It's been 13 years since Drake released his debut studio album, Thank Me Later. Surprisingly enough, Drake's path to fame didn't come from music. The Toronto kid initially garnered fame as an actor, appearing as Jimmy Brooks on the show Degrassi: The Next Generation. When he wasn't acting, Drake was curating mixtapes hoping to make it into the music industry. However, it wasn't until So Far Gone that he garnered significant attention. Soon after, the mixtape's success would catch Lil Wayne's eye. The project was the big break that Drake needed to move on from acting, as he signed with Young Money Entertainment in 2009. He had suddenly gone from acting in a Canadian teen drama television series to curating hit songs with Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, and Chris Brown.
Deal With Young Money
After signing with Young Money Entertainment, Drake got to work on his debut studio album, Thank Me Later. Even though it was his debut LP, the Toronto MC didn't play it safe on the record. Expanding on the sonic tropes of his previous mixtapes, Drake would sing more than ever on Thank Me Later, curating a project that blended the worlds of hip-hop and R&B. "Find Your Love" is the latter, with Drake romantically repeating, "I better find your loving." It's reflected in the star-studded lineup, featuring the likes of Alicia Keys, Nicki Minaj, T.I., and (of course) Lil Wayne.
Drake Address Fame On Thank Me Later
To put it plainly, many artists struggled to back up the success of their debut mixtapes or full-length albums in the late 2000s to early 2010s. In a genre saturated with one-hit wonders, the pressure was on Drizzy to deliver a satisfactory project to keep his fans around. Thank Me Later would do so with flying colors. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 charts and went certified Platinum. However, over a decade later, the project's relevance proves that the record represents something far more than a number machine.
On Thank Me Later, Drake fully engrained himself into the world of paparazzi and flashing lights. He doesn't shy away from illustrating his wild lifestyle, saying "I" 410 times throughout the hour-long project. However, he's interesting enough not to come off as overtly egotistical or self-indulgent. In fact, he addresses the two sides of fame, admitting that: "I wish I wasn't famous / I wish I was still in school / So I could have you in my dorm room / I would put it on you crazy." Is this true? Absolutely not. From his languish Toronto house to his six-figure outfits, he's always been one to embrace his fame. However, the aura he creates on Thank Me Later is exhilarating to get behind.
Thank Me Later Opened Up The Hip-Hop Genre
Thank Me Later features a combination of hits and deep cuts. To this day, "Over" is widely held as one of the best tracks in his discography. However, it's certainly not Drake's greatest project. The beats occasionally come off as wallpaper, while his singing doesn't match his vocal performances on Nothing Was The Same. That said, the record lays out an intricate mapping for the direction of rap over the next decade. The success of the record's R&B tracks reinforced in Drizzy that he could succeed while taking risks. While surrounded by rap purists, he wouldn't have to fit into that mold throughout his career. In fact, Thank Me Later would inspire a slew of future-generation artists to mix rapping and singing.
Drake has come out and been coy about his thoughts on Thank Me Later. In an interview with TIDAL's Rap Radar Podcast, he admitted he was in an "artist that just got signed mode" on the project. "I think I felt a lot of pressure to prove that I knew big, famous people. I still love it as part of my story. But it was definitely the project that maybe had the least personal touches. It was really kind of about 'How big we can look?'" While Drake may not view the record as a classic, that sense of needing to make it big that he denounces resonated deeply with rap audiences. It's transcended Thank Me Later into a project played at end-of-school-year parties or leading up to a senior-year basketball game. It's why Thank Me Later remains relevant 13 years later.