WIRTB Review: Drake's Thank Me Later

By @SpeedontheBeat

Now, let it be known that I am a Drake fan. I hold Take Care to be one of the best 2010s albums and Drake's magnum opus. I have spoken about the Gospel of Aubrey since I first discovered his music via the Room for Improvement mixtape (and, you know, his early Save-a-Ho theatrics on Degrassi, as seen below). I think that So Far Gone is an important mixtape, not even because of the way it changed the mixtape/album game, but because of the shift the tape presented and represented.

But, when 2010's Thank Me Later came about, I was a bit confused.

I got the album because, as I said, I'm a Drake fan and I support artists I fuck with. When I started to play it, though, I'll be honest. I didn't really feel it like that. Something about the album just felt...let's say "empty." And, when compared to Drake's later efforts, it seems that there are pockets of folks (read: not critics, but fans and listeners) who share similar sentiments. But, six years after its release (and on the heels of Views still being a mammoth-ass thing), was Drake's Thank Me Later really that "bad" (I'm talking "bad meaning 'bad," not "bad meaning 'good,'" by the way)? 

First, let's talk production. Boi-1da and 40 helmed most of the production on this project. Their smoky, minimalist drums mixed with their penchant for smokier melodies (except when, you know, turning the fuck up was needed), it created a dope space for Drake to speak his mind. Timbaland produced the (kind of) title track, "Thank Me Now." This track was, weirdly, the outro for the project. Sonically, it was, kind of, your typical late '00s, early '10s Timbaland type of production. In other words, it wasn't anything crazily amazing, but it wasn't something that'd make you look at Timbo like "bruh...have you lost it?" It was a solid beat.

Additionally, Kanye and Swizz Beatz, when they dropped in, gave us some decent production. For instance, "Fancy" still gets parties hopped up to this day. However, there's one beat on this project that I've always been torn about. 

"Show Me a Good Time." 

This is a beat that featured work from 'Ye, No I.D., and Jeff Bhasker. Three geniuses on one track. Drake could've done a helluva lot worse for his major debut, right? Well, kind of. As genius as these three are, the beat falls flat. The end result of Kanye, No I.D., and Bhasker collaborating was an overproduced, Chipmunked sample-meets-OVO-Lite beat. It felt like someone ripped a "Drake OVO Kanye J. Cole" beat from Soundcloud and spruced it up a little tiny bit for mass consumption. On top of that, it's like 'Ye, No I.D., and Bhasker just all produced their vision of the beat, mixed 'em together with little-to-no fucks given about if they really meshed, and said to Drake "trust me" like Jake "The Snake" Roberts right before Damien reared his head and cobra struck him.

So, production-wise, to sum up my feelings, the OVO team delivered some dope tracks ("Miss Me," "Over," and "Light Up" are examples of this). Meanwhile, the outside production, it went back and forth between "this is solid" and "eh....they probably should've took some more time to iron these out. Out of ten, I'd give the production on this one a solid 7. 1da and 40 were still fine-tuning the...OVO Sound (had to). But it works. And, again, the outside production meandered a bit.

Lyrically, however, the album goes off the rails at some points. I'm sure it's because Drake, at 23, 24 years old, was still trying to find his sound. I mean, the guy dropped So Far Gone and that was fire. He probably was like "oh, can I strike lightning in a bottle twice," decided to, lyrically, cover similar topics as SFG, and hoped for the best. His flows were on point, but his lyrics fell flat in terms of connecting, with me at least. When we got songs like "9AM in Dallas," I said "alright, Drake's not fucking around" and it made me remember, like, Room for Improvement Drake. He was still hungry, still wasn't satisfied with just being the guy who dropped SFG and changed the game.

