Could Rapper Be Planning Exit From Cash Money?

Drake once again seized the pop-culture conversation with last night’s release of If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, a 17-track set—which is being called a mixtape, not an album, despite being available on iTunes for $12.99—that looks certain to debut at #1 on next week’s Album and SPS charts.

The release of the “mixtape” has also prompted widespread speculation about Drake’s label status. The hip-hop superstar is a protégé of Lil Wayne and his work is distributed via Wayne’s Young Money imprint, which goes through Slim and Baby’s Cash Money, which is in turn distributed by Republic.

But Wayne and Cash Money have been publicly at odds for some time, and the mega-selling rapper has been making noise about parting ways; Drake, ever loyal to his mentor, would presumably follow suit (Wayne has also hinted he might try to take Nicki Minaj with him).

The release of If You’re Reading This has caused many observers (including high-profile outlets like TIME and The Washington Post, as well as music blogs) to ask if the set represents a contractual-obligation release to hasten Drake out of his Cash Money deal. If this is the case, a number of questions are raised.

Where would Wayne, Drake and any other artists who join their rebellion go? Would they simply re-work their UMG deal to distribute Young Money directly through Republic? What would be the ramifications of such a move for Cash Money?

Stay tuned for more action on this story.