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Welcome to The 6, where the heat is on, but the beats are always ice-cold. Since Drake set up shop in this dystopic, WOE-eat-WOE version of his hometown in spring 2014, his music has become a product of its new environment. The number was first emblazoned on the artwork of his chilly 'Days in The East' SoundCloud loosie last April, and the boiled-down shorthand for Toronto's two main area codes has since become central to Drake new identity. Whether he's a man or a god, '6' is now part of his title.

Before we get the album-planned-as-an-album, Views from The 6, we get the album-planned-as-a-mixtape, If You're Reading This It's Too Late. We could spend a good deal of time talking about the reason for the sudden commercial release of the project, but this being a Release from The 6 means that Drake already covers that prickly label-situation ground in his lyrics (if you listen carefully). Here, at this level, professional competition is unavoidable, and Drake's self-derived pressure to succeed is too all-consuming for him to feel the need to answer to anyone else (bird, man, or in this case, a combination of the two). Now an autonomous machine, 6 Drake knows he sounds exactly like he's always wanted to sound, but "comfort" never enters the equation. IYRTITL is the work of a perfectionist curator, a restless star, a man who has reached the top and now looks over the precipice in a double-effort to repel competition and contemplate his hard-earned, often-perilous position. "I'm the one... Why do I feel like the only one?"

6 Drake no longer finds camaraderie in those who share his rarified cultural position, which is why the album's littered with references and shout-outs to his oldest, most trusted friends. Who gives a shit if you sit next to Beyoncé at an NBA game when it's been Oliver and Ethan that have held you down since Day One. The thrill is gone. The fame, which admittedly always came at a price, now cuts Drake's every word with a weary pang somewhere between exasperation and overconfidence -- any traces of earnestness and wonder are gone; he's seen it all. He's paid his mom's rent for the past 11 years, endured more jokes at his expense in that time than most celebrities do in their lifetimes, and you can feel the weight of those defining experiences in every line. What varies is whether they're treated as badges of honor or disfiguring scars.

Bitter, embattled and bold, 6 Drake is just as adept at capturing his current state with a combination of lyrics and soundscape as previous incarnations of his persona were, but this time, it's a much more narrow portrait that's presented. Sonically, this is the most Drake Drake's ever been, with the signature sound he's been dancing around ever since 2009's So Far Gone (released exactly 6 years prior) finally being cemented in wall-to-wall. On IYRTITL, there's no Roc-A-Fella-indebted chipmunk soul tunes, no soaring pop choruses, no new-wavey singles, no beats as world-shattering as 'Worst Behavior'. Instead, it sounds like Drake asked his production team to spend some time listening to "Drake-type beats" on YouTube and then churn out more nuanced, well-polished versions. The beats could be described as "trappy", but more accurately, "modern", as most corners of hip-hop have seen their drums triplet-ized and slowed down a few BPM in recent years. If the hi-hats seem too present in the mix, it's usually because there's nothing else competing for space in that frequency. Vocal samples are often deployed, but they've all been tree-topped with low-pass filters to sound like they're coming from underwater.

A lyrical reference to Halloween's Michael Myers in '6 Man' isn't for naught -- many of the soundscapes crafted for the album sound somewhat inspired by John Carpenter's early soundtracks. Between the ominous 'Energy' piano melody and the detuned bells that open '10 Bands', IYRTITL contains some of Boi-1da's darkest soundscapes ever. The biggest change in the instrumentals this time around is an increased sense of rhythmic looseness, which makes 'Legend''s opening hi-hat hits sound like change spilling onto a stainless steel countertop and 'Know Yourself' sound in danger of tripping over itself. Somewhat counteracting the tranquility the rounded-off timbres of the melodic elements, the off-kilter beats add to the sensations of discomfort and unease.

The hooks have been boiled down into one or two repeated phrases, but are still catchier than most R&B singers', with Drake's unique phrasing able to stretch words ("they tryna take the waaaaave," "young but I'm makin' miiiiiillions") past their literal bounds. His rapping isn't at its most aggressive, his singing isn't as barefaced in its emotive qualities, and thus he sounds like he's somewhat autopiloting through IYRTITL, but his vocals are the least cringe-worthy they've ever been. He knows his range, and he's sticking to it.

Lyrically, 6 Drake's much more paranoid, and less self-effacing. Along with being dubious of his competitors and peers, he also spends a good deal of time lambasting social media, which is strange for a rapper as internet-savvy as he is. But "I been at the crib with the phone off" gives way to the line "fuck goin' online, that ain't part of my day," and by the end of the album, he's attacking quickly-forgotten Twitter activism in the wake of Michael Brown and Eric Garner's deaths. This is in keeping with his tight-knit inner-circle practices, as Drake's current position leaves him valuing realness even more than those many rappers who preach an endless gospel of "real recognize real." In terms of personal image, he's self-aware enough to turn down his mother's offer of setting him up with her personal trainer with a "she don't want this life," but bold enough to turn around and say "we do things people pay to document" mere seconds later. Fame, it seems, has somewhat ruined the appeal of the internet and foiled Drake's chances of having a normal relationship, but he wouldn't have it any other way. He was born to rule The 6, and knows it.

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