Last month, the world was anticipating the release of two hip-hop albums. One from a Jewish Canadian newcomer fresh from the acting business, the other from one of the most controversial rappers of all time. Once Drake’s Thank Me Later and Eminem’s Recovery hit the shelves and the download sites, everyone weighed in. While the majority of my school called Eminem the winner of this showdown, students at the program I attended at the University of Michigan said Drake came out on top. Let’s weigh in on both rappers, their backgrounds and their albums.
Real Name: Marshall Bruce Mathers III
Bio: Eminem burst onto the rap scene in 1999 with his Slim Shady LP, spewing lewdly comical bashes of celebrities, yet also giving his listeners a peek into his personal issues, from his destructive childhood to his ex-wife and his beloved daughter Hailie. Eminem seemed to balance these two worlds into his next three albums, before seemingly dropping off the face of the earth. After a four-year hiatus and a trip to rehab for prescription drug abuse, Eminem released Relapse. Though this album did spawn a few hits, both Eminem and his fans knew that he needed something more.
Promotion: Eminem, keen to cultural referencing, release a witty infomercial spoofing (and featuring) Vince Shlomi (otherwise known as the Sham-Wow Guy) to promote his album.
Date: Recovery hit the shelves on June 18.
Major Singles: “Not Afraid,” a power anthem, and “Love the Way You Lie,” an ode to a tumultuous relationship
Featured Artists: Several big name artists contributed verses and choruses to certain songs, including rap superstar Lil Wayne (“No Love”), punk-pop diva Pink (“Won’t Back Down”) and a tearful, yet empowered Rihanna (“Love the Way You Lie”).
Critical Reception: Most critics gave Recovery positive reviews, however, one main complaint was that Eminem was too serious.
My Take: Personally, I liked this album. I will admit that fans of a goofier Eminem, a substance-filled Eminem, or a senselessly violent Eminem may be pleasantly surprised at how skillfully he combines all elements into every song, rather than have separate songs with separate themes. Eminem also includes more soft-rock and sometimes crazier sounding hooks, instead of seemingly picking random samples.
Favorite Track: “Won’t Back Down,” another angry, tough-guy jam, Eminem and Pink are a fiery pair with fierce beats and twisted lyrics. Spoiler: keep listening for a surprise coming in the third verse, with Eminem dimming the volume on his track and coming back louder with a mean “TURN ME BACK UP! Are you insane?”
Real Name: Aubrey Drake Graham
Bio: Before he began his rapping career, Drake starred as Jimmy Brooks, a popular basketball player, on the popular Canadian teen soap opera Degrassi: The Next Generation, for seven seasons. Drake began releasing mixtapes in 2006 and gained minor recognition in 2007 when collaborating with R&B star Trey Songz. In 2008, rap behemoth Lil Wayne took Drake under his wing and recorded another mixtape entitled So Far Gone. Seven of the tracks would be composed into an EP that would skyrocket Drake to superstardom. Now all that was left was to release a highly anticipated album.
Thank Me Later
Promotion: With the success of previous hits “Best I Ever Had,” and “Forever,” Thank Me Later was already one of the most anticipated hip-hop albums of 2010. Drake also used special concerts and radio appearances to promote the album
Date: Thank Me Later hit the shelves on June 15.
Major Singles: “Over,” an ode to newfound fame, and “Find Your Love,” a fully-sung (yes SUNG) love song
Featured Artists: Many different artists made cameos on Thank Me Later, including R&B crooner Alicia Keys (“Fireworks”), fellow Young Money artists Nicki Minaj (“Up All Night”) and Lil Wayne (“Miss Me”), Southern rappers T.I. (“Fancy”), and Young Jeezy(“Unforgettable”), rapper-producers Swizz Beatz (“Fancy”) and The-Dream (“Shut It Down”), and rap veteran Jay-Z (“Light Up”)
Critical Reception: Critics gave Thank Me Later more positive reviews than Recovery, however, one main complaint was that, while Drake definitely proved his staying power, the album was without a doubt over-hyped.
My Take: I was surprised at how soothing the hooks to Thank Me Later began. The tempos were slow to showcase Drake’s rapping and his solid, (yet somewhat Auto-tuned) singing. However, this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the tempo picked up around the middle and had more of a hip-hop vibe. Drake spends a lot of time straddling between two themes, romance and women, and reactions to his newfound fame. Again, not exactly a bad thing.
Favorite Track: “Fancy,” a shout-out to the classy, intelligent, independent, high-maintenance woman (i.e. “Cinderella”). T.I. gives a strong verse and Swizz Beatz produces a hook that sticks in your head. A bit long, clocking in at 5:19, a beat breakdown around the middle of the song is a beautiful transition that meshes well with the rest of this album. When all is said and done, a rapper has to come out on top. Unfortunately, it can be pretty tough. Overall, I have to say it’s a draw! Both rappers definitely have proven to their fans that they aren’t going away anytime soon. In addition, both have debuted new styles of rap that undoubtedly deviate from the sex-drinking-party-dance vibe of the 2000s. The only question left is, what’s next?