Actor turned rapper Drake’s first album proper sees the Toronto native flitting between champagne egotism and introspective self-doubt in a way that can only be described as post-Kanye. Taking West’s ‘808’s and Heartbreak’ as a blueprint, Drake adds his own spin on things looking at life from the view of a young buck climbing the ladder of success as opposed to one already at the top looking out. The results are positive with Drake standing head and shoulders above the competition, and establishing ‘Thank Me Later’ as one of the debut albums of the year.
The firepower around Drake is as enviable as it is prestigious. Alicia Keys joins him on album opener ‘Fireworks’, a track that gossip hounds will tell you is about the time Drake got caught in a romantic episode with Rihanna. “What happened between us that night it always seems to trouble me” he spits, clearly confused at the fact he got played when, as he is so keen to tell us throughout, he is usually the player. Keys lifts the track with a chorus that, whilst not quite ‘Empire Of The State’ level, is one that she can line alongside ‘Fallin’ and ‘No One’ as one of the best.
The stars come and go with Nikki Minaj massively impressing on the chrome swagger of ‘Up All Night’ only tempered by The Dreams cameo on ‘Shut It Down’, a song that sees Drake doing smooth but coming off a bit desperate. As is so often the way however it is when Drake flies solo that he truly soars. With his ability to sing his own choruses there is an extra string to Thank Me Later’s bow that gives it a unique feel as well as a pop twist to the hip-hop formula that doesn’t rely on drafting in a motley crew of pop names du jour. This fact in complete crystal clear form is ‘Over’, Drake’s calling card and one of the most solid gold hits of the year. The flow is unstoppable, the chorus blockbuster, production untouchable - it’s very unlikely anyone will get near to being as good as this for a long time.
‘Thank Me Later’ is the sound of a star in ascension. This album will propel Drake to super stardom, he might be a big name on the underground right now but it won’t be long before he takes up residence in casual hip-hop fans collections either. Lil’ Wayne and Jay-Z make late appearances on this record but what is most telling is that their voices don’t feel like big names giving a young buck a leg up but more like professional equals matching each other all the way. Something gives us the feeling that it won’t be long until the next generation of super stars are looking to Drake for the same influence he has taken from his peers.