All 7 Drake mixtapes ranked from worst to best

Some of Drizzy's best moments have been on non-albums.

ACL Music Festival 2015 - Weekend 2
ACL Music Festival 2015 - Weekend 2 / Rick Kern/GettyImages
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Drake's studio albums have, for the most part, bore the pressure of commercial expectations. They need to check certain boxes, i.e. pop single, R&B crossover, high-profile collaborators in order to be considered a success, and sometimes that can be a detriment.

The lack of pressure is what makes mixtape Drake such a welcome change of pace. We're not going to pretend like he throws out the rulebook or anything; Drake is always the model of accessibility, but his best mixtape moments have showcased more of a willingness to play with sounds and follow his artistic muse.

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Our ranking will include mixtapes, both free and retail, as well as anything that isn't explicitly dubbed an album. Yes, that means the "playlist" that is More Life will appear, and no, that means Care Package will not appear (it is, after all, a compilation).

Let's start with the worst (worst!) and work our way up:

7. Comeback Season (2007)

Drake was really trying to make something happen in 2007, but he wasn't ready. Comeback Season is the sound of a kid who has raw talent and a good ear for what works with other artists, but doesn't yet know what works for him. He's rapping on lots of other people's instrumentals here.

It's impossible to listen to "Think Good Thoughts" and "The Presentation" and not hear Aubrey trying to sounds like Phonte and Joe Budden. The former even shows up on "Think Good Thoughts" to steal the show (the 9th Wonder beat is still tough, though).

Comeback Season is a likable endeavor, but it was obvious that Drake still needed to figure out who he was before he was considered a legitimate threat in the game.

Highlights: "The Presentation", "Think Good Thoughts", "Man of the Year"

Lowlights: "Asthma Team", "Underdog", "Teach U A Lesson"

6. Room for Improvement (2006)

It might be controversial to put Drake's first mixtape above Comeback, but we ultimately find it to be a more distinct and cohesive project. Room for Improvement is self-effacing from the jump, but there's some excellent songs here, whether it be the old-school aping "AM 2 PM" or the frigid reflections of "Come Winter."

For those who liked hearing Drake over chopped soul beats on Scary Hours 3, consider revisiting Room for Improvement because you'll find a surprising amount of it. Granted, the rapping is pretty weak, and most songs contain clunky lines, but the music and the hunger are undeniably charming. Flawed in a lot of forgivable ways.

Highlights: "AM 2 PM", "Make Things Right", "Come Winter"

Lowlights: "Do What You Do", "Video Girl", "About the Game"

5. Dark Lane Demo Tapes (2020)

Dark Lane Demo Tapes is a genuine oddity in the Drake discography. It was released during in 2020, at the height of pandemic, and it came on the heels of a number one single, "Toosie Slide", that is all but lost to time (seriously, when was the last time you played it?). The opening tracks were released months prior, and the rest were leaked online in various forms during 2019.

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The result? A mixtape lacking any cohesion or cultural impact. This thing has been memory holed with its lead single. That being said, when you look at the songs on here, its hard to deny the quality.

It's a mixtape comprised of two-song stretches, from "When to Say When" and "Chicago Freestyle" to the swaggering "Time Flies" and "Landed" combo, to the chaotic Future and Playboi Carti collabs "D4L Freestyle" and "Pain 1993".

Dark Lane is ultimately worth revisiting. You'll probably rediscover a favorite Drake deep cut.

Highlights: "Chicago Freestyle", "Desires", "From Florida with Love"

Lowlights: "Toosie Slide", "Demons", "War"

4. What a Time to Be Alive (2015)

Drake was in rare form in 2015. After dropping the two best albums of his career, he shifted into mixtape mode and dropped two in the span of six months. What a Time to Be Alive, his joint effort with Future, came second, and it felt like a victory lap in a year that saw him diss and then defeat Meek Mill.

What a Time sounds dated today, but it's only because the codeine-driven instrumentals that make up the mixtape were so endemic to the period in which it was made. It's a murky time capsule in which Drake and Future trash-talk their way through strip clubs, Jordan endorsements, and really big rings.

What a Time was a moment, and "Jumpman" was an instant classic, but the more time passes, the more fun it is to listen to Drake give himself over to Future's producers and his aesthetic, rather than trying to make it sound more Drake-ish.

