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Hip-hop’s summer has started a bit earlier than expected. The season’s most anticipated album, Drake‘s Thank Me Later debut, leaked onto the internet last night (June 1). It’s not scheduled to officially hit stores until June 15. Several tracks had leaked in their unfinished forms over its year-long creation. But in the past week, mixed and mastered versions of tracks like the Alicia Keys-assisted “Fireworks” and his Jay-Z “Light Up” collaboration hit the blogosphere. The 23-year-old rhymer played it cool when he got word that his entire album leaked last night.

“I gave away free music for years,” he tweeted, alluding to the numerous mixtapes he made available for free download. So Far Gone, his stellar 2009 tape, was the offering that made him a favorite amongst hip-hop’s new class. “So we’re good over here,” he continued. “Just allow it to be the soundtrack to your summer and ENJOY! JUNE 15th!”

Leaks hardly benefit the artist. It’s safe to assume that his record sales will suffer a bit because many will download the album for free, opting not to buy the retail copy. But there have been some cases where it has not hurt as much. Back in 2008, Lil Wayne’s highly anticipated Tha Carter III leaked two weeks early. It went on to sell 1,000,000 copies in its first week out. So maybe people will use Drake’s debut leak as a sampler and then buy the official copy in two weeks.

Have you heard Drake’s Thank Me Later yet? Like it? Do you plan on buying it when it hits stores on June 15th? Let us know.

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

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