#10. Drake: IF You're Reading This It's Too Late
Back in February of 2015, tensions were high between Drake and his record label, YMCMB. As an effort to expedite the fulfillment of his contract and part ways with the label, Drake decided to take what was originally just a mixtape and put it out as his fourth studio album. The result was the surprise release of If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late.
With the motivations behind the album’s release arguably more political than artistic, it could easily have been nothing more than a placeholder until Drake’s anticipated Views From the 6 was finally released. Instead, it quickly became one of the top selling albums of the entire year. Within a matter of days it had set the Spotify record for most first-week streams. By March the entire album was on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Let that sink in for a minute. To reiterate, that’s the songs chart, not the albums chart. Every single track from the album was simultaneously one of the top 50 r&b/hip-hop songs in the country.
All these statistics prove one thing: Drake is a hit maker. And he knows it, too. On IYRTITL Drake cranks his signature wallowing down to record lows, opting for a consistently aggressive style of rapping. Meanwhile the braggadocio is turned up to 11 right from the start, as he croons, “if I die, I’m a legend” over repurposed Ginuwine samples on the album’s opening track. It’s one of the few cheerful beats on an album full of misty minor-key instrumentals. Drake has too much to say here to be battling intricate backing tracks for the spotlight. The album instead favors moody textures that remain mostly static under the constant flow of lyrics.
Drake might be the most fun rapper to quote, and on IYRTITL he plays to his strengths. “Running through the 6 with my woes!” was arguably the most quotable lyric of the year. It’s hard to play the album without at least one person in the room impulsively rapping along with it. “Hittin swishes got me feelin like a ball hog,” he raps on “6 God,” and with a musical batting average this high, it’s hard to blame him. When Drake begins to release multi-volume greatest hits collections, every single track here will most likely make the cut.