Drake released his unannounced new album, "If You're Reading This It's Too Late," on the day before Valentine's Day.
It has since sold 495,000 units, broken Spotify streaming records, and gotten positive reviews out of critics.
Despite that success, the album's unusual release and the ongoing weirdness surrounding Drake's relationship with his label Cash Money Records has led many to question whether this album was released with an ulterior motive.
In short, the theory going around is Drake really released this album to fulfill his final contractual obligation to Cash Money, and the real new Drake album is coming from his own label later this year.
1. While a new Drake album has been rumored since last summer, no one expected this album — an unannounced collection of new but familiar-feeling material with no singles, no promotion, and a title that's different than the rumored album's reported working title, "Views From The 6."
Most blogs reflexively called it a "mixtape" at first, even though it's for sale on iTunes. Pitchfork called it a "project."
But it is, technically, an album released by Cash Money.
While we don't know the exact specifics of Drake's deal with the label, we know that Lil Wayne agreed to a four-album contract when he re-signed with the company in 2012.
Drake signed with Young Money (a subsidiary of Cash Money that's run by Lil Wayne) in 2009. If his deal is structured the same way Wayne's is then "If You're Reading This It's Too Late" will be his fourth and final album with the label.
2. The album itself seems to specifically reference his impending departure from Cash Money, and even takes shots at the label.
The song "Now & Forever" is a Drake breakup song, but it's not about leaving a girlfriend, it's about going out on his own to reach a new level of success. The second verse:
It's over, yeah it over, yeah I'm leaving, I'm gone
I've been doing this wrong, I've been here for too long
Yeah I'm leaving, I'm leaving, you know I got my reasons
Yeah I'm leaving, I'm leaving, I'm leaving, I'm gone
I don't wanna miss the boat, I don't wanna sit in coach
I don't wanna sit at home, I gotta get where I'm going
I'm afraid I' mma die before I get where I'm going
I know I'mma be alone
I know I'm out on my own
I just gotta hit the road
I just gotta know the road
I just gotta hit a road
I just gotta know the road
I just gotta know the road
Drake posted a long, sprawling list of people on his website that he wanted to thank after the album was released. That list, as many have pointed out, didn't include Cash Money or the label's patriarch Birdman. He thanks every player on the Toronto Raptors individually, but not the label that put out his album:
Beyond that, the album is full of anti-Cash Money asides.
On "6PM In New York" Drake fires some shots at the rapper Tyga, a Cash Money artist. Tyga recently had to deny allegations that he was dating Kylie Jenner, a 17-year-old Kardashian sister. Drake raps:
I heard a lil lil homie talking reckless in Vibe
That's quite a platform you chose, you shoulda kept it inside
Oh you tried
It's so childish calling my name on the world stage
You need to act your age and not your girl's age
Tyga responded in a tweet that he later deleted. It read: "@drake u still a b****. All that sneak dissing is weak. Just pull up. You know where I live and u know my address. U been ducking the fade from Brown."
3. Right now Lil Wayne is going through an ugly legal dispute with Cash Money. He's suing the label for $51 million. Among the allegations listed in the lawsuit is a claim that Cash Money hasn't provided a proper accounting of Drake's album sales since early 2012, and hasn't paid Young Money its share of revenue from Drake's recordings.
Wayne is the only Cash Money artist featured on "If You're Reading This It's Too Late." The two recently went on tour together, and appear to be on the same side of the Cash Money civil war.
On "Star67" Drake raps about checks that never came:
Brand new Beretta, can't wait to let it go
Walk up in my label like, where the check though?
4. Drake has his own record label, OVO Sound. It stands to reason that he wants to keep his material in house going forward.
For all the technical mastery on "If You're Reading This It's Too Late," it's fair to say the album is of a piece with his previous Cash Money-released material. Most of this album wouldn't be out of place on "Nothing Was The Same" (most of which wouldn't be out of place on "Take Care"). It's Drake doing Drake, which adds to the impression that this is a collection of leftovers — brilliant leftovers, mind you — that were cobbled together into something that looks like an album, but is really more of a mixtape.
The album feels like a swan song for Cash Money-era Drake rather than something new.
If the theory is true, it's ultimately a smart move. Drake is so talented, and has built up such goodwill that he can put out a collection of songs that have been sitting on his MacBook for a year, not promote it, not tour behind it, and it will still sell 500,000 units in a week and not hurt his reputation as one of the best rappers alive. In the process he finishes his Cash Money deal, and gets to launch his new new Drake album on his own terms.
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