Drake – Take Care
Release Date: November 15, 2011
Record Label: Cash Money/Young Money Entertainment/Universal
Aubrey Drake Graham is one of the most unique, if not strangest, hip-hop artists in the game. From his clothes to his videos, Drake has a style that's all his own, and that's even before we get into his music. Drake is doing whatever he wants, no matter what his haters say. After taking the game by storm with his 2010 debut Thank Me Later, it's time to thank Drake now, as the soft-spoken Toronto rapper with a R&B croon has gotten meaner and leaner on his latest album Take Care. By eliminating the unnecessary cameos and producers from his debut (T.I., Jay-Z, and Swizz Beatz will never be good fits for an artist like Drake) and aligning himself with Interweb favorite Abel Tesfaye (better known as The Weeknd) and giving his producer buddy Noah “40” Shebib more input, Drake has focused on his greatest strengths, thus resulting in his most complete and cohesive album to date.
While Kanye West might have started this heart-on-sleeve trend of hip-hop, it's Drake who has taken it to the next level and has made it his own. Take Care is 80 minutes of gorgeous downbeat tracks painstakingly crafted to sound massive yet distant at the same time. He spends most of his rapping about the relationships he has lost, the downside of fame, and the emptiness he finds in his millions, so it's kinda jarring to hear Drake start the album off by politely saying, “I think I killed everybody in the game last year,” on the smooth opener “Over My Dead Body” (he drops a few more lines, such as “Jealousy is just love and hate at the same time,” to further his point).
Drake has a certain calm to his rhymes, and it's ever present in tracks like “Marvin's Room” and “Practice.” The former features Drake calling up an ex and pining for her on perhaps the greatest drunk dial-cum-pop song, while the latter takes Juvenile's street classic “Back That Azz Up” and flips it into a murky pop number in which Drake tells his girl that all the other dudes she slept with was just practice for him. Both tracks are extremely personal tracks that Drake is completely self-aware of. He never loses himself in the moment and because of that, these are two of the stronger tracks on Take Care.
Seriously, it's difficult to find any rapper who compares to Drake. He even makes note of this fact on the aforementioned “Lord Knows”, plainly stating that “A lot of ****** came up off of a style that I made up/But if all I hear is me, then who should I be afraid of?” It's a good question, and something Drake is very aware of. He lets his swagger hang on riff-driven “Underground Kings” and pulsating “We'll Be Fine.” The bravado is still present and it's bigger than ever.
Earlier I mentioned how the features on Thank Me Later were odd choices, whereas on Take Care they are just right. The Weeknd and Drake were meant for each other, and they kill it on “Crew Love,” while Kendrick Lamar gets his name out there on the glitchy “Buried Alive.” The aforementioned “Lord Knows” is a Just Blaze-produced banger that will be remembered as one of the album's many standouts. Rick Ross continues to bring his best for these soulful jams (see: “Devil In A New Dress” on Kanye's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy), dropping soon-to-be classic one-liners like “(the) only fat ***** in the sauna with Jews” over a howling gospel choir.
Of course, the obligatory YMCMB members need to appear. Nicki Minaj drops a nonsensical verse of “Make Me Proud,” while Birdman shows up just to randomly shout words like a misplaced hype man on the otherwise impressive “We'll Be Fine.” Drake's mentor Lil Wayne appears on two tracks (three if you count the bonus tracks) and gives a mixed performance. He has a nice verse (even though Drake absolutely murks him with his opening spitfire of a verse, which is a prime example on how much he's improved on his flow) on the in-your-face “HYFR (Hell Yeah Fuckin' Right)” but completely phones it in on the scarce “The Real Her.” Thankfully, Andre 3000 is also on that track and outshines everyone with a spectacular guest verse that both references Adele and the Boise State football team. Take Care does a beautiful job of giving Drake the best group of features that complement his style while rarely outshining him.
But the two best guest appearances are also the subtlest, as Stevie Wonder and Rihanna downplay their talent for the good of the music. Wonder lends his genius on “Doing It Wrong,” the latest slice of Americana heartbreak, while it's Rihanna taking the role of an ex-lover on the haunting title track. It's not Wonder's voice that delivers the impact on the former, rather it's his solemn harmonica solo that really drives the point home. It's a track anyone can identify with – the conflicting emotions that go with moving on in a relationship for the good of both sides. And Rihanna barely eclipses a whisper as she trades lines with Drake on the Jamie-xx-produced title track.
At the end of the day, Take Care is a tale of someone who is just as flawed, confused, and lost about girls, love, and relationships as the casual listener. Sure, most of us aren't popping bottles of Patrón on private jets every night, but the core conflict of Take Care is one that all of us can relate to. And who can't get down to that, especially on a site that features the tag “music mends broken hearts?” Take Care sounds like a more refined take on his mixtape classic So Far Gone - the same elements are here, only Drake has a better idea of how to handle it all. But despite that knowledge, Drake is still growing and taking it all in stride. Instead of being conscious of the trappings of sudden fame, he finds himself more preoccupied with making sure he still has something to say next time around, hoping that one day he won't wake up and be bored with all this. As long as Drake continues to be an earnest critic of what is happening around him, we won't have to worry about that day happening for a very long time.
also before anyone "complains" or derails the thread, there are like 20 tracks on this album, so of course I'm not going to mention every track. If I didn't mention a track, feel free to mention why it's your favorite or whatever on the album, just don't rage on me or post some outrage over it not being mentioned. haha
love the review. don't care about the score. album is amazing. 40 complements Drake's style so much. wonder what direction he'll go to on his third. i kind of want to see him rapping over minimal beats like Dreams Money Can Buy.