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Drake, 'So Far Gone'

March 2, 2009
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October's Very Own

ESSENTIAL "Successful"

"So Far Gone" suggests what "808s & Heartbreak" would sound like if Kanye West could sing. But where West comes across as a bitter man lashing out, Drake sounds like a kid at the cross section of stardom, dazed by how he got there and unsure how it will play out. The story of how this mixtape, which is a free download at www.octobersveryown.blogspot.com, became so anticipated goes back to last year's MTV Video Music Awards. Lil Wayne seemingly added a fresh verse to "Misunderstood," then pretty much admitted he had just lifted the line from Aubrey "Drake" Graham. The buzz was that the "best rapper alive" may have had his lines ghostwritten by some kid whose claim to fame was his role on the TV show "Degrassi: The Next Generation." It created the hype that allowed Drake to reintroduce himself. His materialism threads throughout "So Far Gone" (champagne flutes, girls, BlackBerrys, more girls), but he chases that with soft touches of humor and honesty. Those girls love his Rolls Royce Phantom, he says on "Successful," even if it's leased. The soft touches go satin, though, on "Brand New" and "Sooner Than Later," where Drake shows symptoms of a full-blown R&B singer. "So Far Gone" makes it obvious that Drake is multidimensional, but his words sound best when he's telling his own story. (Out now) - JULIAN BENBOW

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