Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Album Review: Drake - Thank Me Later
My Three Favorite Tracks: "Light Up", "Fireworks", "Over"
What does it mean to keep it real? In hip-hop keeping it real has often meant keeping your eye to the streets or “the game” from which you come from - to display a reality to many who know nothing of the sort.
Drake redefines what it means to keep it real. On his debut album Thank Me Later the Canadian actor turned rap phenom doesn’t rap about the streets, clubbing, or thug life. He raps about emotion and proves that a rapper doesn’t have to be hard all the time to keep it real. Like his famed mixtape So Far Gone, he’s vulnerable, meditative, and honest. He shifts hip-hop from the streets to modern introspection for everyone to hear and even relate to. A concept first explored in 2008 by Kanye West’s 808’s and Heartbreak, and later followed by Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon, Drake consistently displays the ability to make you feel something.
Part of what separates Drake from others is, despite his subsistent fame, his style makes him touchable. In contrast, listen to Jay-Z or his mentor, Lil’ Wayne. They’re lyrics, style, and personas make them untouchable and difficult to relate to. Drake speaks to most. He’s afraid, still seeks fame, and is humbled by it. He hurts, feels, and reflects in a refreshing way that’s further enhanced by his solid, nasally tone and tight flow.
The album’s first single, “Over” hits you with a surprising hook that speaks to young people wanting to live the life and be successful. It’s a triumphant opening single, solidifying his ascendance to hip-hop celebrity status. The second single, “Find Your Love” is closer to the rest of the album, which is a distant, misty fog full of harmonious tones and wavy synthesizers, and a trance of 808 drums. Even up-tempo tracks “Fancy”, “Unforgettable”, and “Miss Me” fade into a foggy coda.
The subdued Drake shines as it is in those moments when we are invited into the depths of Drake’s mind and flow. Few artists are able to display such a sense of restraint while giving you so much. Drake consistently takes strong chances with long verses, shocking beats, unique jerky hooks, and personal lyrics. His trademark variations in vocal levels create a different feel to every verse, which is something rarely heard. Songs like “Fireworks” and “Shut It Down” linger but their melodic tones capture you like an arresting symphony.
Thank Me Later features cameos from heavy-hitters Alicia Keys, T.I., Swizz Beats, The Dream, Young Jeezy, Nicki Minaj, and Jay-Z. However, the only truly memorable verse was delivered by Jay-Z on “Light Up”. Drake succeeds in not being outdone on his own album.
Many will call Drake’s debut average partially due to its hype, but upon a further look, Thank Me Later is complete - meant to be heard from start to finish. It has no wasted tracks and each song complements the other. It reads like a story book, ending with “Thank Me Now” – a triumphant, boastful finale with an infectious beat. Drake pulls off being himself and telling his stories. They’re stories better than most our own. They’re stories that make keeping it real realer than you knew it could get.