With a surprise social media release and an extremely polarized reception, the cleverly named 17-track mixtape “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” is the latest production from Toronto’s very own Jewish-Canadian rap/pop icon Drake.
Though “If You’re Reading This…” debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, it only deserves three out of five stars. As the title and lyrics suggest, the mixtape was quickly crafted in response to a contract clause that required Drake to release one more album before leaving Cash Money Records.
The set is certainly carried by its production, which features excellent trap-inspired snares and synths alongside atmospheric, echoing backgrounds. There’s no doubt that some great songwriting is on display here. Yet when taken as a whole, Drake’s new opus fails to deliver.
The trouble with “If You’re Reading This…” is the evident lack of gifted wordplay and vivid imagery. The album has not one song that goes into depth about a specific issue on the 28-year-old rapper’s mind, but is instead scattered with talk of having a cold heart due to the snow in Canada, dying a legend and mashing a foot down on a Mercedes-Benz gas pedal.
Drake goes “running through the six with [his] woes” (cruising through Toronto with his crew) on the nationwide hit “Know Yourself,” where his chorus is catchy and his vocal flow follows the drum tempo perfectly.
Yet, when he announces that he is “young but making millions to work the night shift” on “6 Man,” the song falls flat because it lacks a specific subject—and has the rhetorical creativity of a calculus textbook.
“Company,” featuring Travis Scott, boasts a promising opera-driven interlude, but is ultimately ruined by its dull content and one particularly egregious punchline, probably penned by a fifth grader: “she workin’ with the spatula, I know she love flippin’ s***.”
Drake’s well-known discussion of females, their issues and his own issues with them does not feature in his latest production. That would seem fine for those fed up with Drake’s infamous shifts, from falling in love with strippers in Houston to sipping wine with a classy young woman at a penthouse in New York.
In fairness, there’s a lot to be said for Drake’s soothing, melodic voice, and the sound techies who try to make it shine. But in sum, “If You’re Reading This…” is like a stale cookie with just a few chocolate chips.