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Heading into 2015, Drake was in the midst of one of the most dominant runs in rap history. Three No. 1 albums to his credit, a laundry list of hit records and show-stealing guest appearances later, and the recording artist had evolved from a child-star with aspirations to become a rapper into the undisputed top dog in the game. While some argued that a classic body of work was the missing element to an otherwise sterling career, Drake’s track record as the most consistent hitmakers was unquestioned. However, one to never waste an opportunity to prove himself, while servicing new sounds to the public, Drizzy decided to do something that was the last thing on the mind of a multi-platinum recording artist in their prime: Record a mixtape.
Released on February 13, 2015, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late arrived abruptly with limited promotion, but garnered a resounding amount of fanfare, debuting atop the Billboard 200 with 535,000 album-equivalent sales in its first week. Featuring guest appearances from Lil Wayne, Travis Scott, and PartyNextDoor, the project marked a sonic departure from Drake’s previous albums with brooding backdrops perfect for the ambiance of nightfall. In many ways, it’s Drake’s most free-wheeling project to date. And out of all of his offerings, it remains the star’s most memorable, if not best, release.
In honor of the 5th anniversary of the mixtape’s debut, REVOLT dug up seven interesting facts about If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late that you may not have known. Check them out below.
1. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late Was Originally Hosted By DJ Drama
The validity of Drake’s rumored departure from Cash Money in 2015 hinged on the rap star fulfilling his contractual obligations, which he accomplished with the release of If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. However, what many fans don’t know is that the mixtape was set to be hosted by DJ Drama as part his Gangsta Grillz series, which helped Drizzy’s mentor Lil Wayne attain his status as the best rapper alive a decade prior. Initially planned to drop on mixtape website DatPiff as a free download, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late was ultimately released through retail after the label caught wind of the project, ruining our chance at the 6 God kicking flows over Drama’s trademark ad-libs.
2. It Took Three Months To Complete
Notoriously meticulous when crafting his projects, Drake took a starkly different approach in making If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, completing the album within a three-month time span. According to him, this decision was rooted in his desire to set the tone for rap music in 2015, and be the first big domino in the year’s blockbuster album drops to fall. “That was really just me doing one song at a time and just organizing them in an order that I thought sounded really good,” he told The Fader. “It was like an offering — that’s what it was. It was just an offering. I just wanted you to have something to start the year off. I wanted to be the first one. I wanted to set it off properly.”
3. The Patois on the Album Was Sampled From A Documentary
Drake’s willingness to explore other genres and pay homage to different cultures is a trend that can be accredited in part to his Canadian roots, and was first showcased on If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. Home to a large Caribbean community, Toronto, as well his OVO crew’s 2014 trek to Jamaica to visit dancehall star Popcaan’s Unruly Gang, which was captured in the 2014 documentary 6 In The 876, helped inform the proceedings on the mixtape, particularly the songs “Know Yourself” and “Star67.” Featuring dialogue sampled from the documentary, those two tracks help exemplify Drake’s affinity for the rude boy lifestyle and foreshadowed his foray into cultural cosplay.
4. “Know Yourself” Was Inspired by Wiz Khalifa
Of all of the songs on If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late that resonated with the public, the biggest anthem of them all was the brooding salvo “Know Yourself,” which had the whole world running through The 6 in their imaginations. One interesting tidbit about the track is that it was created as Drake’s answer to “Black and Yellow,” Wiz Khalifa’s breakout hit single that doubled as a rallying cry for the city of Pittsburgh. “I always used to be so envious, man, that Wiz Khalifa had that song ‘Black and Yellow,’ and it was just a song about Pittsburgh,” he admitted. “Like, the world was singing a song about Pittsburgh! And I was just so baffled, as a songwriter, at how you stumbled upon a hit record about Pittsburgh. Like, your city must be elated! They must be so proud. And I told myself, over the duration of my career, I would definitely have a song that strictly belonged to Toronto, but that the world embraced. So, ‘Know Yourself’ was a big thing off my checklist.”
5. It Made Billboard History
In addition to debuting atop the Billboard 200, giving Drake his fourth consecutive chart-topper, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late also became the first rap album in history to have all of its songs chart on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs simultaneously. This feat has since been duplicated by Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. album, which produced fourteen entries on the Hot 100 chart two years later.
6. The Original Version of “Used To” Featured Riff Raff
Drake’s collaborative history with Lil Wayne is extensive. But, the idea of him and Riff Raff appearing on the same song may be hard to believe given their contrasting styles. However, this was the case when Riff Raff popped up alongside Weezy and Drake on the original version of “Use To” that appeared on Lil Wayne’s 2014 mixtape Sorry For The Wait 2. A revamped version of the song is included on If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, with Riff Raff’s verse replaced by an additional stanza from Drizzy.
7. There’s An Interesting Story Behind The Cover Art
When the cryptic scrawl used as the artwork for the project hit the net, the ominous message was initially accredited to Drake, with typography that bordered on elementary to the naked eye. For those in the know, the true mastermind behind the image is Jim Joe, an acclaimed graffiti artist based out of New York City with a reputation in the street-art world. Although it’s unclear how he got commissioned to create the cover art for If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, his past work with Kanye West on the artwork for Yeezus, as well as a close relationship with OVO consigliere Oliver El-Khatib, may have been what put him on Champagne Papi’s radar.