance to say. After listening to this album a few times through, I legitimately feel like a less interesting person.
“This is really one of my dumbest flows ever,” raps Drake on “Unforgettable.” Got that right, but not in the way you mean, Drizzy. This entire album is full of dumb verses. And not only is it vacuous, it’s self-important and self-pitying. It takes the worst parts of Kanye West’s arrogance and mixes them with a full dose of lovesick teenager, coming off like a child trying to tell the truth while simultaneously crossing his fingers behind his back. Oh, poor you. The girl you want to marry moved away because she can’t handle how famous you are? Are you sure it’s not because you’re “telling every girl she’s the one for you”?
From sitcom star to rap star, Drake has lived a charmed life. “I know way too many people here right now that I didn’t know last year, who the fuck are y’all?” he asks. Sure, some of those people may be the freeloaders to which the song wordlessly refers. But others are your chauffeurs and those G4 pilots you know on a first-name basis, Drizzy. Keep that in mind.
Gone are the days of “I just want to be successful,” and “I want this shit forever, man”. Replacing those do-or-die emotions of last year, we get “I’m 23 with a money tree/growing more too, I just planted 100 seeds” and “I wish I wasn’t famous.” What? Kinda quick for a role reversal, no?
To compound problems, Thank Me Later finds Drake rapping over boring tracks that sound like they were made in GarageBand and played through computer speakers – synthy pads and minimalistic tinny beats that sound phoned in rather than sparse and airy. While these beats might showcase stronger flows nicely, Drake just sounds lethargic.
The album’s guest stars interact with these lackluster beats in different ways, turning an all-star team of support into a motley crew of mixed-bag backups. Jay-Z allows himself to get bogged down in Drake’s slog; he ends up sounding weak and unimportant. Lil Wayne chews up Drake’s beats and spits them out, sounding positively ferocious in comparison despite verses that clearly don’t showcase Weezy at his best. Young Money’s rising female star Nicki Minaj sounds like Lady Drake, parroting his own lines – “which bitch you know made a million off a mixtape?” Um, Drake?
Drake is not, inherently, a bad rapper. Thank Me Later though, at its core, is a bad album. The signs were there early, when “Over” dropped and a dozen rappers remade it, killing the beat in a way that Drake could only dream of. But still we attached these hopes to this untested Canadian. Drake somehow became the savior of rap, and music journalists were quick to hop on his wagon, lauding this album for its emotional core and self-aware lyrics. Stop it. We’re looking at a shit-colored painting and calling it “earthy.”
Yes, critics, we haven’t heard this sort of lyrical content before. There’s a reason for that; if youngster B.o.B. turned this album in, he would be universally derided. If veterans OutKast made this, they would be blown off as washed up and out of touch. Let’s not be afraid to call a spade a spade, despite huge predictions regarding album sales and the future of popular rap. Thank Me Later is a disappointment, through and through. I know we’re in this nouveau stoner rap era, but if Kid Cudi’s barely present album and this latest Drake record are any indication of the state of hip hop, I’m packing my bags and leaving. This is drizzy drivel. Words by Chris Barth.
40 — [Rating Scale]
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