Drake: Thank Me Later (Album Review)

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Thank Me Later
Producers: Noah “40” Shebib, Al Khaliq, Boi-1da, Crada, Francis & The Lights, Jeff Bhasker, Kanye West, No I.D., Omen, Swizz Beatz, Timbaland, Tone Mason

“It’s funny how money can change everything” © Drake: “Fear”

This was what Aubrey “Drake” Graham foreshadowed; the drastic change monetary gain has on one’s art and lifestyle. For many artists, making millions of dollars is the source of a drastic change in lyrics, subject content as well as thought process. With every premature release from his highly anticipated debut, fans of Toronto’s latest superstar were ultimately conflicted, torn between his rhyming capabilities, his ability to harmonize on his own records and finally, the effect his Young Money family was hindering the vulnerability in his music that made him internationally known.

While So Far Gone was Drake’s introduction to the mainstream, Thank Me Later is his official solo debut and the red carpet is certainly rolled out for hip hop’s latest attempt at “Neo”, boasting high profile cameos from the likes of Alicia Keys, Jeezy, Jay-Z and of course, Lil’ Wayne. “Fireworks” picks up where So Far Gone left off as OVO’s in-house producer 40 crafts a somber yet epic backdrop for the album opener as the young emcee leaves his feelings on his shoulder, alluding to his fear of change in his relationship with mentor Lil’ Wayne as his success grows as well on his brief tryst with Rihanna before giving way to Alicia Keys’ creamy vocals on the chorus. Even Jay-Z stops in to trade verses with Young Angel, playing elder statesman and offering sage advice to Drake as well as grumpy old man to old comrades as he continues to toss salts into old wounds on the high-profile collaboration “Light Up”.

With numerous collaborations comes plenty of opportunity for singles that radio will eat up. Aided by an “unforgettable” Aaliyah sample, Drake crafts a drum-heavy summer anthem that, whether an official single or not, will circle the airwaves with Jeezy along for the ride as he continues his rising momentum prior to Thug Motivation 103’s summer release. Another potential single arrives in the heavy club record “Fancy”, a grandiose anthem for the ladies that is driven by the charisma of both Swizz Beatz and newly released T.I.

Despite all the collaborations, Drake does manage to find time to reflect and showcase his trademark vulnerability on solo cuts “The Resistance” and “Karaoke”. The latter, provided by Francis & The Lights (and likely the track Drake had in mind for a Sade guest appearance), features sparse breaks reminiscent of those on Kanye West’s “Robocop”. Drake uses the eerie R&B number to touch on dealing with a former lover in his past that was not fond of the glitz and glamour that the entertainment industry entails, something Drake achieved at an early age.

With Thank Me Later, Drake delivers what exactly? A heavily mainstream-aimed debut that is cohesive and balanced with equal parts rhyming and crooning. Simultaneously, he fails to live up to the nearly impossible standards placed upon his shoulders due to the success of TML’s critically acclaimed predecessor (he is also easily crippled by the poor arrangement of the tracks). Most will continue write Drake off due to his debut album not being as amazing or consistent as his famed mixtape, but frankly that matters little. He already delivered arguably a classic album as So Far Gone was a mixtape only in name. Garnering Grammy awards from mixtape records is far from the norm so why should he be expected to follow it? He will have plenty of time to garner more accolades and success as well as deliver that traditional “classic album” to the critics, so for now? To his detractors: thank him later.

3.5 mics (out of 5)

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