Review: Drake – “Thank Me Later”

From Illmatic and Doggystyle to Get Rich or Die Trying and College Dropout, the classic debut has become somewhat of a prerequisite for a new artist aspiring for greatness. While there are certainly exceptions, the majority of hip hop’s premier acts made sterling first impressions. As if crafting a timeless LP wasn’t challenging enough, Toronto’s own 23 year-old wunderkind Drake, has a whole other set of standards to live up to. While what Nas, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent and Kanye West accomplished was unquestionably extraordinary, none of them did it with a critically acclaimed mixtape, two Grammy nominations, a year of Billboard chart domination and all of the pressures that come with these accolades weighing on them. With appearances and production from the highest echelon of rap and r&b stars in tow, Drake attempts to meet the expectations that tower over him with his official debut album, Thank Me Later.

The album begins with the warm ivories of the Alicia Keys-featured “Fireworks.” Though somber for an introduction, “Fireworks” picks up right where So Far Gone’s “The Calm” left off, with a snapshot of Drake’s current mindset. “Money just changed everything. I wonder how life without it would go/ from the concrete, who knew that a flower would grow/looking down from the top and its crowded below/ my 15 minutes started and hour ago.” Proclaims a clear-headed Drizzy. His signature introspective musings continue on album stand-out “The Resistance,” where he details his troubles maintaining relationships with people who he doesn’t see as frequently as he once did and whom he promised he would ‘never change.’

While in-house producer 40 is responsible for several of the album’s highlights, the trunk-rattling double-time drums of the Kanye West-produced “Show Me a Good Time” is a welcome departure from the album’s peaceful and reflective beginnings; as is the variation of Drake’s delivery, which can become a little monotonous on other offerings. As the album progresses, Heartbreak Drake goes toe-to-toe with musical titans including Jay-Z, T.I., Young Jeezy, The Dream and of course Lil’ Wayne. While most artists run the risk of losing their identity on such a feature-heavy project, Drake not only holds his own but is in most cases the driving force behind these collaborations, forcing the featured artist to adapt to his sound, a theme carried over from So Far Gone.

The album is not without its flaws, but finding them requires a keen ear. Sure Swizz Beatz’ chorus on “Fancy” is a little bit annoying, Timbaland’s production on “Thank Me Now” is somewhat underwhelming and the straightforward r&b offerings don’t quite stack up to those on So Far Gone,but despite these minor hiccups there are no true ‘lows’ to be found on Thank Me Later.

Unlike many debut albums from potential future legends, this is not listeners’ first time hearing a full-length collection of songs from Drizzy. This subtracts from the surprise factor and handicaps Drake somewhat as people are already familiar with his signature sound. It is impossible to listen to Thank Me Later without comparing it to Drake’s genre-altering 2009 mixtape So Far Gone. But Drake knows that and rather then competing against his brilliant achievements he chooses to expand on them by creating the perfect companion LP. Thanks.

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