With his fourth album, Views from The 6, coming down the pipeline, Drake has a great year ahead of him. On top of the album, he went and pulled a Beyoncé, releasing an unannounced mixtape titled, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, on iTunes. The move caused his almost 21 million Twitter followers to clamor in excitement. Is this just another piece for Drake’s catalogue, or does it have replay value?

Drake, who has been teasing new content for months, has not said what exactly If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late is. Is this a mixtape, as all of Drake’s social media teasing has suggested? Is it an album with conceptual weight to justify its cost? Is this some sort of hybrid of the two meant to fight back against Cash Money Records and Birdman to free Drake from his contracts? So far, no one seems
to know.

One thing is obvious right off the bat: This isn’t the Drake we’re used to hearing. Drake was never a raw artist; this might be the closest he’s ever come to that status. The production is minimal compared to what I consider to be Drake’s best work.

The most upbeat song of the mixtape is “Legend”. This is classic Drake at his best, with familiar beats and rhymes that work well together. Drake hits the ground running, declaring, “If I die, I’m a legend.” After this somewhat reflective track, everything
becomes much darker.

The best track on the mixtape, “You & The 6,” is an open letter from Drake to his mother. He thanks her for raising him properly and touts her resiliency. The last song, “6PM In New York,” lifts the album’s gloomy vibe. Drake proves his skill with confident approach and complex rhymes.

This mixtape does have its bad moments, however. On the second track, Drake raps, “Bout to call your ass an Uber, I got somewhere to be.” Drake, you can do better than that. “Jungle” didn’t work well, either, given Drake’s usually
top-notch singing.

I enjoyed listening to If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, but I don’t think I’ll ever listen to it again. It’s not that it was bad; it just doesn’t seem to have any replay value. Drake wrote this for some self-contemplation and an opportunity for the listener to reflect as well, but it’s not something I would go back to.

The truth is, I just want the album. This just feels like a prelude. After listening to this mixtape, I’m looking forward to what Drake will release in the coming months.

San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker says he suffered a scratched retina on one of his eyes during a New York City nightclub brawl involving singer Chris Brown and members of hip-hop star Drake’s entourage.

Parker, wearing dark sunglasses, described the incident Friday in Paris during a news conference posted on YouTube. He said he expects to be sidelined for about a week while the French team prepares for the Summer Olympics.

Parker said he was wearing a “therapeutic” contact lens and had to go to an emergency room for treatment after arriving in Paris.

Parker said: “I was with my friend, Chris Brown, and me and my friends took some punches, so I’ll be missing the start of the French team, because I can’t do anything for a week except keep the lens in and then take drops.”

Police said Brown, his girlfriend and his bodyguard were among several people injured during the bottle-hurling fight early Thursday at W.i.P in SoHo.

Parker said “they started throwing bottles everywhere. I don’t know what happened. At first it was OK, but then it started getting worse, and when the plane landed it was really hurting, so I went straight to the ER.”

The Spurs declined to comment.

(Photo Courtes of Drake)

When Drake made his hip-hop debut last year with Thank Me Later, critics were skeptical of the Young Money R&B crooner. Exchanging his teenage persona, Jimmy Brooks, from the Canada-based television show “Degrassi” for a life of luxury and grandeur, Drake became an instant love-or-hate figure in mainstream hip-hop, solidifying himself among a new wave of R&B songwriters like that of Frank Ocean, Trey Songz and Chris Brown.

Thank Me Later was impressive in that behind the more conventional themes of hip-hop music (power, sexual prowess and fame), there was a vulnerability to Drake.

There were narratives of loneliness, the burdens of success and the ambivalence that comes when accommodating to a musician’s lifestyle. Take Care continues where its predecessor left off but shows Drake in a more refined and improved demeanor.

Opener “Over My Dead Body” flourishes with airy, soulful keys from guest contributor Chantal Kreviazuk, while Drake’s conversation-like rapping style provides an introspective story about the expectations placed upon him.

The title song oozes with dance club bass thumps, upbeat piano and staccato drums produced by The xx’s Jamie Smith. Samples from the recently deceased spoken-word soulman Gil Scott-Heron accompanies Smith’s vibrant production, while guest vocalist Rihanna acts as Drake’s cupid by responding to his desires of love and affection.

Take Care is an improvement from Thank Me Later: in deciding between rapper and singer, Drake chooses the latter for most of the album, which lends itself to the album’s overall lush and alluring production. His songwriting has become deeper and reflective. There are moments of arrogance, sadness and tenderness, all of which Drake manipulates in various ways.

“Marvin’s Room” and its drunk-dial narrative is one of many examples of how Drake’s self-pity can be strangely beautiful. “Fuck that n---- that you love so bad, I know you still think about the times we had,” Drake says with a delivery marked with bitterness and anger. It is Drake’s tell-all approach to his music that makes it so captivating.

His half-Jay-Z, half-Kid Cudi persona highlights a constant, internal battle to be recognized and accept that recognition.

Although the album is dominantly gloomy, guests like label mate Nicki Minaj, hip-hop don Rick Ross and king of groove Stevie Wonder help lighten up the album. “Villa on the water with the wonderful views, only fat n---- in the sauna with Jews,” may go down as one of Ross’ most hilarious freestyles as he provides a lighthearted chuckle on “Lord Knows.”

Drake’s second album is embodied in this lyrical line from “Doing It Wrong”: “We live in a generation of not being in love.” Similar to fellow hopeless romantic Lykke Li, Drake’s sadness is a blessing. It allows Drake to reveal what remains dormant in his psyche, resulting in revelations that serve as a constant reminder of the pains of unrequited love.

Printed on Tuesday, November 15, 2011 as: Drake incorporates slew of guest musicians, relies on singing over rapping in 'Take Care'