Devil’s Advocate (10/10)
“If I die, all I know is I’m a muthaf***ing legend” says Drake within the first thirty seconds of his 69-minute, fourth retail release, “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late.” Judging from Drake’s current domination of the present-day rap game, this statement isn’t that far from the truth, if not a total understatement.
Given absolutely zero promotional assistance through interviews, social media or advertising, “If You’re Reading This” hit the iTunes store on Friday, Feb 13, and within the first 10 days sold 624,000 copies in the US alone. Two weeks after its release, all 17 tracks off the album placed in the top 50 R&B/Hip-Hop songs chart (add that on to the four other songs Drake’s featured in, and that’s about 42 percent of the chart’s total). Then, on March 7, Drake officially matched the Beatles’ previously unbroken record set 51 years ago, charting 14 songs simultaneously on the “Billboard” Hot 100. And, according to the rapper himself, this was only supposed to be a free mixtape.
So it’s been established that Drake has the popularity to be considered as a living legend. But the more important question to ask at this point is if the music itself lives up to the expectations? The simple answer is, yes.
One of the quintessential vibes on “If You’re Reading This” is the nonchalant attitude Drake takes while dishing out hit after hit — I mean, the guy released the album on a whim. In other words, Drake exudes absolute confidence and charisma, both of which were absent from his previous works and helped lead to their combined letdowns. From his rapping to his singing to his production — the whole project seems so effortlessly seamless.
With the opener, “Legend,” the smooth, echoing beat tentatively draws you in as Drake begins to sing, and when the tension builds to a climax, the deep, punchy drums lumber in and the static-like, Taser-sounding high hats resuscitate life back into the track much like a defibrillator. By extension of the whole album, it’s almost like Drake is shocking the life back into the rap game.
On the second song, “Energy,” Drake raps in great detail about all the people and “enemies” in his life draining him of his “energy.” Callously, Drake lyrically destroys each, one by one, with the finesse of a seasoned duck hunter blasting away clay pigeons. Drake’s enthusiasm for the carnage is so great he even jumps back in at the end with a final verse claiming he “ain’t finished yet,” like a WWE fighter throwing a knockout punch after the ref has blown the whistle.
Battle trumpets loop feverishly on the track “6 God,” accompanied with the thudding bass drum, lending a sturdy platform to Drake when he rips through bar after bar, targeted at everybody and nobody at the same time. Drake shows off some clever wordplay as well with the line, “Rolling swishers, hittin’ swishes / Got me feelin’ like a ball hog / I don’t pass ‘em when I get it.” Drake’s message has never been clearer: in this game, it’s everybody versus him, and he’s winning.
Drake’s emotional side also makes an appearance in the album on the track, “You and the 6,” when he has a “conversation” with his mom. Here, Drake indeed opens up and shows a softer side of himself, but he also displays some of his newfound confidence. Drake raps, “I pull the knife out my back and cut they throat with it, mama,” conjuring a powerful image of Drake fending for himself in a world where everyone else is out to get him. It really does seem like Drake will forever remain the most hated and most loved — but I guess greatness naturally spawns jealousy.
In recent times Kanye West has come to refer to himself as “Yeezus.” Eminem has claimed the title of “Rap God.” Kendrick Lamar has stolen the East Coast crown and proclaimed himself “The King of New York.” And now, Drake has declared himself the “6 God.” So who should be most feared out of these modern-day rap monoliths? Well, as Drake puts it, in reference to the lyrics found on his album, “hearing the scripture with that many sixes / you should be afraid” — and rightfully so.