But then we got tracks like "Light Up," where a half-assed Jay Z verse cooked more than Drake spitting his soul. We got payback for that three years later via "Pound Cake," but in 2010? Drake got cooked on "Light Up." With lines like "I've got these new rappers nervous, prom night, nigga" and "I wrote it for your girlfriends, Kelsey Grammar" versus Jay's intro bars of "Oww, hoes turn they heads like owls, I'm the man of the hour/Triple entendre, don't even ask me how," it's plain to see this was more of a "Thank you Jay for getting on this track with me" moment instead of what it could've/should've been: a legit passing of the torch where Drake eats the track, and Jay, alive. Like, the song wasn't bad, and Drake wasn't completely just assing out on his bars. But...Drake should've and could've came harder on this one.

Same thing goes for "Miss Me." Drake, once again, gets borderline ate on his own song by an "I'm out of my cages now" verse from Lil' Wayne. On top of that, the "All Night Long" demo version trumped the album version because of a fire Bun verse. 

When I heard the "All Night Long" version, I was pissed. Bun's verse was crazy and it just felt natural. However, the song, with Bun's verse would've clocked in at over six minutes. So, I understood the reasoning. But, back to Drake versus Wayne on this one. Drake doesn't slouch, but he gets outmatched by Wayne--just like he does with Jay. Heck, the only time Drake trumps his co-star(s) on the album probably has to be "Fancy." Nicki's verse on "Up All Night" bangs, Jeezy's verse on "Unforgettable" bangs, and so on. Drake held his own on all the guest spots, but he lyrically gets smacked around a bit on most of them. 

Because of this, I've gotta give Drake, like, a 5.5 on the lyrical, straight spitting side of things. He's dope solo and his bars are nice and introspective. However, he gets smacked around too much by guest spots on his major debut and he feels more like "I'm very happy to be here"...

 ...versus "nigga, lemme actually 'Do Right And Kill Everything' like my name stands for."

Content-wise, the bars are, as I said, pretty introspective, even when they feel like rehashed themes from SFG. Drake's always been solid in that regard. But, again, the content just feels a bit reused from SFG, so I've got to give him a 6 here as well on his lyrical content. It's some real shit, but it's real shit that we got from previous efforts, causing it to feel, as some people have said, like he's just "navel-gazing" and whatnot on these bars. 

Furthermore, on the content side, let's talk some positives, since it may seem like I'm completely shitting on this project (I'm not). I liked "Find Your Love" because it wasn't exactly SFG Drake contemplation about womenfolk (hell, it feels a bit like it could've been on Views). Additionally, it explored some different feelings and sounds. I liked "9AM in Dallas" because, flow-wise, Drake straight got that one and lyrically, he snapped. While he kind of got waxed on "Miss Me," I liked the fact that he was kind of just like "fuck it, I'm gonna just speak my mind about sexy women, including Nicki Minaj." On "Over," he, again, kind of snapped. So, content-wise, you can do a lot worse than TML. But, when you see what Drake's capable of, you can do a lot better.

Overall, the album, to put it bluntly, is Drake's worst project. Again, I'm a Drake fan and I respect the fuck out of the OVO movement. Hell, like I said, I even write for Boi-1da.com. But, Thank Me Later is Drake's worst album. I'm sorry that I'm not sorry for saying that. "But, why, Speed? Why is it bad," you ask? 

Well, where do I conclude? For starters, it's a rehash of a lot of SFG elements that were done better on SFG. Secondly, the guest spots overtake our main star and, first album or not, that's something that shouldn't happen as much as it does here. When it comes to the beats, the production is cool...except for just about everything that isn't OVO. Most of the non-1da/40 beats, they sound kind of rushed and/or out-of-place. 

After this album dropped, I kind of feel that Drake realized these fallacies about TML. I feel he went back to the drawing board, linked up with The Weeknd, Kendrick, Just Blaze, 40 and 1da and so on, and fucked around and dropped Take Care in 2011 to atone for TML. I feel like Drake, with Take Care, was saying something like "hey guys, I know I borderline fucked around with Thank Me Later. It...just wasn't my best. So, here's me, on all cylinders, for real this time. If you're not fucking with this one, you're stupid and you should eat a dick and die slow."

In summary, you can check it out...but you'll thank me later if you avoid this one like the plague. Drake wasn't on point on Thank Me Later like he was with So Far Gone and Take Care. And now, let me go beg 1da to not cut me from the team.


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