Review: Drake - So Far Gone

Mainstream hip-hop seems to exist these days in a precocious era of being either unable or unwilling to escape the tendrils of last year's 808s and Heartbreaks. What began simply as an ill-advised onanistic project for Kanye West continues to inseminate this year's most anticipated projects, including Jay-z's Blueprint 3 and Kid Cudi's superb Man on the Moon, with its lightly percussive DNA. The latest release in this vein is So Far Gone by Drake, a Canadian-American actor-ternt-MC and the newest allegiant to Lil Wayne's Young Money Records. Originally released online for free in February as a mix-tape teaser to garner fans with, Gone has been shipped to record stores and online retailers this week as an EP, giving those same fans the opportunity to pay for a slightly updated version with a smaller collection of songs.

In addition to successfully undertaking the momentous task of not being overly cheesy, Kid Cudi's Man on the Moon was able to establish its own sound and identity, where it probably would have been enough to basically make another 808s for 09. While Drake clearly also has his own style, So Far Gone lacks any real edge or semblance of innovation, and eventually loses its edge altogether as it succumbs to a lazy and actually quite boring cadre of songs about relationships. The biggest distinction between his and Kanye's effort is that Drake is the one doing the heartbreaking: "And these days women make offers/and who the hell am I to say/No no no/My ex sendin' late night text/cause she don't know how to let/Go go go," Drake sings on the EP's dreadfully slow moving intro "Lust for Life", the title of which is likely to send Iggy Pop to an early grave to spin around in. It doesn't help that Drake's strengths aren't primarily as a singer, so expect plenty of pitch adjustment-'Death of Auto-tune" this is not. The mediocrity, and confusion for those who wanted to give "next big rapper" a shot, continues with "Houstatlantavegas," which leans much closer to Jodeci than Joe Budden on the Hip-hop spectrum.

The shame of it is that Drake can actually be a pretty clever lyricist when he wants to be. "Wise words from a decent man/back when i was tryin' to put a ring on Alicia hand/this lost boy got fly without peter pan/and my delivery just got me buzzin like the pizza man," he raps on "Successful", on which he manages to outshine both Trey Songz and Lil' Wayne. At times Drake's way of dragging out his syllables, through that half-cocked smile that you just know is plastered on his face can be charming, but there really aren't enough of those moments to strongly recommend puchasing this EP over the version that was made available for free back in February.

So Far Gone will certainly have its audience, however; Drake sums it up himself the best on the lead single-and incidentally the EP's strongest track- "Best I Ever Had:" "When my album drop/bitches will buy it for the picture/And niggas will buy it too/and claim they got it for they sister." Indeed, this is one of those albums that takes shamelessly transparent aim at a younger demographic whose palette has been adjusted by the impossible-to-elude robotic slow jams on today's radio, yet might find Kanye or even Jay-z's recent stuff to be a little too rough around the edges. When his official album Thank Me Later drops next year, Drake will do well to come with heavier material than this if he expects to enjoy any longevity.

Grade: C

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