Though Drake’s spent his past birthday weekend cranking out a trio of new material, [“How About Now”, “6 God”, “Heat of the Moment”–all of which you can find here], there’s nothing like taking a moment to dig back into pre-OVO Drizzy and observe the transformation.
The iconic So Far Gone, AKA the 2009 ‘start-all’ mixtape, still holds a ton of treasure-tracks never quite honored for their top-caliber quality. Produced by a younger, less self-critical 40, most of the beats can’t begin to be compared to his and Drake’s newer work, in terms of sound clarity and precision–but still…the excellence shines through. The same goes for the understated material on dusty mixtapes like Room for Improvement and the early studio albums like Thank Me Later.
2008-2014 signified a period of monumental growth and refinement for the rapper-singer; from DJ-name drop-laden, amateur mixtapes to his own personal record label, the boy’s strides are certainly worth celebrating. But as new joints continue to flow out of the 28-year-old’s invention and into our iTunes libraries, it’s only fitting to unveil some hidden classics on the side.
1. “Little Bit (Feat. Lykke Li)”-So Far Gone (2009)
A medley of pounding production by 40, well-blended cowbell, Lykke Li’s sweet and girly background vocals—and a balanced ratio of Drizzy singing-rapping—the track shines on the mixtape and treats the indie pop sample in the best of ways possible.
2. “The Resistance”-Thank Me Later (2010)
In a breathy and bitter introspection on fame and the fadeout of friends in the process, Drake’s resounding “you promised me you would never change” hauntingly infiltrates our ears–and the beat is unbeatable.
3. “Come Winter”-Room for Improvement (2008)
The track travels a long 5 minutes, 18 seconds, running on a melancholy Eva Cassidy “Autumn Leaves” sample and one of those typical, never-ending reflections on a past girl from the “6”.
4. “Paris Morton Music”-(Single off Rick Ross’ Teflon Don) (2010)
Drake refurbishes the ‘Bause’s “Aston Martin Music” and make it his own dedication, [very obviously] to the model Paris herself.
5. “You Know, You Know”-(Single) (2010)
Yeezy lends his beat-making genius, and Drake uses the opportunity to humble-brag and bask in his come-up, circa-Thank Me Later; “I’m here feelin’ like 50 in ’02, and everybody’s saying I’m the man…so true”.
6. “Don’t You Have a Man (Feat. Dwele)”-Comeback Season (2007)
A sweet and melodic collaboration with the borderline-R&B group Dwele, the song throws Drake into soulful mix of harmony and old-school crushing.
7. “The Motion (Feat. Sampha)”-(Single) (2013)
Also known as ‘the-single-that-never-blew-up-and-no-one-knows-why’, “The Motion” was a self-released promo single from just a year ago. Sampha delivers spooky, reverberating hums and echoes while an aggrieved Drake vents via rhyme.
8. “Cameras/Good Ones Go”-Take Care (2011)
One of Drizzy’s signature, masterfully dual-phased tracks, the song outros from sour to sweet with a fuzzily repeated Jon B. sample in the background.
9. “Bria’s Interlude (Feat. Omarion)”-So Far Gone (2009)
Seeping with drowned-out, thudding production, a not-so-hidden Bria Murphy reference, and Omarion’s timely, whining croons, the track captures a strung-out Drake in a familiar, infatuated state of mind.
10. “Going In For Life”-Comeback Season (2007)
Drake recycles one of hip-hop’s most shared instrumentals, a sample of Eddie Kendrick’s “Intimate Friends”, and softly freestyles about aspirations and old-soul talk.