A part of being in your mid-twenties is being able to say “wow, that makes me feel old” for the first time. Sure, it sounded cool when your older brothers/cousins said that reminiscing of their younger years, but when you find it coming out of your mouth, it stings a little. This week I had two occurrences of this – the first being College Dropout turning 10 years old, and the second is Drake’s debut mixtape So Far Gone turning five.
Unlike most, I wasn’t receptive of So Far Gone initially. February 2009 I was deep in my anti-Lil Wayne and in the final days where I disliked most of what mainstream hip hop had to offer. So when Aubrey Graham’s name started making rounds on hip hop blogs, I stayed clear. By the time “Best I Ever Had” took off, I had been so put off by college girls claiming that Drake was their favorite rapper, I was in full-fledge hater mode. I heard the single a few times and dismissed it as “kind of catchy but nothing spectacular,” and decided against attending a show he had in Bowling Green.
Fast-forward a few months to the summer of 2009 and “Best I Ever Had” had really started to take off on pop radio and started to grow on me. It was tacky, crude, but it didn’t take itself too seriously and was a lot of fun. Drake was a cornball, but he seemed in on the joke. I finally got So Far Gone, about four months later than the rest of the world, and didn’t really get into it at first. Sure, “Uptown” was a banger and “Houstonlantavegas” stood out as the best on the tape, but I didn’t really get into the tape as a whole until the following winter.
Five years later, I own every LP Drake has put out. I consider his sophomore effort Take Care, one of the best albums of the current decade, and revisit his debut every summer because it’s one of the better summer LPs in recent memory. But So Far Gone is arguably his most significant piece of work. Many say it’s the Canadian rapper/singer’s best work, and he has still yet to top “Best I Ever Had’s” success on the charts (peaked at #2).
Overall it’s probably Drake’s worst project. He’s since elevated his skills in terms of rapping and singing, but So Far Gone is significant because it was a glimpse of hip hop’s next big thing. Prior to the mixtape, he was just another face in a crowd full of mediocre rappers under Lil Wayne’s Young Money regime. While he may not have perfected it until Take Care, So Far Gone showed that Drake had a specific vision, unique sound and a good story to tell.