Like many hip hop fans, I’ve had Drake’s debut album, Thank Me Later, on almost constant rotation over the past month. I’m still not 100% sure what makes the album so infectious, but it’s managed to hold my interest far better than any other release over the past six months.
I think a large part of it is due to the work of his producer, Noah “40” Shebib. 40 has helped to create a unique sound for Drake, one that sets him apart from the rest of the hip hop field today. It’s as distinct as what RZA did for Wu-Tang and DJ Premier for Gang Starr; there’s really no one else on the scene who uses comparable beats. It’s a mix of atmospheric synths (“Shut It Down”), chopped string runs (“Thank Me Now”), bass-heavy toms (“Light Up”), and even some glitchy electronica elements (“Show Me a Good Time”), all overlaid with Drake’s nasal, auto-tuned sneer.
Some credit also has to be given to Boi-1da, the producer of Drake’s #1 single, “Over.” It’s the same guy who did “Best I Ever Had,” that ubiquitous hit from last summer. He's got an amazing talent for incorporating schmaltzy 70s funk pop orchestral arrangements into his beats, and he does it better than even Kanye. The plucky bass and whining violins of the chorus pull away from the snappy hand claps and piercing snare of the verses to make a beautifully evolving collage of contrasts under Drake’s vicious flow on the album. There’s not much that hasn’t already been said by other reviewers about Drake’s rhymes on this LP; his introspection and reflection on his sudden fame are a fascinating turn on the common tropes of hip hop. But other than that, there isn’t a lot of compelling content in what he’s saying. The real artistry is in the music on this album. It makes Thank Me Later an album in the truest sense of the word, one that can be listened to from beginning to end. Drake might be good, but on this effort, it’s the producers we should thank.
Juan Carlos' Grade: A-