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I am the resident Drake hater here at Complex. Although, I’ve been warming up to him the last couple of years—I personally believe Nothing Was the Same is his best album. Unpopular as that opinion might be, it’s his most cohesive project since So Far Gone. I still have this mixtape classified as Hip-Hop/R&B in my iPod. I rock with about four or five songs on that tape, but I wasn’t a fan of it then, and I’m not a fan of it now. I’m going to refrain from making Big Ghostfase jokes because today, the Day of Our Lord, Feb. 13, 2015, marks the sixth anniversary of the project that changed how we view mixtapes. Drake, 40, and Boi-1da were able to create a sound and turn Wheelchair Jimmy into a full-fledged rap star, whether you and I like it or not.
Drizzy wasn't afraid to be himself on So Far Gone. He's able to wear his heart on his sleeve, for better or for worse, something he proves time and time again. People like me criticize him for letting his emotions fly, but he's embraced the hate over the years. He's fine with being the butt of the joke, and he even embraces it like he showed during his appearance on Saturday Night Live.
The mood was set from the start on that tape. "Lust for Life," "Houstatlantavegas," and "Successful" all feature 40's now-signature sound—buttery beats mixed with hip-hop and R&B that make you feel like you're moving in slow motion. They go perfectly with Drake's boastful raps about coming up and his crooning about his love life. I'm more of a fan of Noah Shebib than I am of Drake because 40 clearly sets the tone from behind the boards. This tape was 40's introduction to the world and the beginning of a beautiful relationship. When it's all said and done, they will be compared to the best of the best in terms of rapper/producer duos, and they've earned it.
Not to be outdone, Toronto vet Boi-1da provided two of the project's strongest offerings with "Best I Ever Had" and "Uptown," the former of which was a massive hit and ultimately got him signed to Cash Money. What other tapes got artists signed before So Far Gone besides 50 Cent and Jeezy's? Better yet, what tape had a hit as big as "Best I Ever Had"? Even the third party beats he rhymed over matched the overall sound of the tape. Songs like "Let's Call It Off," "Little Bit," and "Unstoppable" put a portion of the rap community up on acts like Peter Bjorn & John, Lykke Li, and Santigold. This project was the launching pad for Drake, and he still hasn't come down. Every time you think his wave is about to crash, it gets bigger. Even a hater like me can see that.
Artists were just learning how to harness the power of the digital space, and Drake's camp nailed it. He and Kid Cudi are the forefathers of millennial emo Internet rap (I made up that category for effect)—introspective, honest music whether you fuck with it or not.
Before this tape, rappers rarely gave away quality original music for free, and after this tape, it became the norm. It worked for acts like J. Cole with The Warm Up, Big K.R.I.T. with K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, Curren$y on his 1,001 mixtapes before Pilot Talk, Wiz Khalifa with Kush & Orange Juice, and Action Bronson with the Blue Chip series. Release an album for free, tour off that free album, make money, either get signed or create more opportunities, rinse, repeat. The ever-changing Internet landscape provided a Gold Rush of sorts, and the artists mentioned were progressive enough to head West first.
I've hated on Drake over the years, but it's hard to front on him these days. Call him soft, call him corny, call him whatever you want. When you're out at a bar, club, with a chick, whatever, he provides the soundtrack. "0 to 100" is a banger. "Worst Behaviour" is a banger. "Lord Knows" is a banger. He has a long list of them. I was able to stop fronting on him, and you should too. So Far Gone changed the game. Something he reminded all of us of last night. With rumors of either a new mixtape or a new album being on the way, Drizzy dropped If You're Reading This It's Too Late like a thief in the night quietly stealing Kanye and Puffy's shine, further blurring the line of what's considered a mixtape or an album these days. The 6 God is also the Petty God. Drake is running the game right now, and it's plain to see. You don't have to like it, but you have to respect it.
Angel Diaz is a staff writer for Complex Media. Follow him @ADiaz456.