CD Review: Drake, “Thank Me Later”

Drake’s full-length debut has already been dismissed by occasional Popdose correspondent and full-time idiot Jeff Vrabel, on the grounds that Drake’s lyrical outlook — which more or less boils down to “I have achieved unexpected financial success, but I miss my ex-girlfriend and I’m kind of ambivalent about this whole ‘fame’ thing” — is unoriginal. But until every third MC stops busting out of the gate bragging about his bling and his six-foot bulletproof dick, albums like Thank Me Later represent a step away from the norm, and they’re cause for celebration.

Plus, it’s got some good beats, which you can dance to. And when you can’t dance to it, Thank Me Later is genuinely introspective, starting with its mesmerizing, Alicia Keys-assisted opening track, “Fireworks.” It’s one of several songs that find Drake using a sparse, slow beat as a backdrop, either for contemplative rapping or Auto-Tune-assisted vocals; the overall effect lies somewhere between Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreak and Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon: The End of Day, only with sharper pop hooks. It is, to cop an old phrase, hip-hop smoothed out on the R&B tip with a pop feel appeal to it.

And that’s a good thing, in case you were wondering. Thank Me Later is kind of a weird listening experience — for the most part, neither Drake’s lines nor the songs’ melodies beat you over the head, and the catchiest songs tend to be the most irritating (especially the Swizz Beatz and T.I. collaboration “Fancy”) — but it’s a pleasurable one, the kind of record that’s enjoyable the first time you hear it, but continues seeping into your brain gradually the more you listen. Drake’s musical shtick isn’t as unique as it would have been a couple of years ago, and it’d be easy to dismiss him for loitering in a trail forged by artists like Kid Cudi (or, I guess, make fun of him for his stint on Degrassi: The Next Generation), but don’t be so quick — in the slow rehabilitation of mainstream hip-hop, Thank Me Later acts as one of a few critical bridges (along with, for example, K’naan’s Troubadour) between the easily accessible and the truly creative. For better or worse, it’s still refreshing to hear a major-label hip-hop record that doesn’t glorify fame and riches for their own sake, and deals with relationships and commitment on adult, honest terms — and works as a piece of radio-ready product in the bargain. A few more albums like this, and we could be looking at a new renaissance for the genre.

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  • http://www.popdose.com Michael Parr

    I can't believe that you quoted Bell Biv DeVoe. I haven't listened to this record yet, but I'm looking forward to it.

  • http://jeffvrabel.com jvrabel7

    Oh for the love of God, Sheila, this thing is a glorious money-dripping snoozefest, I was asleep by track 4. So to double-check, the melodies aren't memorable, and the catchy songs are irritating? Drake = a handful of killer singles, some crazy mixtapes, got a shit ton of money and burned out. Let me know when the renaissance happens.

  • http://www.popdose.com jefito

    You're always asleep by the fourth track!

  • http://bitcheslovesmileyfaces.blogspot.com/ LanceGoodthrust

    Thank Me Later is horrible in every way imaginable. For the amount of time spent on it, it feels like it was phoned in. Drake continues to dick ride Lil Wayne by biting his style with songs riddled with pointless auto tune and garbage R&B hooks.

  • http://www.popdose.com jefito

    Goddammit, Vrabel, you know how I hate it when you sign in here under a pseudonym.

  • http://bitcheslovesmileyfaces.blogspot.com/ LanceGoodthrust

    I'm not Vrabel, you must have me confused with someone else Sir.

  • http://www.popdose.com jefito

    Stop lying, Vrabel.

  • http://bitcheslovesmileyfaces.blogspot.com/ LanceGoodthrust

    No need to lie fella.