As Drake would go on to brag on the posse cut “Forever” – “Dropped the mixtape that sh_t sounded like an album… Everybody got a deal; I did it without one,” – So Far Gone served as the formal introduction to one of the most defining artists of the last two decades, working as an independent artist. “November 18th,” which features on So Far Gone, became one of the earliest glimpses of Drake’s genre-defining approach, where he developed a sound that would become synonymous with the rap chart itself. When So Far Gone finally did hit the Billboard chart in 2019, thanks to a re-release, it became Drake’s 10th Top 10 album.
So Far Gone, which came out in 2009, captured a shifting attitude in rap, where regionality – at least from a pop music perspective – mattered less, and reference mattered more. “November 18th” is a time capsule to an essential era in rap, a timeline-level moment that shows the listener who Drake is at the time, where he’s going, and the scale of his ambition.
Drenched in the screwed-and-chopped flavor of Houston’s signature sound, “November 18th” is a nod to the increasing influence of the internet and a harbinger of Drake’s future interests in different regional sounds and flows. Distilled, “November 18th” is a portrait of Drake’s game plan as he set out to build one of the most resonant careers in rap.
“November 18th”, nominally and sonically, is a direct reference to the day Drake flew from Toronto to meet with Lil Wayne in Houston, where he would eventually sign to Wayne’s label. This began one of the most ironclad and hit-producing partnerships of rap: Wayne’s cosign in 2009 was industry-wide currency, and the affiliation would serve as a sturdy platform for Drake to launch his massive stardom, and a career that would break the Hot 100 record for songs listed in the Top 5. Where Wayne was hard-edged and blunt, Drake was emotional yet bold – their styles blended exceptionally well, and songs like “Miss Me,” “HYFR,” and “The Motto” would become some of Drake’s most charged party-starters of his early period.
Lyrically on “November 18th,” those who have followed Drake’s career will instantly recognize the topics at hand. Drugs, girls, and the ache of combining both: “I don’t give you the time you deserve from me,” he tells the nameless partner. Drake’s seamless switching between singing and rapping, which is present on “November 18” and throughout So Far Gone, would become the hallmark of his early sound and felt like nothing else on the radio.
On “November 18th,” we see Drake’s formula – which will eventually blossom into the predominant sound of the radio for a full decade – percolating in his mind. He’s switching lanes while testing his flow against new sounds. It’s a groundbreaking moment, and soon enough, we’d all be living in Drake’s universe full-time.