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Drake's debut album has All-Star help

Drake is nominated for the "Best New Artist"

Drake is nominated for the "Best New Artist" award at the 2011 Grammy Awards. Credit: AP

The guest list for Drake's official debut, "Thank Me Later" (Aspire / Cash Money), reads like a roll call for the future Hip-Hop Hall of Fame.

There are appearances from Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, T.I. and Young Jeezy. Producers include Kanye West, Timbaland and Swizz Beatz. So how could this fail?

Well, it can't really. Drake, previously best known for his role in "Degrassi: The Next Generation," handles himself pretty well on "Thank Me Later," positioning himself as a middle-of-the-road alternative to the edgier antics of his co-signers.

The first single, "Over," finds him rhyming like a less explosive Weezy, while the West-produced "Show Me a Good Time" and "Find Your Love" have him rap-singing like a more well-adjusted 'Ye circa "808s and Heartbreak." While Drake's rapping and singing is smoother, it's also less distinctive - a problem that only gets magnified when he teams up with his more famous mentors.

Drake opens "Miss Me" promisingly, but once Weezy drops his verses, reportedly via phone from Rikers, he immediately is outclassed, both in content and delivery. It happens during "Light Up" with Jay-Z, who takes over with brotherly advice and memorable lines like "I don't do too much blogging / I just run the town, don't do too much jogging."

Even in the dark "Up All Night," Drake gets upstaged by Nicki Minaj.

Drake shows plenty of promise on "Thank Me Later," but he still has plenty of growing to do before he can match his collaborators.

 

Drake

 

"Thank Me Later"


GRADE B


BOTTOM LINE Keeping up with hip-hop royalty

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