Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Thank Me Later is the debut studio album of Canadian rapper Drake, released June 15, 2010 on Young Money Entertainment and Cash Money Records. Production for the album took place at various recording studios during 2009 to 2010 and was mostly produced by longtime collaborators Noah "40" Shebib and Boi-1da, and also featured contributions from Timbaland, Swizz Beatz, and Kanye West, among others. Thank Me Later features a predominantly sparse, downbeat production and contains subjective lyrics concerning themes of fame, self-examination, and love.
The album received generally positive reviews from most music critics, earning praise for Drake's introspective lyrics and receiving musical comparisons to the works of hip hop artists Kanye West and Kid Cudi. Following an anticipated release, it debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 447,000 copies in the United States in its first week. It reached platinum certification in Canada within its debut week and produced three singles that attained chart success. The album has been certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, with shipments of one million copies in the United States.
"Drake is the Vampire Weekend of rap - he ticks all the wrong boxes, especially for a milieu that privileges poverty and strife. He's a handsome 23-year-old ex-actor from an affluent background who has effortlessly achieved even greater wealth via music that utterly refuses to flaunt its street-tough credentials. More heinous still, Thank Me Later is virtually a concept album about the loneliness and lovelessness of the successful celebrity, a sort of sequel to Kanye West's 808s and Heartbreak, only more audaciously dolorous because he's only just started. In fact, as morose meditations on the miseries of fame go, it comes across like a rap version of Woody Allen's Stardust Memories or Deconstructing Harry.
Aubrey Drake Graham doesn't mean much in the UK, managing only a miserable number 123 for his first single Best I Ever Had late last year, but in the States he's both cause celebre and bête noire. He's had several chart hits while Thank Me Later - which features Alicia Keys, Jay-Z, Mary J Blige, Kanye, Timbaland and his mentor Lil Wayne - has polarised the critics to the extent that its release prompted the Village Voice to run an article entitled Why You Hate Drake, And Why You're Wrong About Hating Drake.
The reason for the extreme reactions is the relentless solipsism evidenced here - Pitchfork's reviewer counted a record number of first-person pronouns for a rap album - and the sustained mood of self-pity. "What am I afraid of? / This is supposed to be what dreams are made of," he asks on The Resistance, wondering, "Am I wrong for making light of my situation?" On Over he finds himself in a room with "way too many people... that I didn't know last year", while on Cece's Interlude he wishes he could go back to being a simple upper-middle-class undergrad: "I just want what I can't have," he sighs.
So much for the haters. Thank Me Later has been rapturously received for its edgily languid sonics. Kayne, Timbaland and Swizz Beatz contribute, but much comes courtesy of Canadians 40 and Boi-1da, who've created a striking dreamscape for Drake to wander with his nasal raps and saccharine croon. No wonder there are shout-outs to everyone from Sade to The xx and Neon Indian on the sleeve - the atmosphere of sumptuous somnolence is interrupted by unexpected drum detonations, guitar bursts and keyboard spikes. This is less chillwave than illwave; Karaoke and The Resistance are like the loveliest muzak, only tortured and twisted by Autechre." - BBC
"This debut album by Canadian rapper Drake arrives atop a tidal wave of hype. With a reported $2m record deal and endorsements from the likes of Jay-Z and Lil Wayne, the 23-year-old (born Aubrey Graham in a genteel area of Toronto) is being regarded as something of a hip-hop messiah. Drake is undoubtedly an accomplished rapper but his style, combining Jay-Z's laid-back swagger with Kanye West's rhyming patterns and Lil Wayne's drawl, is too familiar to set him apart. This is a confident start, but keep the thanks in reserve for later." -Guardian
Rolling Stone (p.76) - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "He's subtle and rueful rather than loud and lively; emotionally transparent rather than thuggy....Packing his songs with clever images and punch lines that land with a snap..."
Spin - "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."
XXL (Magazine) (pp.93-94) - "The project has a bunch of surefire hits. The Kanye West-produced 'Find Your Love' is all lo-fi drums and rich piano chords..."
Paste (magazine) - "The front end of THANK ME LATER sees Drake addressing his fame head-on with a trio of barebones, confessional songs about lost love, money, women and fame..."
Pitchfork (Website) - "[I]t's understated-yet-undeniable emotion that drives this album more than anything else."
Recording information: Avex Recording Studio, Honolulu, HI; Blast Off Studios; Blast Off Studios, New York, NY; BLD&DSTRY, Toronto, ON; Cherry Beach Studios, Toronto, ON; Gee Jam Studios, Portland, Jamaica; Glenwood Studios, Los Angeles, CA; Lexington, KY; Metalworks Studios, Toronto, ON; New Orleans, LA; Nightbird Studios, W Hollywood, CA; Roc The Mic, New York, NY; Takeover Studios, Houston, TX; The Hit Factory, Miami, FL; The Setai Hotel Recording Studio, Miami, FL; Triangle Sounds Studio, Atlanta, GA.
Photographers: Anthony Mandler; Jonathan Mannion; Philip Golebiewski.
By the time of the release of Drake's first full-length album, the Canadian rapper was already a star thanks to his huge single "Best I Ever Had," his celebrated mixtape and then EP So Far Gone, and his spots on hits by Young Money and Eminem. Thank Me Later had the tough assignment of living up to the anticipation and further Drake as an artist, and it totally lives up to the hype. Thanks to the rich and nuanced production and Drake's thoughtful, playful, and intense lyrics, Thank Me Later is a radio-friendly, chart-topping collection of singles but also a serious examination of Drake's life that holds up as an album.
Most of the record finds the young rapper (23 at the time of release) conflicted about his growing stardom and fame. Whether it's a relationship splitting up as on the melancholy "Karaoke," worries about the fame changing him ("The Resistance"), fears that so-called real hip-hop fans will find him manufactured ("Show Me a Good Time"), or the difficult nature of romance when you're a star ("Miss Me"), Drake isn't afraid to examine what the past year has done to his life. He's also not afraid to talk about how great life has become as well, dropping plenty of lines about the money, the women, and his own prowess as a rapper. His belief in his own skills is well-founded, as the list of collaborators lined up to work with him attests. T.I., Swizz Beatz, Young Jeezy, the-Dream, Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, and Drake's mentor Lil Wayne all drop by to add verses, sing hooks, and produce tracks, and their presence sometimes serves to liven things up and keep Drake away from his melancholy nature.
The T.I./Swizz Beatz track "Fancy" is a fun and sassy summer jam with a huge hook, his track with Jay-Z ("Light Up") is a fierce takedown of the Industry and the damage it can wreak, and the Nicki Minaj collabo "Up All Night" is a tough-as-nails boast that features Drake at his most insistent. Elsewhere, Lil Wayne's verse on "Miss Me" is his usual breathtaking verbal roller coaster, the-Dream's vocals on the verses of "Shut It Down" are heartbreakingly sincere, and Jeezy adds some welcome ferociousness to "Unforgettable." It's like all the guests had to bring their best game to keep up with Drake, and they didn't want the youngster to show them up. He never shows anyone up exactly (though Jay-Z's verse sounds kind of out of breath compared to Drake's), but he definitely proves that he belongs at the very top of the game. His nimble flow is impressive; his words are heartfelt, brainy, and surprising; and while his singing may not be the best, it shows a vulnerability that is rare in rap circles. Indeed, it is this willingness to be introspective and honest that makes Drake unique and helps make Thank Me Later special. It is the rare album, rap or otherwise, that follows through on the artist's potential and the fan's anticipation. ~ Tim Sendra
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