Drake's stealth album may surprise you: EW grade is...
The fervor surrounding new Drake material has been at a pretty steady fever pitch since the 28-year-old superstar dropped his Grammy-nominated jam ”0 to 100/The Catch Up” last summer. But outside of a few lyrical clues and sporadic tracks on SoundCloud, little was known about his next move—and when If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late arrived unannounced on Feb. 13, it didn’t exactly provide clarity: Drake refers to the 17 tracks here as a ”tape,” even though it’ll cost you $12.99 on iTunes; it features almost no high-profile guests, and contains no obvious hits.
But Late is hardly a throwaway. In fact, it might be his most consistently rewarding full-length yet. The world-conquering Canadian’s best songs have always been the singles, whether it be the sweet emotional seduction of 2010’s ”Find Your Love” or the chest-thumping bravado of 2013’s ”Started From the Bottom.” But outside of the big smashes, the balance of his previous releases tended to add up to less than the sum of their parts. With no clear bangers on the landscape, Late feels more like the platonic ideal of a Drake album: a woozy, wordy stream-of-consciousness whose stylistic shifts are subtle on a molecular level. He sounds as loose as he ever has been, coasting from amusingly specific complaints about women (on ”Energy,” he mocks girls who ask for his Wi-Fi password) to an extended impassioned monologue directed at his mother (on the standout ”You & the 6”). Rumor has it that Drake is trying to follow Lil Wayne out the door of their troubled record label. Judging by the bracingly unpredictable Late, though, he’s already liberated. B+
No Tellin’: An after-hours tough-guy boast
You & the 6: A sweet soliloquy dedicated to Mama Drake
If You're Reading This It's Too Late