By Ethan Hamilton
Five years ago, Drake had enough. He was enjoying the success of his latest album Nothing Was the Same but felt that he wasn’t being garnered the same respect as the other great MC’s in the rap game. So he released his surprise mixtape If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late and changed the rap game forever.
Before I.Y.R.T.I.T.L. came out, Drake was viewed as “soft” compared to his other peers like Kendrick Lamar and J.Cole. This in part, had to do with Drake’s music appealing more to women and R&B ears than others.
However, this didn’t stop Drake from being one of the biggest artists in the world. Although, it did slowly eat away at him that he wasn’t spoken in the same vein as lyrical rappers.
Throughout the album, he goes at the heads of anyone in the rap game who’s had something to say about him. From Diddy on “0 to 100/The Catch Up” and their scuffle at a nightclub to disgruntled label mate, Tyga who dissed him in a magazine article.
The 17 track mixtape was released at Drizzy’s apex as a rapper. On the rap side, he starts the album off with a chest bounder in “Legend”, but this track was more of a teaser for the old Drake.
In “Energy” he really gets his swagger off. With quotable lines such as “I got enemies, got a lot of enemies/Got a lot of people tryna drain me of my energy/They tryna take the wave from a n****/ F*****’ with the kid and pray for your n****.”
The tone is something that we’ve never heard from Drizzy up until that point. In many ways, it shows the bottled-up feelings he had. The song sets the tone for the rest of the project, and quite frankly, Drake for the next couple of years.
On first listen, the sonics of the album wasn’t well appreciated by the general public. They weren’t used to trap being in the mainstream. On this album, Drake became an early adopter of the trap sound amongst the mainstream rappers.
Previously, he has opted to rap over soulful and traditional boom-bap sounds and hasn’t been experimental, but he took a risk and it paid off with time. He teamed up with producers such as Boi-1da, PARTYNEXTDOOR, WondaGurl, Sevn Thomas, and Frank Dukes to create that sound.
This sound allowed Drake to be as raw and unfiltered as he wanted to so that his raps on this project would come off as genuine.
Examples of Drake championing the trap sound are sprinkled throughout the project with “Legend”, “Energy”, “10 Bands”, and “Know Yourself”.He even got an early feature from Travis Scott in “Company”.
My favorite song of the album is “Jungle”. “Jungle”is Drake’s best R&B song and that’s difficult to say because he has such an extensive catalog of R&B. When it came out it initially didn’t get the praise that I felt like it deserved up until now.
“Jungle”is an ode to a girl back in the Jungle who Drake struggles to stay connected to as his fame grows. In this case, the Jungle means the chaos and atmosphere surrounding his world. He perfectly encapsulates the dilemma that people with fame deal with when they love someone who doesn’t hold the same stature.
Over the next couple of years, Drake would be at his peak with regards to selling records and stature in the rap game. He became the Drake that rapped with street codes to show that he wasn’t “soft” and demanded respect.
He became more fearless in the selection of music he experiments with such as Reggaeton, Afrobeats, and British Drill music. The Drake we now know wouldn’t be here without 2015, and by the time the rest of rap knew what he was up to it was too late.
Featured image by KTSW Multimedia Department.