In both form and content, Thank Me Later is the most important record, that you can actually feel the importance of as you listen to it, I’ve heard to in a long, long time. For example, Drake interrupts “Fancy”, a smart but not incredibly adventurous sound-alike Swizz banger with a second half slow jam. In that song, and in many that have come before it, he has spoken to his female fan base not just with his singing voice but with his words. He is a writer more concerned with Hip Hop’s much maligned fairer sex than any I’ve ever encountered. More than a “Black Girl Lost” here and there, he is an intelligent a curious writer when delving into the subject of the women he occasionally objectifies, a regular theme in his work.
But Drake’s most fascinating when discussing himself, his fears and his desires. In many ways, what appeared as Drake’s Achilles heel on his way into the game serves as his saving grace, what separates him from the legions of emo rappers discussing the limelight that came before him and will come after. Due to his child stardom, as he so eloquently puts it, his 15 minutes were up an hour ago. Fame and recognition is nothing new and his world weariness doesn’t feel put on, it makes it possible for his first album to be a jaded examination of celebrity.
On “Cece’s Interlude”, a song that could easily fly under the radar given the huge set pieces that compose this extremely premeditated, tight album with no fat, Drake delivers his best piece of writing, a crystallization of what he accomplishes on many levels using many different approaches throughout TML. In it, he’s trying to woo a young woman. Much of the text is their dialogue. Drake appears to be at his sloppiest, coming outright and saying stupid shit like “I wish I wasn’t famous” and he wishes he was living the life of an average 23 year old, in college, capable of a normal relationship and the listener cringes. At last a painful, obvious misstep on an album showing such otherworldly polish and finesse.
But then the object of his discourse laughs at him, chides him for wanting what he can’t have, and in doing so reminds us that Drake is in fact only 23. He will come out his face and spew some open-nose dumb shit, and what’s more, he’s aware of his tendency to do this. Of course he wants to be famous, but this doesn’t mean he doesn’t struggle with his increasingly ubiquitous fame, that his life isn’t still filled with the ambitions and problems and desires we all contend with. He’s still restless, still unhappy, but for what? And why? This is an album that provides no answers, but is one of the most trenchant, and enjoyable explorations of the question that Hip Hop has ever seen. Thank you.