Early In His Career, Drake Rhymed With Phonte & Elzhi And It Was All Good (Audio)
In 2007, three years before releasing his studio debut Thank Me Later, Drake was still a relatively new rapper with only one mixtape under his belt. That year he dropped his sophomore tape, Comeback Season, an under-appreciated offering from a future global superstar during his budding career. With guest spots from Dwele, Little Brother, Malice and Lil Wayne among others, the tape was also home to the Trey Songz-assisted single “Replacement Girl.” Its crowning jewel, however, is easily “Think Good Thoughts” with Phonte and Elzhi.
Produced by 9th Wonder, “Think Good Thoughts” stars Anita Baker’s “Sweet Love” as its primary sample. Longtime Drake fans already know the Grammy-winning Toronto native frequently shouted out nearby Detroiters Slum Village in his early records and his relationship with 9th Wonder was featured in this clip from the Jamla-produced documentary The Wonder Year, so the collaboration isn’t at all surprising.
For those Heads who downloaded Comeback Season‘s original manifestation, this version of “Think Good Thoughts” may be a stone unturned, as El was not present on the tape’s initial version. Originally, Phonte’s verse was the song’s final and what followed was a spoken outro by Drake saying “My bad, I can’t really drop the rest of this ’cause I ain’t pay 9th for the beat yet.” As the web is wont to do, however, it resurfaced the lesser-known version and El’s bookend verse is, unsurprisingly, masterful.
That’s not to say ‘Te’s contribution is old news. Over a decade before dropping one of 2018’s best offerings in No News Is Good News, the North Carolina rapper and singer showcased the skills which defy the misconception that Southern rappers just aren’t lyrical (as he’d always done alongside Rapper Big Pooh as Little Brother):
“First name Phonte, I’d be pleased to date ya / College educated, got degrees and papers / But I’m from the South where if you ain’t snappin’ / Or rappin’ bout trappin’, you’s a freak of nature /Such an anomaly, speak so well / And talk so colleg-y, such an astonishing / Contrast to all the bullsh*t you’ve been following / On behalf of them, I offer my apologies / Maybe with me you’ll unlearn / Putting all ni**as in a box of concerns / Me, ’cause I ain’t dumb, sh*t I’m well-read like sunburn / And after me you’ll never leave no stone unturned.”
From beginning to end, Elzhi’s verse is papered with metaphors fit for a bibliophile:
“They say you never judge a book by its cover / Though you appear as materialistic, just like the others
So I followed your words to take ’em in / And I don’t see what you saying so they coming off paper thin / That’s when I felt that I would need to / Do more than just look you up and down to see if I could read you / And try to get inside your head only / Not just stick my fingers in your middle to get you to spread for me / So what I learned on my path to discover? / Your story took one ugly turn after another / I saw we wasn’t on the same page / I would’ve gave you strong play but your words rubbed me the wrong way / So now I’m closing the case / You only out for the paperback that’s written all over your face / No El’ will never judge a book by its cover / Until he seen what was in between and looked at what lies up under.”
Drake’s critics have often said his early flow mimicked Phonte’s and some have gone as far as to say ‘Te wrote his verse for “Think Good Thoughts.” Whatever the case may be, we have him to thank for a collab that has for too long been shelved away.