So Far Gone (EP)
October’s Very Own, 2009
REVIEW BY: Melanie Love
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/19/2010
The buzz around Drake, up-and-coming Canadian rap star, has been massive. I’m not one for buzz, especially since it so often ends up unfounded. But it probably says a lot that Drake’s gotten the nod from basically every superstar in rap, from Kanye West to Timbaland to Lil Wayne. After nearly a full year of buildup, this suburban teen-actor turned heir to the hip-hop throne has finally dropped his full-length, Thank Me Later. But first came this EP, So Far Gone, which whetted listeners’ appetites while Drake plotted his biggest move yet.
But does it really live up to the hype? Lead single “Best I Ever Had” lit up the airwaves in the summer of 2009, and it’s a charismatic pleasure – an ode to the girl in “sweatpants, hair tied, chilling with no makeup on / That’s when you’re the prettiest / I hope that you don’t take it wrong” who’s stolen his heart, while still giving a slick nod to his player past. It’s hard not to be drawn in by Drake’s sheer suaveness, his smooth vocals, and the light summeriness of this cut. He’s got an ego, to be sure, but he seems far less devoured by it or caught up in insecurities as, say, Kanye or Eminem. Drake’s just starting out, navigating all this sudden success, and even when he’s confessing, there’s still a sense of gleeful discovery to his tracks.
Take “Houstatlantavegas,” which I found a little too bland on first listen to be a powerful opener, but it’s a nice segue into Drake’s world, a dreamy swath of synthesizers and cool rhymes that sum up the blur of trying to make connections as various cities pass by: “’Til you find yourself, it’s impossible to lose you.”
But when his cuts get a little more tricked-out, like on second single, “Fear,” Drake really hits his stride. “No AutoTune, but you can feel the pain / It all comes spilling out like I hit a vein,” he says as the horns kick in and pad these proceedings with a defiant energy. This is probably the best moment on this short, punchy EP, where Drake peels off the persona and gets real, wrestling with some demons and trying to figure out his place among rap’s fickle tides (“They build you up so you can be the biggest in the game / And realize when you’re there that shit don’t feel the same”).
Someone else could’ve created the debonair pick-up line of “Best I Ever Had,” but Drake puts a stamp all his own on intimate yet strong songs like “Fear” and “Successful” (featuring Trey Songz and Lil Wayne). Drake can play the braggart all he wants, and he’s got a good enough flow to back up the boasts, but when the refrain “I just want to be successful” comes in, he seems so earnest it’s hard not to hope this ride continues for him. Listening to penultimate track “I’m Goin’ In,” with Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy guesting, it’s clear that Drake’s already found his way, holding his own among Lil Wayne’s manically alien stylings and the electronic bleeping that backs them in a hypnotic swirl.
I grew up watching Drake – née Aubrey Graham – on the Canadian teen drama Degrassi: The Next Generation, so it always blows my mind hearing him in this transformation. But on So Far Gone, Drake takes the first step in proving that this was who he was all along.