Think back a year; “0 to 100/The Catch Up”. The lead single from the upcoming Views from the 6 alluded to new music in spring, to which many anticipated his fourth studio album. But here we are, two weeks from spring, with a surprise ‘commercial mixtape’. Rumours of a Drake mixtape were floating since late last year, but the intense debate and press frenzy that has plagued the release have sparked more interest than the music itself. Originally planned as a free mixtape, the slowly imploding Cash Money Records intervened, and pushed for a retail release. Apparently a ‘mutual decision’, It’s Too Late should now therefore complete his 3-album contractual obligation to the label. Here lies the question; is this a clever way to offload excess tracks with the intention of leaving Cash Money? Or, simply, is this a loving gift to his fans that Cash Money are squeezing every penny from? Either way, I think Drake knows exactly what he’s doing.
Controversy aside, Drake is presently one of music’s biggest stars, and this release does nothing to suggest otherwise. It is a mixtape, so naturally, the sound isn’t quite polished, the tracks are void of killer hooks, and the record itself is overly long. However, to those who have followed Drake from the bottom, there has always been two sides to his music. Introspective, sombre, lustful Drake; arrogant, vicious, dark Drake. Though not entirely original, what separates him from his contemporaries is the precise nature in how he balances it. “0 to 100/The Catch Up” is an excellent example of how easily he can assume either entity, but It’s Too Late could be the most wholly realized ‘Drake’ we have yet seen. He’s on fire, but the beats are ice-cold.
We’ve rarely heard him voicing so many inner thoughts, evidenced on the brooding “Energy”, “I got girls in real life tryna fuck up my day / Fuck going online, that ain’t part of my day.” He’s got enough enemies in real life, he doesn’t need certain ‘distinguished’ females – see Mia Khalifa - giving him more problems. The spacey “Star67” is a highlight, containing the one notable lyric against Cash Money, “Walk up in my label like, where the check though?” Save one for his current feud with disgruntled labelmate Tyga, “You need to act your age and not your girl’s age.” This is braggadocio Drake, and he’s sounding more and more formidable.
Though a riveting listen, with little filler, it lacks the assured nature of a true Drake release, and is merely a stopgap before Views from the 6. Aside from two or three tracks, nothing here reaches the high demonstrated in last year’s “0 to 100” and “How Bout Now”. Time will tell if Views follows the more direct style of It’s Too Late and Nothing Was the Same, but as someone who deems “Marvin’s Room” his best track - and one of the decade’s best tracks - I am left hoping for an album following the path of Take Care, and more recently, “The Catch Up”, or the latter half of “Star67”. Dare I say, I miss the old Drake. But I better not tempt him.