So Far Bad: Drake’s First Mixtape Was, And Is, Terrible

Son Raw flips the dial back ten years to point out why supporters of Drake's debut mixtape have been wrong all along.
By    February 18, 2019

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Son Raw is going back to the old me.

I don’t currently share this site’s editorial board’s powerful, unending hatred for Drake — at least not anymore [ed. note: hate is a strong word, but disdain lives forever]. As far as I’m concerned, all of his albums are full of filler and my interest for his level of celebrity is slim, but some of the singles are catchy. He’s evolved into a decent enough rapper (thanks Quentin!) and the path of least resistance is to let him fade into the cultural background. I lived through Ja Rule, I’m living through Lil Pump: Drake ranks somewhere between a minor annoyance and decent pop placeholder by comparison.

This So Far Gone re-release though? That shit awakened some deep-seated rage in my heart. Because So Far Gone is complete trash.

To be fair, most rap in 2009 was garbage as well. Barring Rick Ross’ triumphant yacht rap, Mos Def’s The Ecstatic, Raekwon’s nostalgic Cuban Linx II, DOOM’s Born Like This, and a smattering of uneven Gucci Mane, Boosie, and Max B tapes, the year was a barren wasteland for rap fans. Kanye was in exile. Jay-Z was listening to Grizzly Bear and completing his transition from greatest rapper alive to his wife’s valet as well as lover, and trap was in a pre-Lex Luger lull. A look at this site’s top albums of the year reveals as much dubstep in our top 10 as rap. I rest my case.

But So Far Gone is a particularly feckless record even by the low standards of the time. A mopey rap & bullshit disaster that got over on co-signs and weak competition. It makes every wrong choice in a desperate gamble for attention and unfortunately wins. There are nods to the PBR drinking, alt-blog hipsters in Peter Bjorn & John and Lykke Li lifts – terrible ideas then that now ring as sheer comedy now that the target demographic has aged into pushing strollers. The R&B attempts meanwhile are reminders that with the exception of The-Dream, that genre was facing its own slump, with no one touching classic works by Aaliyah or Kelis.

As for the attempts at straight rapping, well suffice to say that Drake hadn’t put in 10,000 hours yet. While he hadn’t yet fallen prey to the insufferable hashtag raps that would mire his next two albums, So Far Gone establishes all of his worst, Instagram-ready winging, which would simultaneously make him catnip to basics of both sexes worldwide while making him excruciating to everyone else. The most clever thing on here is a Group of Seven reference, and that probably requires a Canadian art history class to appreciate. Don’t look for the guests to save things either: Bun B is a welcome break, but Wayne was deep in the throes of his post-Carter III decline, something that would only worsen as Drake (allegedly) began ghostwriting for him.

If So Far Gone’s re-release has any upside, it’s a reminder of how far rap has come back since it hit its late aughts low point.  The next few years would launch a generation of trap stars from Futur, to Migos to Keef to Thug and a generation of lyrically-inclined emcees from TDE to Danny Brown to Odd Future and Bronson. Even Drake would get marginally better, peaking with an imperial phase around 13-15 when he started rapping more, singing less, toughening up, and claiming Toronto. Ironically, whereas most Drake detractors saw only wave riding and calculation in this shift, I could only welcome it. Compared to where he started, any change was an improvement.

So with the benefit of hindsight, and knowing what we know now, I can confidently state that we were right in ’09: So Far Gone is trash, and you all deserve Drake’s current omnipresence for supporting it back then. 

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