Drake’s new project is all over the Internet and a week later has gone Gold and set a Spotify record, but how did we get here?

The Frenzy Surrounding The Release

By now you’ve probably listened to, maybe even memorized some lyrics from Drake’s newest “album” If You’re Reading This Its Too Late.  You may notice that the word album is in quotes. That’s because the word itself is a big portion of the crux of this entire concept.  Ever since The Toronto Raptor’s Demar Derozan let the cat out the bag while speaking to NBA TV,

“[Drake] said he wants to give me his mixtape that comes out in January.”

Fans have been on high alert, awaiting a new mixtape from Canada’s finest; his first since the project that put him on the map, 2009s So Far Gone. Then in late January, OVO crew member and longtime friend P. Regin announced that he knows Drake is, indeed, dropping a mixtape. To heat anticipation up even more,  unconfirmed cover art began circulating the twittersphere, including one version that implied the new tape would be entitled 2 Far Gone and possibly drop on the 6 year anniversary of the original mixtape.

Especially considering Drake’s affinity for the number six, it seemed plausible. They ended up being just about two hours off.  Early Thursday morning Drake released the short film “Jungle,” which featured snippets of what sounded like new music and left the internet ablaze with rumor.  Later he was spotted taking in the sights (literally in the crowd like the rest of us)  at the Kanye West / G.O.O.D Music Roc City Classic concert, where he later caused a mini-riot as he left around roughly 9 pm.  About two hours later, coincidentally (or maybe not) at the same time as recent friend turned foil Puff Daddy’s Madison Square Garden concert was going up, Drake shook the world (or at least the web) by releasing If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late for purchase on iTunes (and later Amazon).

Drake Plays The “Album Or Mixtape” Game Of Thrones

The bottom line is that you can buy the project, and seeing as it satisfies the murky guidelines for an LP, it is by technical definition an “album.” Drake has always been a calculated artist, one who takes deep pride in and puts heavy thought into the release of his bodies of work. Consider even further that in July of 2014 Drake announced the title of what would then have been his fourth album Views From The 6, having referenced this on record on the Grammy nominated “0-100/The Catch Up” with the lyric:

“We already got Spring 2015 poppin, PND droppin..not to mention me Droppin.”

So all that being said, why would Drake decide to sell the project?

Knowing how strong the anticipation, execution and release of albums like Take Care and Nothing Was The Same were, with its non existent lead up and cover — that as a Twitter user said  “looks like the Chick-Fil-A cows suicide note,” for this project to be considered a Drake “album” just seems wrong.

More Breadcrumbs & A Possible Home At Warner Music

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As most know by now Cash Money artist and Young Money president Lil Wayne is currently deep in the midst of a legal battle with the label that made him, Cash Money Records. In addition to the millions of dollars Wayne claims is owed to him for his works, there is a specific portion of the 19 page legal document that speaks to Wayne having not received his portion of compensation from Drake’s record sales.

“Cash Money, since at least early 2012, has failed to account to Young Money LLC on a monthly basis and has failed to pay Young Money LLC its share of net receipts with regard to solo recordings of Drake released by the Young Money Label.  Cash Money has failed to provide a single accounting in respect of the exploitation of the Drake Recordings, despite Drake being one of the best selling recording artists in recent years.”

Also, according to entertainment attorney Rafael Martinez, Drake is in the drivers seat no matter how many albums are possibly left on his deal because OVO already has a home at Warner, “I think the prevailing theory is that whenever his deal is up he’d want to combine  his personal thing with this label. Why else go through the trouble of forming your own label if you can’t yourself be on it?”

Drake has said numerous times in interviews and songs, where his allegiance truly lies and that he is forever loyal to Lil Wayne, the man who is responsible for his very existence in the game.  In fact, many felt that when Drake first signed to Universal/Republic/Cash Money he did so as almost a favor, and even though his career has proven to be incredibly successful, that he might have made the wrong move by not remaining independent or going his own way label wise. The famed Pusha T’s sub diss from the song “Exodus 23:1” surmised about as much: “You signed to one nigga that signed to another nigga / That’s signed to three niggas, now that’s bad luck.”

Additionally Drake’s OVO Sound label (established in 2012) that houses artists PARTYNEXTDOOR, Majid Jordan, ILoveMakkonnen as well as in house producers 40, Boi-1da, T-Minus and Mike Zombie are distributed through Warner Music, not Universal/Republic. So with Wayne fighting for his money and potentially shelved release, and Drake having already established a new home — one that could also possibly house Wayne down the road,  Drake seemingly has that much extra incentive to put an end to his relationship with Cash Money.

Another interesting tidbit that gives some extra credence to these notions comes from “K.P.” the man who runs Mixtape mega power Datpiff.com, in an exclusive comment to HipHopDX we reported:

“Originally we were in talks to release [If You’re Reading This Its Too Late] for free… and have DJ Drama host and even make it an official “Gangsta Grillz” … however the label was not in favor of that and they struck an agreement to release the project the retail route and it would count towards one of his [contractual] albums.”

The above information offers some understanding as-to why our favorite Rap ambassador from up north would release a project that is, in essence, a mixtape – he even refers to it being one on the song “6 Man”  as well as “6PM in New York,” and midday Friday took to instagram to ask fans in scribbled e-crayola, “How’s my mixtape.”

A photo posted by champagnepapi (@champagnepapi) on

Wait, It Gets Better

Appearing first on the official October’s Very Own Soundcloud account for free alongside iTunes, the project was posted before being taken down twice. Being more blatant, Drake’s OVOSOUND website featured a stream via AudioMack as well. Why would an artist of his caliber offer the project gratis, then sell?

When the album first dropped on iTunes (and possibly even a few minutes before) it also appeared for free on the official Octobers Very Own Soundcloud.  It has been put up and taken down twice.  If someone wanted to string things out a few steps further one could almost wonder if this tactic, combined with lyrics like

“..After this drop I got new demands, can’t meet the terms keep it moving then.” – “Used To”  featuring Lil Wayne

&

“Brand new Beretta, cant wait to let it go, walk up in my label like where the check tho’..” – “Star67”

point to the idea that Drake may in fact be undermining the entire process and the sale of the project.

Reports have the digital only release clocking in at just under 500K, settling down around 495,000 sales in its first week. The correlations between the album being initially available for free and the album being hitting online distributors is inconceivable in terms of  commercial reception. When speaking numbers, they benefit the label you may be leaving a great deal more than yourself. Perhaps an olive branch? Like buying your girlfriend a gift when you breakup? This makes the ransom note inspired handwritten cover art seem like a very well placed “I’m happy for you and I’m a let you finish but… I’m out” of sorts dedicated to those who’ve been managing or mismanaging his purse strings.

The following Friday, Lil Wayne alluded to his previously mentioned The Free Weezy Album around midday with this tweet:

Causing many to assume the free “album” (there’s that word again) was looming or possibly even set to drop by night’s end, those ideas were further enforced via various outlets. However, Mack Maine has seemingly killed hope of another Weezy project, at least for now.

Deconstructing one of music’s most forward thinking artist of the millennial generation has given listeners much to chew on and abstractly plant seeds fans’ minds as well. Well, this is the same guy who dropped a loosie on SoundCloud that eventually landed a Grammy nomination. As the landscape of music consumption and sales change, October’s Very Own manages to continue his ability for providing new points of reference through cryptic communication. This time? For some it’s either message received, try and catch up or maybe “it’s too late.”