Some of the songs overstay their welcome (why is "Diamonds Dancing" five minutes?! Anyone?!), but it all adds up to a pretty tidy 40 minutes. What a time, indeed.

Highlights: "I'm the Plug", Jumpman", "30 for 30 Freestyle"

Lowlights: "Big Rings", "Plastic Bags", "Jersey"

3. More Life (2017)

More Life is a more sophisticated version of Dark Lane Demo Tapes, which is to say, it has more of a cohesive sound and a clearly-defined identity, but it's still terribly sequenced and feels like a bunch of good EPs strung together. The dancehall songs are all packed together, the rapping songs are all packed together, and so on, which makes for a pretty disjointed and tiring listen.

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When you break these sections up, however, and say, listen to More Life on shuffle, you wind up with a pretty dazzling collection of tracks. "Passionfruit" is one of Drake's best pop songs, period, and "Get It Together" is his best duet with anyone not named Rihanna. There's also the absurdly good R&B suite comprised of "Nothings Into Somethings" and "Teenage Fever."

Do you prefer collab Drake? He dishes out some of those too, linking up with Quavo and Travis Scott for the flute-laced "Portland" and Young Thug on the absolutely infectious "Ice Melts."

By the time you get to "Do Not Disturb", which is a candidate for Drake's best album closer, you'll be convinced that More Life is secretly a classic. It's not, but it gets a lot closer than you'd expect.

Highlights: "Passionfruit", "Get It Together", "Do Not Disturb"

Lowlights: "No Long Talk", "KMT", "Glow"

2. If You're Reading This It's Too Late (2015)

There's a contingency of Drake fans who believe that If You're Reading This It's Too Late is a classic. It's the project where he finally dropped the R&B schtick, people say, the one where he finally gives us hard rapping from front to back. The one where he's beating his chest over thumping Boi-1da beats.

All these points are true. The opening run of If You're Reading This, from "Legend" to "Star67", is an all-time display of lyrical prowess and musical catchiness working together. It still induces chills 9 years later.

Does the middle of the tape kind of fall apart? Yes, yes it does. Does the inclusion of PARTYNEXTDOOR nullify the no-R&B claim? You bet it does.

People who ride for If You're Reading for This will overlook these flaws, and Drake makes it pretty easy to do so with the strong batch of tracks that close out the tape. There's an impulsivity to the mixtape, both in terms of the music and the last-minute rollout, that makes it feel like it came from a place of true inspiration.

It's infectious, and it marks one of the last times that Drake operated without the weight of his legacy holding him down. He's a newly-minted legend here, and the head under his crown is still light.

Highlights: "Energy", "Know Yourself", "Jungle"

Lowlights: "Preach", "Now & Forever", "Company"

1. So Far Gone (2009)

So Far Gone is ground zero for Drake. It's the mixtape that saw him shed the blatant imitation and the recycled beats and establish an aesthetic and a persona that was uniquely him. A lot of the credit has to go to Noah "40" Shebib, who executive produced the tape and served as the architect of the woozy R&B-driven sound that typified songs like "Houstatlantavegas" and "A Night Off."

Drake versatility was finally put on display in a way that maintained his singular appeal. He could hop on an indie sample of Peter Bjorn and John, then trade bars with Lil Wayne over a Just Blaze beat in a matter of minutes.

He could naval gaze about whether he's good enough to make it, then turn around and drop the pop-rap smash "Best I Ever Had" a few tracks later.

The dichotomy of Drake was finally packaged correctly on So Far Gone, and the influence it had on the next decade of hip-hop and R&B cannot be overstated.

The notion of a mixtape being a place for freestyles and snippets was dead as soon as So Far Gone dropped; artists like J. Cole, Big K.R.I.T. and Wiz Khalifa began to approach mixtapes like legitimate albums in the immediate aftermath. It's hard to imagine the DatPiff era without So Far Gone serving as the structural blueprint.

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Musically, it proved to be the Rosetta Stone for an entire generation of R&B artists. The Weeknd's breakthrough mixtape, House of Balloons, is the druggy little brother to So Far Gone, while Bryson Tiller and Brent Faiyaz would mine the same musical samples and aesthetic of Drake's watershed release with Trapsoul and Wasteland, respectively.

It's a classic a couple times over.

Highlights: "Houstatlantavegas", "Best I Ever Had", "The Calm"

Lowlights: "Lust for Life", "Unstoppable", "Congratulations"

Next. Dr. Every Drake album, ranked. dark