The clock has started running on how long artists will be able to pull a Beyoncé before the practice becomes passé.

On Thursday night, it was Drake who posted a message to his 20.7 million Twitter followers announcing the release of “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late,” the mixtape precursor to his planned fourth studio album “Views From the 6.”

The mixtape is available on iTunes and SoundCloud.

Drake posted a short film, “Jungle,” on his Web site Thursday morning, previewing new music. It’s neither music video nor documentary. August Brown of the Los Angeles Times described it as “something more impressionist and interior.”

Drake opened with a sample of Ginuwine’s “So Anxious” on “Legend,” which also makes an appearance on “Madonna.” The mixtape features guest appearances by Lil Wayne, Travi$ Scott, and PARTYNEXTDOOR.

The breakout hit, which is undoubtedly “You & The 6,” is an open letter to Drake’s mother. Drake, like most millennials, is bad at calling his mother, Sandi Graham. Unlike most millennials, however, Graham gets news about her son through Google Alerts. And even though she’s the mother of a world-famous rap star, she still tries to play the yenta to his eligible bachelor.

“I hate it when you hate on all my girlfriends and assistants/always convinced that there’s someone better,” Drake raps on “You & The 6.” “Like that girl from your gym who trains you/ I know you want to arrange it/ You told me she’s free Thursday and I’m sure that she’s an angel but she don’t want this life.”

On “No Tellin,'” a boastful Drake intones: “Okay, I had to switch the flow up on you n—s/s— was gettin’ too predictable/the new s— is on steroids/I would never pass a physical.”

Though fans following Drake had been anticipating a free mixtape, there’s speculation he released “If You’re Reading” as an album via iTunes to fulfill a contractual commitment to his label, Cash Money Records. Lil Wayne, Drake’s friend, mentor and labelmate, has been having a very public spat with Cash Money, filing a $51 million lawsuit against the label last month.

Lil Wayne wants out of his contract — he went on quite the Twitter tirade about it — and Cash Money co-founder Birdman has vowed to hold him to the terms of the deal. The whole thing will likely have to be settled in court, but if Drake has fulfilled his four-album commitment, that would free him to jump ship when Tunechi leaves.

Despite the legal entanglements between Cash Money and Wayne’s Young Money imprint, to which Nicki Minaj and Drake are signed, Wayne has vowed to take Drake and Minaj with him once he’s free. Young Money Enterprises is a co-plaintiff in Wayne’s lawsuit.

The surprise release of “If You’re Reading” could turn out to be more than just great publicity for “Views From the 6.” It could also be part of a significant strategy in extricating Young Money from Birdman’s clutches.

Here’s “Jungle”: