No introduction needed for this one, as adoring fans and awaiting haters have anticipated the release of Thank Me Later since the DeGrassi graduate took music by storm a year ago. With the success of “Over” and a new leak with a new Hip-Hop A-lister every week for months, the foundation’s been laid for Drake to seize Hip-Hop’s spotlight.
And seize it he does. Thank Me Later is pure platinum pop, 15 tracks of masterful songcraft with only a few hiccups. Rarely does a transition lag and or a sample sound out of place. Drake excels as a versatile performer capable of creating soothing melodies such as those on the sublime “Karaoke,” while remaining street enough to trade rhymes with rough around the edges Young Money cohorts. The album’s greatest strength is its balance—Drake never drifts too far into one style, ensuring the album maintains its universal appeal throughout.
Equally as impressive are his hooks—his Auto-Tuned wailing on “Miss Me,” or “The Resistance” upgrade good tracks to great and stay in your head long after you’ve plucked out your headphones. This same quality makes him a master collaborator, allowing his superiorly talented lyrical peers to upstage him on verses without relinquishing ownership of the track. In this environment, his guests turn in virtuoso performances. Young Jeezy provides a welcome dose of thug motivation on the night-riding anthem “Unforgettable.” Weezy makes an appearance in between court dates to bless “Miss Me” with an appropriately alien flow. And Hov stops by to prove he still holds the crown with his ridiculous “triple entendre” spot on “Light Up.”
Drake also benefits from near-perfect production—no doubt many rappers shivered with envy when they hear the consistent dopeness of these beats. Timbaland returns the favor for “Say Something” with a furious array of synths that punctuate Drake’s cocky-n-confident finale on “Thank Me Now.” Kanye West doesn’t hold back with the infectious dancehall symphony “Find Your Love” as well. Another standout is the Cupid Valentino-influenced “Shut it Down.” The seven minute serenade, complete with multiple movements and soaring harmonies between The-Dream and Drake is one of the best R&B tracks of the past few years. Break out the satin sheets.
But production can only carry you so far. The flaws of Thank Me Later lie in the shallowness of Drake’s lyrics and the project altogether. Thus, the thematic core of the first few tracks’ claustrophobic introspection quickly fragments into safe, formulaic singles bait. One minute he’s disparaging the trappings of fame on “The Resistance,” while the next he’s bragging about living the party life on the ridiculous Kanye-produced jam “Show Me a Good Time”, where what can best be described as a hyena’s yelp transitions into a beautiful collage of keys and drums. But his shapeshifting nature as a performer allows him to pull off both moods rather seamlessly.
Of course, these weak spots won’t stop Thank Me Later from becoming the first mega hit of this ripe, young decade. Under the shine of the spotlight, with plenty of pressure to deliver on the promise of So Far Gone, Drake has met and perhaps exceeded lofty expectations. Gratitude is in order.