BY PANNY ANTONIOU

So Drake did a Beyonce. That is, he released a surprise collection of songs – although he claims that they are not an album – but a mixtape. A mixtape in hip-hop is generally regarded as a short collection of free songs released for self-promotion by the artist. At almost seventy minutes long, however, IYRTITL blurred the lines between albums and mixtapes, creating its own category.

So what did this new mixtape-album have to offer? Would it be more of the same Drake presented in his 2013 release ‘Nothing Was the Same’ which established him as one of the best new rappers in the game? Or would it be more similar to ‘Take Care’ released in 2011 which was focussed far more on Drake’s singing than his rapping? With a fourth studio album in production, the mixtape seems like an unnecessary addition to Drake’s discography. Many felt that IYRTITL would detract from his efforts on the widely-anticipated album, ‘Views From The 6’ which has not even got a release date yet. Many argued that this was, in fact, Birdman – the CEO of YMCMB, Drake’s label – who was conspicuously absent in the list of people thanked for the album. Others have commented that the release was all part of a ruse to run down his contract with the label due to the royalty disputes which the label are having with many Young Money artists over payment such as Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj.

This was, however, a very well thought out mixtape. Drake was lyrically very good and addressed a wide variety of topics in the mixtape. This is due to him having far more breathing room in a mixtape which is not for commercial sale rather than an album which allowed him to express his opinions and views. From speaking about his disputes with his label in ‘Star67’ where he raps "Brand new Beretta, can't wait to let it go/Walk up in my label like, 'Where the check, though?'" to ‘Energy’ where his main problem seems to be paying his two mortgages! Overall the album has a brooding feel with dark undertones. Producer Noah “40” Shebib – a long-time friend and collaborator of Drake was instrumental in many of the pieces; helping dictate the feel of the album, giving it a distinctive sound and making use of a wide variety of techniques to enhance the instrumentals.

Drake has also gained a reputation for being very emotional in his music; especially in comparison to most rappers who do not express how they feel about love etc. as much as he does. However, there was little of this in IYRTITL a notable exception being ‘You & the 6’ which is an earnest conversation with his mother where he thanks her for raising him and pleads with her to forgive his father. In addition, the mixtape also contains a number of barbs which are aimed at other rappers. Most notably his line aimed at Tyga where he tells him to act his age rather than his “girl’s age” in reference to the seventeen year old Kylie Jenner. In addition, he also directs some of his lines towards his friend-cum-rival Kendrick Lamar "They gon’ say your name on them airwaves/ They gonn hit you after like it’s only rap".

Overall, it is a good offering, confident and composed as you’d expect from Drake and, although it did not hit the lofty heights of ‘Nothing Was The Same’, it is nonetheless a decent showing by the Canadian rapper. Noah “40” Shebib’s production was also some of his best, exemplifying why he is one of the most sought after producers in rap at the moment. His distinctive sound permeates the whole album and the brooding, melancholy beats take it to the next dimension.

Lyrics: 3/5 Not Drake’s best but nonetheless very good with nothing really wrong.

Production: 5/5 Noah “40” Shebib has excelled himself and created excellent instrumentals, perfect for Drake’s silky vocals.

Flow: 3/5 Again, not Drake’s best, flow was good if not spectacular but overall, no real problems.

Overall: 3.5/5 Not a bad offering ahead of an upcoming studio album and you can tell that Drake is growing more and more confident on his place in the music industry as time progresses.