Thank Me Later

I am wholeheartedly surprised by how much I enjoy listening to Drake's new album, Thank Me Later. I am no fan of mainstream hip-hop. The only hip-hop groups that I can say that I actually enjoy listening to are Digable Planets, KanYe West (basically just this latest album though) and Aesop Rock. I've tried to get into other hip-hop, both mainstream and underground and it's just not resonated with me.

I remember when Drake blew up. I was surprised and amused - I remembered Drake (nee Aubrey Graham) from his long-running stint as character Jimmy on The N's imported pre-to-teen drama Degrassi: The Next Generation.

It was actually an excellent show. I would go as far as to say it was to our decade what Freaks & Geeks was for the 2000s and My So-Called Life was to the 1990s. The show used actors the same age as the characters they played, unlike, say, the OC, and dealt with hard-hitting issues (Degrassi tag line: "It Goes There").

Anyway the transition from Jimmy to Drake was interesting to me because was a very kind, sympathetic character. He had strong personality characteristics - was accepting of gay friend Marco's coming out, forgave Spinner for stealing his iPod, got back with his girlfriend (whose name escapes me now) after she went to drug rehab and turned goth even though the popular kids (one of whom he used to be) made fun of him for it. I stopped watching the show when I went to college in 2005 (no Satellite TV there) so I missed some of the later developments - Jimmy's confinement to a wheelchair, for example.

His transition to hard-ass, pussy-chasing hip-hop star Drake (see leading image above) seemed drastic to me, but it had been a few years since I'd heard from him - maybe he had been transitioning his image for a while. I liked Jimmy, though. I didn't want another hard-ass MC rapping about drugs and sluts and money. It's overplayed, you know?

So I had no interest in checking out Drake music until yesterday, when I heard the track "Fireworks," a duet with Alicia Keys (an all-time favorite) on, of all places, NPR. I only got a 30-second preview, but was so enthralled that I went home and downloaded the album immediately. And I really, really enjoy the record.

It helps that the production is excellent. I think of Drake as a mixture between Lil' Wayne, with his slow-ass, boistrous, laid-back flow, and KanYe West, with his articulate-ness, and certainly the 808s-era minimalist beats. I think Drake has taken KanYe's experiment with combining hip-hop and minimal electro to its nadir. This album is beautifully produced.

But here's the thing that hit me: the lyrics. The first three songs on Drake's record sound like R&B, not hip-hop. They are personal, emotional songs (again the KanYe reference is necessary - I think 808s freed Drake to make this record), with Drake's lightly auto-tuned singing - about death and family and fame and doubt and love! Wait, this is mainstream hip-hop?

From "Fireworks," the opening track [mp3] :
Everything the same but it feels different
My dad called me up knowing that I still listen
And he's still got his foot out, guilt trippin'
It's been years, though, I just learned to deal with it
For real, me and my realtor we built up a better rapport
Got my mother in a place with some better decor
She searched the entire city I let her explore
And now she's sayin' she more lonely than every before
How many of our parents' marriages lasted?
I was only five, I bet I barely reacted
I'm flyin' back home for the heritage classic
Searchin' for that feelin', tell me where is the magic?
Let's stay together till we're ghosts
I want to witness love, I've never seen it close
Yeah, but I guess I gotta find it first
That's why I'm really goin' off, fireworks
Damn, that's some introspective shit. Well, by hip-hop standards. Don't buy it? Here's part of "The Resistance:"
I heard they just moved my grandmother to a nursing home
And I’ll be acting like I don’t know how to work a phone
But hit redial you’ll see that I just called some chick I met at the mall
That I barely know at all and
Plus this woman that I mess with unprotected
Text us saying she wish she woulda kept it
The one I’m laying next to just looked over and read it
I couldn’t tell you where the fuck my head is
I’m holding on by a thread its like I’m high right now
The guy right now and you can tell by looking at my eyes right now
That nothing really comes as a surprise right now
Cause we having the time of our lives right now

What am I afraid of?
This is what dreams are supposed to made of
The people I don’t have time to hang with
Always look at me and say the same shit:
You promised me you would never change
There are the standard jams and "look how much money I got" jams but it seems like most of this record is chill and personal. I think the record is worth checking out. And so I don't get a C&D for hosting one widely-available mp3, I only posted it to give y'all a taste so that you would want to purchase the album with money from an online or brick-and-mortar retailer. That's what I did!

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