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It’s been ten years since Drake released his 3rd mixtape So Far Gone. For many listeners, this mixtape counted as an introduction to the artist as a musician, and for Drake, it served as the gateway to his wildest dreams. Amidst all of the “Does Drake make classics talk?” We over at Rapfest wanted to take a different approach. Being that it has been years since the original release, and knowing what we know now about Champagne Papi, we thought it would be fun to do a “First Listen” review on the legendary mixtape, ten years later.
If you missed the last one we did on J Cole’s Middle Child, here are the rules: It’s a pass-through of the project. First Reaction. One Listen. No rewinds and in this case no fast forwards. A gut check. This review will be broken up into two parts because it was getting a little lengthy. The first half will be live before the entire So Far Gone mixtape is available on all streaming platforms. (If you thought that little seven-track EP was the real deal I am genuinely sorry,) while the second half of this article will be released after midnight when the last streaming service makes the project available.
Track 1: Lust for Life
As soon as this light and airy beat comes on and Drake’s raspy voice appears on the track, I was back in 2009. This feeling is a weird one because listening to this opening track for the first time in years I catch a lot of foreshadowing. It is incredible how someone can see something for themselves, something more significant than they could ever imagine and know that it is coming, even if it will be fleeting.
“The game got these old hand prints on it, but I’ma be the one to pour cement on it.”
“…You just hope that it lasts.”
With references to big body trucks and blacked out windows, Drake takes us into his then world of small club appearances with long lines of females waiting for not him necessarily, but someone. This image is a far cry from the ladies who line up to get a glimpse of the now bearded Champagne Papi. He also inserts his signature subject of ex-girls when he mentions a girl who is contacting him because he hasn’t accepted that it’s over.
“My ex sends late night text cause she don’t know how to let go, go, go….”
Track 2: HoustaLantaVegas
As Lust For Life transitions seamlessly into HoustaLantaVegas, I wonder if we can credit Drake for making the art of stripping something more poetic. Thinking back, I was on my way to college the fall after this project dropped. I was briefly contemplating ditching my FAFSA application for 30” of the rawest Indian hair, and two pairs of heels well over 6 inches. And being transparent, this song did not sway me in the traditional direction. I went to college, and I’m still paying for it y’all.
Drake explores two narratives in this song.
The first being a culture prevalent in bigger southern cities like Houston, Atlanta, Miami, and Vegas. Drake highlighted a way of life that not a lot of people were privy to. Sure every town has a strip club, but this song could help you to see the dark atmosphere with colored lights, a stage lit for adult acrobatics, and drinks that would only add to your overall experience.
The men who were able to partake in the festivities before the 2000s knew all about these adult escapes, but women, in particular, had not been such public fans of the establishments before the 2009 to 2019 decade. However, after hearing this song, you would think twice about the Onyx, Sin City, or Delilah’s in your vicinity.
As for your local dancer, Drake made her likable and relatable. She is nothing less than the independent woman doing what she had to do to get her money together. She’s having her fun at all of the exclusive parties, and then starting her dreams. All of this is a story we have heard before, but not one that we may have believed until Drake sang about her so gracefully.
“She doesn’t ever worry/If she wants it, she’ll get it on her own”
The second narrative prevalent in this song is what started the mold of Drake’s image as…Drake. Well, his savior complex. It’s the narrative that made it believable that your favorite artist, a powerful and intelligent man, would wife a dancer and take her away from a life of uncertainty and exploitation. Notice these narratives are opposing but weaved together so nicely in this song that you may not have caught it. Although the strip club is described as a place that holds all of these independent women and giving them a way to make a living, HoustaLantaVegas is a horror story in a romantic comedy.
“Ass low, Ass low, I always request you./You just get fucked up and we just show up at your rescue/Carry you inside, get you some water and undress you/I give you my all and the next morning you’ll forget who/Or why, or how, or when”
Drake is rapping that these girls can get sloppy, this fast living can get messy, and he seems to be wrestling with the fact that they may or may not want to get out! And it is possible that in his mind him being a caretaker is a way to persuade her to leave this scene. However, that same independent woman he talked about initially, she has her plans and needs to collect her ones to get her out of this life. She doesn’t need a savior.
“Throw your ones up in the air ‘Cause the ones you throw will get her out of Houstatlantavegas (ay)”
Track 3: Successful featuring Trey Songz and Lil Wayne
Who else remembers that there were like four versions of this song running around?
- Drake, Wayne, and Trey
- Drake and Wayne (Maybe a radio edit; see 3rd option)
- Remix Drake and Trey (Music Video)
- Remix Remix Remix Drake and Trey (with an extended Trey verse)
Please feel free to comment with another version if you know of one! I do not remember Wayne being on the original, but I will throw him on there because he is on the mixtape that I am listening to now.
All the real Drake fans know that this is not the first time that Drake and Trey have collaborated. Do you remember Replacement Girl? If you have never heard of it, thank me later…no pun.
