If Your Reading This Its Too Late seemingly came out of nowhere. As everyone was just settling down from Kanye’s fashion spectacle, or still drooling over Kendrick’s brutal new single, the 6 God had a plan of his own. As the Cash Money empire seems destined to fall, a solitary Drake has returned to where it all started, slowly scheming away. And it seems the frosty 6 has had an effect on Drake. There are no radio singles, no club anthems for the ladies. Its not even clear whether this is an album or mixtape, but there is an ominous feeling that he is only just getting started. As he states "Please do not speak to me like I'm that Drake from four years ago, I'm at a higher place."
Drake cements this feeling of self-certainty on the opening track “Legend.” Over a soulful sample he boasts “ Oh my god, oh my god, if I die I’m a Legend,” and you would be hard pressed to find any reason to disagree with this statement. Starting with a victory lap as an opening track shows where Drake is right now. But before this celebration can even truly begin, the unforgiving storm comes rolling in on “Energy”. The rupture of gunshots come bursting through and menacing piano keys begin to build up, just before an onslaught aimed at pretty much everyone. Certainly on his worst behavior he proclaims “I got rap niggas that I gotta act like I like, But my actin’ days are over, fuck them niggas for life”. Then he goes after the timewasters, “I got bitches askin’ me about the code for the WiFi, so they can talk about they timeline, And show me pictures of they friends, Just to tell me they ain’t really friends.” No one is safe, including his label. “Brand new Beretta, can't wait to let it go. Walk up in my label like, where the cheque though? “ There is no exception for anyone except him and his team from the 6. “Know Yourself” is the culmination of this us-or-them ethos. Through this dark and restless approach an anthem has emerged, an anthem of running with your woes. One that isn’t radio or club friendly, but one that is only for you and the ones you love.
Returning home has proved that Drake has nothing left to prove, as the king of his own city, IYRTITL works as a brutal exercise of a man looking down from the lectern. The hooks are shortened, the singing is to a minimum and frequent collaborators Boi-1da and Noah “40” Shebib serve up a series of cutthroat beats for Drake to let loose. The most technically impressive song comes in the form of “6 Man.” Over futile synths Drake’s flow seems to be in perpetual motion as he confesses “I’m here to fuck with niggas souls, my heart is cold, It's prolly cause I'm from the snow, with all my woes.” It’s hard to keep up and its evident he feels untouchable. However at the top it can be cold, and a certain sense of paranoia is present throughout the whole of IYRTITL. Drake is wary of what success also brings. He goes after nearly everybody from Tyga to Childish Gambino. It never becomes boring to listen to, but feels like it has been done to an extent. Songs such as “Used To” and “6 God” feel a little worn out. Luckily there are breaks from the howling winds of his hometown. Calling on fellow OVO member Partynextdoor we are taken to Miami on the sultry “Preach.” Although we find a friendlier Drake, the minimalistic approach is still there. We revisit more girl problems on “Star67” and “Company” yet they feel so much more claustrophobic than previous quarrels. Everything feels a lot more industrial and sparse, which causes for a more painful tale of remorse. We find Drake back in the 6 at the top of his game, but being home always brings back the past.
IYRTITL can be viewed as a reaction to many current events. Whether it’s a direct move to leave Young Money records, a warning shot to Kanye and Kendrick or to fill time till his upcoming album Views From The 6. But all these reasons don’t mean anything. He did this for himself. Without an album release in over a year he is still seen as the biggest rapper alive, and he is more aware of this than anyone. Receding back to where he started shows the momentous progression he has made. He could conquer the whole world, but what matters most to Drake is that he remains the king of the 6.
Words: Jacob Roy