Drake: Thank Me Later
Prefix: What's even more remarkable, in an age when young rappers see their debuts watered down to something unrecognizable (B.o.B) or killed by their major-label handlers (Wale), Aubrey Drake Graham's debut, Thank Me Later, arrives with the same hard-to-copy style as his 450,000 copy-selling EP, So Far Gone. This is an album full of goose feather-soft synths, sung-rapped vocals and songs about being hated with more Top 10-ready singles per square inch than any rap album in recent memory. It may have all the rap debut signifiers -- features from Lil Wayne, Young Jeezy, The-Dream and Jay-Z, production from Timbaland, Swizz Beatz and Kanye -- but instead of those guys imposing their will on Drake, it's the other way around. For all its faults, Thank Me Later is at least unique to Drake's vision, something you can't say about many hip-hop albums any more.
USA Today: Luckily, the 23-year-old rapper has the dexterity to back up his boasts, and enough wit and grace to mitigate his whinier and more callous musings. Over is as artful an account of the elation and confusion that accompany fame as you'll hear, with Drake rhyming exuberantly, then lowering his voice to a grainy drone for the chorus: "What am I doin'? Oh yeah, that's right/I'm doin' me."
The perils of romance are, predictably, addressed; if Karaoke and Fancy share a sexist slant, Drake sounds downright tender on the sinuous Shut It Down, featuring The Dream. He also sings fluidly on the catchy Find Your Love, and proves a worthy partner for Jay-Z, who dazzles as a father figure on Light Up.
Entertainment Weekly: Fame's downside is a frequent topic for Drake, the Degrassi actor-turned-hip-hop heartthrob, who spends half of his debut Thank Me Later rapping about the anxieties and disappointments that have come with his success. The rest of the time he croons in the seductive monotone that made him so popular in the first place.
Spin: A reformed backpack rapper with enough brains to move beyond regressive '90s-worship, Drake unspools his usually clever witticisms over airy, wide-open production (Boi-1da, 40, Kanye West, many others) that's more suggestive of contemporary R&B: "Toodles to you bitches / And if you dolled up, I got the voodoo for you bitches," he quips atop the menacing strings of "Up All Night." The abundance of spacey synths and clattering, reverbed percussion makes Thank Me Later feel like ideal cruising music for a ramshackle UFO, but it also incorporates dynamics like few other hip-hop albums before it. Drums disappear, phasers distort everything, and Drake comes in crooning about one stripper or another.
Thank Me Later is out now via Universal Motown.
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