Drake

If You're Reading This It's Too Late Mixtape

(Self-released; 2015)

By Chet Betz | 24 February 2015

If you’re reading this, then it’s really too late. What Drake means by the title of his new mixtape If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late is that if you’re reading that title it’s too late because you are not the writer of that title. You do not exist, reader. Only Drake exists. I mean, of course, that’s not true. But it is, kinda. Because Drake’s music—selfie music, I call it—is about not giving a fuck about anyone or anything else around you. We participate in this music, this cultural experience that is listening to Drake and sorta sharing that we are listening to Drake (but, you know, there are no real discussions there, only “You hear that new Drake? So did I. I have an opinion on it. Do you? It doesn’t matter. I like when he goes, ‘Woo.’”), and we’re just some islands in Drake’s stream of consciousness, a Cartesian tweet. Not full self-consciousness, mind you, or at least not in any way that manifests itself outside of its own insecurity, like these mirages of people and haters and not-Drakes are ghouls that leer out from the darkness and so Drake has to defend himself, even still. We, the phantasmagoria of not-Drake, we don’t understand Drake’s struggle, man, couldn’t hope to understand with our middle-class Muggle shit. And so Drake’s LOLs at us trill across the canyon that yawns between his feet and ours. His smug smirks, typed-only laughter, somehow echo into auto-tuned oblivion; we revel at the texture of the sound.

As Drizzy tells us on the tape in a recounting of his 99 problems, he’s got two mortgages totaling 30 mil. Oh, man, poor Drake. Poor, poor, rich Drake. He states in countless ways and innumerable times on If You’re Reading This… that, yes, he’s successful. In fact, Drake measures existence in success (remember “How Bout Now”? Or when, as a guest on Big Sean’s “Blessings,” he says in very un-guest-like fashion, “I am convinced I am the only one left”?). The more he succeeds because of us, because of our support, because of the fact that we care enough to listen to everything he drops and read titles too late and then reviews too late, this makes Drake more real in relation to us. We wane as he waxes. We dim as he shines brighter. He’s the “Legend,” we’re the Legend’s listeners. I mean, make no mistake, he’s still scared shitless of us and continues to try to prove to us how real he is and how fake we are, but this is our relationship. It’s fucked but it’s all we—that is, us and Drake—have. So we trap-snap along with that indelible hook to “Know Yourself,” nodding and affirming emphatically that we know “how that shit go.” But we’re really only talking about our own shit, not Drake’s shit, and never the twain shall meet. And in our separate rooms, separate lives, separate worlds, we take a selfie. Drake takes a selfie. He’s eating gold-flaked filet. We’re eating mac ‘n cheese. He’s sipping on Cristal and slathering truffle butter on his lobster rolls. We’re sipping on Natty and, shit, who ate all the pretzels…but sweet Mother Mary, that beat, right? That sick beat on “Know Yourself.” Between that and Kendrick’s “The Blacker the Berry,” I’m about ready to declare Boi-1da a national treasure. And he’s from Canada. And I’m not.

Sorry, back to you, Drake. For, after all, there is only you. I didn’t mean to get distracted by your collective of on-point producers once again making your music, like, good. Of course, even they are subservient to your vision, fractions of your wholeness, your most excellent Drakeness. And it is true that Drake is very excellent at being Drake—the best at it, even. So when Boi-1da or Noah “40” Shebib make something to sound good for Drake, Drake validates their efforts by making it sound good with him, through him, on it; no one can put that Drake stamp on made-for-Drake beats better than he can, and the nature of the beat is the nature of the beast, and the Beast is Drake, driven by animal/commercial instinct, apathetically emo, pathetically blank, the way he stares at you from out of his selfie and you think, “He might be smart, he might be clever, intuitive and bright…but his eyes are a bit too far apart and I think he’s looking at the wall behind me. Or the girls around me. Or the alcohol inside me. Or the money beyond me. Or the not-Drake that’s not me but that’s all he can see. Or the truffle butter.”

Drake’s performance, his drama, his feelings—it is a redefinition of stage presence. It is Drake creating a stage out of his presence. It is Drake, one-man theater, method acting out his rapping about a purely materialist, 100%-self-absorbed identity. It is the world according to Drake, and the world is Drake. He’s telling us stories, and all these stories are his story, and his story is incessantly, inexorably lame. But it sounds really fucking good. “Star 67” swishes around on your headphones like the heavens having an orgy with an 808 and a bottle of lean.

It would be easy to say that this is enough. That this is more than we deserve. That in a society that holds aloft mediocrity as the gold standard because life is about trying just hard enough to live well, in ode to insularity and selfishness parading about as humanism, in exaltation of lifestyle, that is, like, “Lifestyle” (see: Rich Gang)…that in this now that we call our current reality, it is a grace and a boon that we get an unexpected hot new tape that all of us will listen to and it, verily, it will sound good and, verily again, Drake will sound good on it, even as he chops his flow into ingratiating piecemeal and pseudo-raps his definition of Drake going hard. Nonetheless, it is mightily pleasing unto the ear, and it will be our rap mixtape Star Wars for the never-ending moment. I would not begrudge anyone for finding some measure of blessed comfort in this empty populism, this halfway escape from the nothingness of not being Drake.

But, for me, it is not enough. It really is too late. And the Weezy cameo is an atrocity. It sounds like Drake imagining what Wayne would rap. And maybe that’s what it is. Maybe life is but Drake’s dream. Who am I to say any different? I mean, I’m not Drake.