At the turn of 2010, Drake was living a pretty good life. He had kissed his Degrassi: The Next Generation career goodbye and switched to music, and he was proving to actually be decent at it. He’d dropped a few mixtapes and they had done so well that they’d caught the attention of Lil Wayne, who then signed the upcomer to his Young Money Entertainment label. Oh, and he was sort of, kind of, dating Rihanna.
But in a way, that was the problem. Or at least that’s what Drake made us believe. Like an older brother in college trying to downplay his oh-so-grown-up achievements by sighing “you guys, making out with Rihanna isn’t all that great.” But for Drake, battling his newfound success was a real struggle. His debut album Thank Me Later became a love letter to his problems with fame and it not only satisfied the extreme anticipation but answered a lot of burning questions.
Opening with the monologue ‘Fireworks ft. Alicia Keys,’ Drake gets right into it. He dedicates his first verse to the rap game, spouting doubts that his success will drive a wedge between his and Lil Wayne’s friendship. Then he’s dipping into the whole Rihanna saga (one that still continues to this day), admitting that he read way more into the situation than she did and kicking himself for falling too hard. The third and final verse hits the hardest though, with straight-up honesty on his parents and dealing with their divorce. “How many of our parent’s marriages lasted? I was only 5, I bet I barely reacted,” he spits over a simple beat before Alicia Keys harmonises the song to a close.
And that’s about as melancholic as he gets. In the typical Drake way we’ve all come to love, he feels the woes of having a stable relationship as he rises to stardom on ‘Karaoke’ and wishes he wasn’t famous so he could get the girl he thought was the one on ‘Cece’s Interlude.’ ‘Find Your Love ft. Kanye West’ sees him admitting his worst trait: falling for the wrong girls, and ‘Miss Me ft. Lil Wayne,’ and ‘Shut It Down ft. The-Dream’ share elements of pining after a girl while navigating fame.
But just like we can see through the cracks of an older brother’s faux doom and gloom, we know not everything in Drake’s life is bad. And he knows it too. “I’m 23 with a money tree,” he spits on ‘The Resistance.’ “Growing more too, I just planted a hundred seeds.” He drools over rich women on ‘Fancy’ and celebrates his success with Jay Z on ‘Light Up.’ As much as he claims to hate fame, Drake can’t be mad that it’s drawn to him. He promises he’s only just getting started on ‘Over,’ almost laughing with the line “I’m living life right now, man. And this what I’ma do ’til it’s over, ’til it’s over. But it’s far from over.” And on ‘Unforgettable,’ he casually compares himself to the R&B greats.
From start to finish, Thank Me Later is quite the ride. We see many emotions and thoughts from Drake during the hour-long narrative and feel as though we’ve gotten to know the star as personal as a friend. Listening back, it’s ironic that the most Drake was struggling with his fame was at the very beginning of his career. Who would’ve thought it was all about to get much crazier? Well, we guess Drake did. “It’s about time you admit it, who you kidding? Man nobody’s ever done it like I did it.”