This song had a lot of radio play and could be a “single” if this was an official album. Tapping into everyone’s true motives behind why they do what they do, this song had me questioning what I defined as success. Drake rapped about being monetarily stable as a result of his lyrical ability, his familial issues, catching his mother in the act of fleeing their home, and his craving for everything superficial. Trey put an exclamation point on each verse.
Track 4: Let’s Call It Off featuring Peter Bjorn & John
Let’s Call It Off, is where you were able to see both 40 and Drake’s versatility as a tandem and Drake as an artist. This was not the sing-songy rap thing he usually did over a melancholy beat.
As he calmly re-enacts an argument with his current fling, Drake almost comically regurgitates everything that we say in our head during an exchange. Starting with:
“Look, leave me, leave me, I can’t fucking stand you…”
The lyrics enable you to relate to a beat that may seem foreign and worth of a skip. Tying the two together exposes a hip-hop head to a soft pop rock track, with a Swedish indie band on the hook!
The lyrics, simple enough in nature, detail a breakup. But delivery? It is executed correctly. The delivery gives an inside view to a complex artist that we could not have found in the states in 2009. Drake’s Canadian upbringing in the melting pot that is Toronto is the biggest reason he can connect with so many cultures and sounds, organically. I stand by that wholeheartedly. Don’t argue with me.
Track 5: November 18th
As soon as the beat drops to this song it is a must that you salute DJ Screw! A MUST! This beat comes from a freestyle on a DJ Screw mixtape “June 27th.”
The Notorious BIG opens the track with sage advice to Drake taken from his 1994 song WARNING.
“It’s the ones that smoke blunts with ya, see ya picture/Now they wanna grab the guns and come and get ya”
And from there, you are basically in a lowrider for the next 3 minutes. Drake’s down south influences are strong: Big Moe, UGK, and Lil Keke are name-dropped, solidifying November 18th as undoubtedly an ode to the south and Drake’s appreciation of the chopped and screwed culture. Here the young rapper makes mention of Houston, double cups, and tries his hand at screwing his voice, a successful venture that flows on the track.
November 18th introduces us to player Drake as well. Not only does the Drake in this song indulge in the finer things that he lusts after in “Successful,” but it’s on a different level. If you know of the southern culture and how rappers like Pimp C thought of gold and jewels like a part of black heritage then you will bounce to the lyrics a little differently, looking back it, this song could even play as a precursor to the Worst Behavior music video. Hey Dennis G!
“Airport stunting, flying charters overseas/Full of Dom Perignon and the water for the D’s.”
Different from the sweet, nice guy from HoustaLantaVegas, and the complete opposite of the frustrated breakup Drake, in this song Drake is immersing himself in a culture that he is not entirely rooted in. He is a visitor. In and out; which means that his relations are the same, temporary.
“I don’t give you the time, you deserve from me/This is something I know, I know, I know/So tonight I’ll just fuck you like we’re in Houston”
Track 6: Ignant Shit featuring Lil’ Wayne
Drake is talking that talk at the intro of this one! There is no playing around, no gimmicks, just bars. And would you expect anything less from a track produced by Jus Blaze? Complete with a sample from Jay-Z and Beanie Sigel’s “Ignorant Shit” which sampled The Isley Brothers, Drake had no choice but to SPIT.
The singing is cool, good even, but when you call yourself a rapper, you have to give us a little bit of the bravado that this hip hop culture was built on.
“One touch I could make the drapes and the sheers change/And show me the city that I without fear claim/What I set seems to never extinguish/Coolest kid out, baby, word to Chuck Inglish/Count my own money, see the paper cut fingers/My song is your girlfriend’s waking-up ringer/Heh, or alarm, or whatever.”
In just a few bars, he checks ALL of the boxes.
- His city on his back? CHECK.
- Swag? (2009) Drip? (2019) CHECK.
- The Money. CHECK.
- The Bit— Women? CHECK.
He let it be known, hip hop. He belongs here.
Releasing the coveted second verse, Drake unleashed his mentor to the world, the best rapper alive, setting the track on fire. Well done Young Angel and Young Lion. I have to admit; I waited with bated breath for the Drake and Wayne appearance on this project. Without it, I would have doubted the authenticity of their union and Wayne’s cosign.
Track 7: A Night Off featuring Lloyd
R&B Drizzy follows up right after he goes bar for bar with Wayne. This song has the perfect placement on the project because it creates the juxtaposition we need to comprehend Drake’s talent fully. Paired with Lloyd, who in 2009 was fresh off his ‘08 release of Lessons in Love, Drake sings to a lady friend about his plans for the night and proves that he can give any 2019 King of R&B a run for his money in the vocals department.
“Know you hate explaining how you want it done/Just be quiet I’ll do fine without your help girl…:”
The switch up is so crazy and so sudden, I do not think we realized what hit us in 2009: a project that could give us Hip hop from all regions of the US, R&B, and pop-rock, made by one artist? The first half of So Far Gone proved to be a one-stop shop and we are only seven songs in.
Written by: Chay Rodriguez