Thank Me Later is the debut studio album of Canadian recording artist Drake, released June 15, 2010, on Young Money Entertainment, Cash Money Records and Universal Motown Records. Production for the album took place at various recording studios during 2009 to 2010 and was mostly produced by longtime collaborators Noah "40" Shebib and Boi-1da, and also featured contributions from Timbaland, Swizz Beatz, Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, The-Dream and Kanye West, among others. Thank Me Later features a predominantly sparse, downbeat production and contains subjective lyrics concerning themes of fame, self-examination, and love.
The album received generally positive reviews from music critics, who complimented Drake's introspective lyrics and drew musical comparisons to the works of hip hop artists Kanye West and Kid Cudi. Following an anticipated release, it debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 447,000 copies in the United States in its first week. It reached platinum certification in Canada within its debut week and produced four singles that attained chart success, including international hit "Find Your Love" and Billboard hits "Over", "Miss Me" and "Fancy". The album was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America and, as of February 2012, has sold 1,551,000 copies in the US.
Released in February 2009, Drake's mixtape So Far Gone proceeded his series of early mixtapes and achieved unexpected critical and commercial success, earning him two Grammy Award-nominations and producing the hit single "Best I Ever Had". The single reappeared on his debut EP, which was released after a bidding competition among labels and his signing with Universal Motown Records amid support from high-profile hip hop artists such as Kanye West, Jay-Z, and Lil Wayne. Drake followed-up on So Far Gone's success with several guest appearances on other rappers' works, adding to the hype surrounding him at the time.
In an interview for Complex, Drake stated that his debut album will be "a solid hip hop album" and musically distinct from So Far Gone, which received comparisons to Kanye West's 808s & Heartbreak (2008). He expressed a desire to work with André 3000, Kid Cudi, and Sade for the album. In an interview for MTV, Drake cited Nas and André 3000 as influences for parts of Thank Me Later, stating "Nas was somebody that I used to listen to his raps and never understood how he did it. I always wanted to understand how he painted those pictures and his bar structure. I went back and really studied Nas and André 3000 and then came back with this album". In comparing the album to his previous work, he stated "It's gonna be bigger, it's gonna sound happier. More victorious, 'cause that's where I'm at in my life". He told Entertainment Weekly that, "I didn't make this album for commercial purposes. A lot of the verses are extremely long. I just made it to share with people. I hope they can enjoy".
Drake is the Vampire Weekend of rap – he ticks all the wrong boxes, especially for a milieu that privileges poverty and strife. He’s a handsome 23-year-old ex-actor from an affluent background who has effortlessly achieved even greater wealth via music that utterly refuses to flaunt its street-tough credentials. More heinous still, Thank Me Later is virtually a concept album about the loneliness and lovelessness of the successful celebrity, a sort of sequel to Kanye West’s 808s and Heartbreak, only more audaciously dolorous because he’s only just started. In fact, as morose meditations on the miseries of fame go, it comes across like a rap version of Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories or Deconstructing Harry.
Aubrey Drake Graham doesn’t mean much in the UK, managing only a miserable number 123 for his first single Best I Ever Had late last year, but in the States he’s both cause celebre and bête noire. He’s had several chart hits while Thank Me Later – which features Alicia Keys, Jay-Z, Mary J Blige, Kanye, Timbaland and his mentor Lil Wayne – has polarised the critics to the extent that its release prompted the Village Voice to run an article entitled Why You Hate Drake, And Why You’re Wrong About Hating Drake.
The reason for the extreme reactions is the relentless solipsism evidenced here –Pitchfork’s reviewer counted a record number of first-person pronouns for a rap album – and the sustained mood of self-pity. “What am I afraid of? / This is supposed to be what dreams are made of,” he asks on The Resistance, wondering, “Am I wrong for making light of my situation?” On Over he finds himself in a room with “way too many people... that I didn't know last year”, while on Cece’s Interlude he wishes he could go back to being a simple upper-middle-class undergrad: “I just want what I can’t have,” he sighs.
So much for the haters. Thank Me Later has been rapturously received for its edgily languid sonics. Kayne, Timbaland and Swizz Beatz contribute, but much comes courtesy of Canadians 40 and Boi-1da, who’ve created a striking dreamscape for Drake to wander with his nasal raps and saccharine croon. No wonder there are shout-outs to everyone from Sade to The xx and Neon Indian on the sleeve – the atmosphere of sumptuous somnolence is interrupted by unexpected drum detonations, guitar bursts and keyboard spikes. This is less chillwave than illwave; Karaoke and The Resistance are like the loveliest muzak, only tortured and twisted by Autechre.
And it never lets up. Credit to all concerned for maintaining it for a whole album, which, if you can buy into Drake’s rich-boy blues, ranks with the year’s best.