Drake is a remarkable actor. Not for his stint on the emotive teen-soap “Degrassi,” mind you. In a now-iconic interview with a Miami radio station, Lebanese porn actress Mia Khalifa subtly hinted that rap’s resident simp lord slid into her Instagram direct messages with a reckless thirst and a “cringeworthy” half-naked selfie.
“If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late,” Drake’s surprise mixtape drop, is his greatest melodramatic affair — his way of screwing around with everyone’s preconceptions of the Canadian rap icon as a whiny, solipsistic sentimentalist. For a star whose career is mired in the theatrics — the man’s magnum opus is a Kendrick Lamar-featuring, nine-minute drunk-call tribute to soul icon Marvin Gaye — that’s saying a lot.
Rather than the heart-on-sleeve tenderness that has encapsulated his career thus far, Drake is committed exclusively to deifying himself — the hook to opener “Legend,” aptly enough, is him half-crooning, half-stunting: “If I die, I’m a legend.” The self-proclaimed “6 God” is rejecting ladies left and right as if he didn’t just get swerved by the porn star du jour, munching on pasta in exclusive nightclubs like he’s in the Mafia, even talking smack about fellow Young Money cohort Tyga’s scandalous relations with Kylie Jenner. At one point, the dude raps about his $30 million mortgage — he knows his life is sweeter than yours, and he knows you’re going to shell out $13 for him to wax poetic about it.
Yet, as self-assured as Drizzy is throughout his latest project, it’s clear that the 6 God is, well, acting. The sheer amount of belief suspension required to plow through what may as well be an hour-long soliloquy-rap is enormous — not once does Drake convey an iota of the heartfelt sincerity that has become his calling card.
Musically, it’s a low-key affair with no standout single, which makes sense — “If You’re Reading This…” is a mere stopgap for his much-hyped follow-up to his stellar “Nothing Was the Same.” The mixtape is filled with the same lush, hard-hitting gauziness that has trademarked his works. Yet its unrelenting somberness and aversion to mass appeal is disconcertingly appropriate — it’s not meant for Top 40 mass consumption.
On the atmospheric, private-caller anthem “Star67,” he proclaims, “Text from a centerfold / I ain’t reply — let ‘em know I read it though.” Mr. Graham is all too familiar with the disrepute surrounding him, and it simultaneously feeds into his ego and self-deprecation. “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” is a love letter to himself and a “fuck you” to everyone doubting his reign as the 6 God – even to Mia Khalifa.