Thank Me Later (released June 15, 2010)
You know, I feel bad for Drake. Because there is no way that Thank Me Later can live up to its hype.
How can it? Ever since my first post on Drake a little over a year ago, with him looking like an extra from JC Penney's fall fashion catalogue, the guy has been placed on a platinum pedestal by both his industry peers and rabid fan base. His mixtape, So Far Gone, garnered rave reviews, the entire music industry threw wads of cash at him in a bid for his services, and he was featured on tracks from music's elite, including Jay-Z, Alicia Keys and Lil Wayne. With so much support behind him, coupled with his undeniable talent, Thank Me Later has to be a classic album, right?
Well, that all depends.
When it comes down to it, Thank Me Later is essentially a souped-up So Far Gone. And if you loved that album, you'll love this.
The moody, somber production of its predecessor, along with themes exploring the gift and the curse of fame, return here. Drake's at his best when yearning for lost loves on "Karaoke" and "Find Your Love" - both of which sound like offspring of mentor Kanye West's 808s & Heartbreak album. Except, unlike Kanye's mess, these songs are good.
Not one to limit himself to just R&B, Drake has no problem going for broke in the rap arena. The first single "Over" might not have been the record-breaker everyone expected but it's far from a disappointment. He tramples through the regal horns and strings like a seasoned pro. On the other end of the spectrum, Drizzy checks his ego and gets introspective on "Fireworks," easily the best track on the album. I actually prefer the unreleased version, which gives co-star Alicia Keys more time to shine.
But Drake followed the formula of his lauded mixtape so precisely that he fell into the same pitfalls. The endless stream of moody production gets REALLY old about halfway through the album, causing a lot of the songs to run together. Drake's monotone hooks certainly don't help. "Shut It Down," for example, seems to go on for an eternity. And the frequent F-bombs dropped in the hook really clash with the subject matter.
His choice of featured artists are a mixed bag too. Jay-Z drops a pretty strong verse in "Light Up" and Mary J. Blige shows up for a fun and unexpected cameo in "Fancy." But others actually hinder a few tracks. Nicki Minaj adds NOTHING to "Up All Night," spitting her usual gibberish: "F*** I look like, ho/I look like yes, you look like no" What does that even MEAN? Young Jeezy also drops a throwaway verse in ironically titled "Unforgettable," which also features a random, tacked-on Aaliyah sample for some reason.
Here's the bottom line - if you're a Drake fan and loved So Far Gone, you'll love Thank Me Later. If you were never impressed by Drake, or even if you were on the fence, this album won't change your mind.
Don't get me wrong, Thank Me Later is a solid debut. But it never had a chance of reaching its lofty expectation. Oh sure, I know it'll sell about 10 jillion copies, but for me at least, sales and hype don't make a classic album.
Best tracks: "Fireworks," "Karaoke," "Find Your Love"
3.5 stars out of 5