During the hype surrounding NBA All Star weekend in New York City, the Toronto Raptors’ celebrity ambassador, Drake, decided to drop a mixtape.

“If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” is supposedly a collection of “throw away tracks” that Drake has compiled onto one project. Drake’s success has come with a lot of controversy amongst his own peers. He has had Twitter/music feuds with Pusha T, Tyga and Common while getting into actual physical altercations with the likes of Chris Brown and Diddy.

Drake to many, epitomizes what hip hop has become–for better or worse.  His style is mimicked amongst most of his contemporaries and newbies, while all the while he still seems to fight for respect.

Some say Drake is “too soft” and it seems all of that talk seems to be working his nerves.  On his last album “Nothing Was the Same,” Drake dealt with his trademark “relationship songs” but there was a real undertone in which he reveals his frustrations of being in the shadows of other rappers and having to deal with “haters” who he feels are not on his level.

It seems on “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late,” Drake revisits that undertone.

On the opening track, “Legend,” Drake proclaims on the hook “Oh my God, oh my God, if I die, I’m a legend.”  This pretty much sets the tone going forward as Drake uses a lazy-like flow on the track, in which he seems more surprised than anyone when his flow lands on the beat correctly.  “Energy” sounds like (and is) a slower version of Drake’s hit song “0-100.”

Just like it’s predecessor, “Energy” is a stripped down beat relying on Drake’s catchy flow and quick wit to carry the record.  “Energy” lacks the over-all feel of “0-100,” but still manages to get the job done with lines like: “I got two mortgages, thirty million in total / I got n*gg*s that’re still tryin’ f*ck me over/ I got rap n*gg@s that I gotta act like I like / But my actin’ days are over, f*ck them n*gg@s for life.”

Drake has strayed away from his lover’s lament and pillow-talk type of songs and has seemingly focused on just spitting bars.  On “Madonna” he pretty much tells girls he comes across that he can make them a star by being seen with him.  He pays tribute to Toronto by referring it to the “6” in annoying fashion on the tracks “6 God,” “6 Man” and “You and the 6.”  Not to be left off this list are the tracks 6PM in New York and “Star 67.”

It’s not clever, it’s confusing – especially when these tracks show no distinction from each other.

“6 God” is Drake going after his non-believers and continuously does so with his smart-aleck approach: “I got one girl, and she my girl, and nobody else can hit it / she’ll admit it, she’ll admit it / she ain’t f*ckin’ with you n*gg@s / And just like every single other thing in my life / You can have her when I’m finished.”  The “girl” in these bars can easily mean his spot in the rap game.  Drake comes off really ingenious when representing “the 6″ though and his tough guy talk is just forced, uncomfortably repetitive and unrealistic: “Phone call back home, sh*t is hot up in the 6 boy / sh*t hot up in the 6 right now sh*t hot up in the 6 boy / sh*t is hot up in the 6 right now / come see us and get it fixed boy.”

“6 Man” finds Drake getting lyrically exhausted and with a very pre-school flow, the song like most of this album is a task to get through: “Young but I’m gettin’ every single motherf*ckin thing I’m owed / You gotta know / I’m here to f*ck with n*gg@s souls, my heart is cold / It’s prolly cause I’m from the snow, with all my woes / I know they wanna see me go, I’m on a roll. . .” That seriously sounds like something a six year old would’ve written.

Drake does have his moments where the artist in him and the truth he does represent comes about.  “You and The 6″ is a track which finds Drake talking to his mother over the phone about his trials and tribulations.  Drake has an issue that one noticed from his last album and it continues on to this one:  He says he doesn’t care about what people say about him, yet this is all he wants to talk about.

“You and the 6″ is Drake’s way of telling his mother and his hometown that he can overcome the hate thrown in his direction because they helped to mold him into a being that can take it: “I got no friends in this momma, I don’t pretend with this momma / I’m no joke with this momma / I’ll pull the knife out my back and cut they throats with it momma. . . I just. . . I can’t be out here being vulnerable momma / I mean I kill ‘em everytime they do a song with me momma / I sing a hook, they sing along with me momma / What more they want from me momma!?”

Drake could be talking about his strained relationship with his label, he could be talking about other rappers he’s worked with – bottom line is, Drake seems like a lonely man out here in the rap game.

One thing is for sure, he made no shorts of who he was going at on “6PM in New York.” He went at former Cash Money Records label-mate Tyga: “I heard lil’ homie talking reckless in Vibe / That’s quite a platform you chose, you shoulda kept it inside / oh you tried / It’s so childish calling my name on the world stage / you need to act your age and not your girl’s age.” 

The girl in reference is Tyga’s rumored 17-year-old girlfriend, Kylie Jenner.

Drake’s potential is evident.  He can be clever, he can be melodic even.  His tone at times is a bit drowsy and his choice of beats is down-right boring.  He needs to understand if he is going to be different, people will judge him and call him out–it’s hip hop.

It’s built on being challenged by your peers.  How you perceive and handle the challenge helps you grow, but right now Drake’s artistic growth seems stunted.

Rating 4.5 out of 10

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

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