By Jay Fingers
Last year, when Drake dropped his debut album “Thank Me Later”, all eyes were definitely on him. The Canadian hip-hop artist had garnered acclaim for his now-classic and influential mixtape So Far Gone, scored an indisputable hit record with “Best I Ever Had,” nabbed Grammy nominations, and received near universal accolades for his emotive blend of rap and R&B.
Then, a funny thing happened on the way to the top of the Billboard charts. People expressed dissatisfaction with “Thank Me Later.” Let’s not be mistaken, the album went platinum and spawned several hits, including “Find You Love,” “Over,” and the brilliant “Miss Me.” But it just didn’t have the impact of classic hip-hop debuts like Doggystyle and Get Rich Or Die Tryin’—critically or sales wise.
Which is why Drake supposedly titled his sophomore album Take Care. “I didn’t get to take the time that I wanted to on that record. I rushed a lot of the songs and sonically I didn’t get to sit with the record and say, ‘I should change this verse,’” he said in a radio interview. “That’s why my new album is called Take Care because I get to take my time this go-round.”
Featuring an impressive roster of guest artists, including Stevie Wonder, Andre 3000, Rihanna, Rick Ross, The Weeknd, and labelmates Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj, and boasting production from Just Blaze, Boi-1da, and long-time collaborator Noah “40″ Shebib for production, Take Care is Drake’s attempt at giving listeners the classic album they’d expected with his debut. Was he successful?
01 “Over My Dead Body” featuring Chantal Kreviazuk – B+
The album opener finds Drake addressing the naysayers, competition, and anyone else who questions his ability to match (or even exceed) his previous successes. His clever lyrics, aided by Canadian pop chanteuse Chantal Kreviazuk’s ethereal vocals and piano stylings, make this one a winner.
02 “Shot For Me” – B
An intoxicating torch song, “Shot For Me” finds Drake talking to one of his pre-fame loves. It didn’t work out for whatever reason—she thought Drake was cheating during their courtship—but there’s still quite a bit of affection between the two. The SWV sample is the icing on the cake.
03 “Headlines” – B
Take Care’s lead single is arrogant, bombastic, and bumpin’. Over punchy kicks, wobbly synths, and a frenetic snare, Drake once again reminds his detractors that he’s hip-hop’s reigning It-Boy for a reason. But that’s something they already know. They know, they know, they know….
04 “Crew Love” featuring The Weeknd – A-
When OVO and XO link up, you can be sure the result will be nothing short of amazing. Drake’s protege, Canadian R&B wunderkind Abel Tesfaye aka The Weeknd, opens this spacey little ode to bromance. The brotherly love is evident—Drake’s gonna make sure all his people are taken care of, and The Weeknd will supply his boys with a never ending procession of Polish girls. One of the best tracks on the album, “Crew Love” will have you feeling the love.
05 “Take Care” featuring Rihanna – A-
Did they or didn’t they? If the rumors (some of which fueled by Mr. Graham himself) are to be believed, they did. Maybe that’s why this duet works so well. Drake and Rihanna lament their lost love over a melancholic dance track produced by Jamie xx.
06 “Marvins Room” featuring Kendrick Lamar – A+
Initially a throwaway track recorded for fun, the plaintive “Marvins Room” finds Drake drunk dialing an ex and telling her to dump the zero she’s with and get the hero that our protagonist has become. Sure, it could construed as a “hater’s anthem,” but it’s such an honest admission of one’s feelings, you can’t help but to root for Drizzy. It’s hands down one of the best songs of the year, and contains what might be the ultimate bootie call line: “I need someone to put this weight on.”
07 “Buried Alive Interlude” featuring Kendrick Lamar – B
A storytelling interlude by Kendrick Lamar in which the Cali rapper details the first time he met Drake and how he covets his peer’s success. It’s pretty damn clever.
08 “Underground Kings” – B+
Drake has always been reverent of Houston’s hip-hop culture—notice the number of songs on Take Care alone that reference or sample some of the scene’s unsung heroes. While this uptempo track pays subtle homage to the 3rd Coast innovators from whom it takes its name, the song is mostly a chance for Drake to exercise a rapid-fire flow while reminding us that he is this era’s underground champion made good.
09 “We’ll Be Fine” featuring Birdman – B
Typical braggadocio raps from Drizzy, capped by a rambling Birdman at the end, exhorting the listener to give Drake respect for being one of “the realest niggas with the realest flow.”
10 “Make Me Proud” featuring Nicki Minaj – A-
Drake’s not fooling anyone—he is in love with Nicki Minaj, and really, who can blame him? The rapstress owns this collaboration with a verse that details her merchandising deals, exhibits Sagittarius pride, and salutes Dolly Parton. What the Harajuku Barbie is saying is this: she, too, can just be as successful as the boys and she can do it on her own terms. Drake is off to the side, admiring and showering Nicki with praise: “Umso, umso, umso, umso, umso proud of you!”
11 “Lord Knows” featuring Rick Ross – A+
By now, it should be a foregone conclusion that if Rick Ross is a guest on an album, he will appear on the best track. Case in point: “Lord Knows” is a banger of the highest order. Just Blaze manned the boards on this one, which boasts gospel-inspired vocals and the producer’s trademark hard-hitting drums. Drake blacks out for the first three minutes, spitting rhymes that are simultaneously inspirational and vicious. The Bawse wraps things up, reminding us that “you only live once.” By far the album’s best song, only one can truly describe it: EPIC.
12 “Cameras / Good Ones Go (Interlude)” – B-
There’s an internet meme that says, “May your life be as awesome as you pretend it is on Facebook.” That’s pretty much the theme of this song—”She look like a star,” Drake rap-sings, “but only on camera.” It’s a cool, funny tune, but not a standout by any means. The interlude that follows, however, is yet another smoky elegy for love lost.
13 “Doing It Wrong” featuring Stevie Wonder – B+
Another ballad, one in which Drake says that the current generation doesn’t know how to love or stay together for the sake of love. It’s a sobering sentiment, one made all the more sad by a beautifully mournful harmonica solo from Stevie Wonder.
14 “The Real Her” featuring Lil Wayne and Andre 3000 – A
This track sounds like it would have been right at home on So Far Gone, which is apropos given it references one of that mixtape’s most memorable songs, “Houstatlantavegas.” Wayne’s verse is cool, but it’s Three Stacks who really shines with his lyrical pontifications on love and heartbreak: “Niggas that are married don’t wanna go home/We look up to them, they wish they were us/They want some new trim/We lust for some trust.” The grass really ain’t greener on the other side.
15 “HYFR (Hell Yeah Fuckin’ Right)” featuring Lil Wayne – B+
Over rubbery synths and caffeinated drums, Drizzy and Tunechi spit some clever verses just for the hell of it. It’s one of the very few stream-of-consciousness songs on Take Care, but as that is typically Weezy’s M.O., it’s not as jarring as you’d expect.
16 “Look What You’ve Done” – B
This song is saccharine, to be sure, but it’s one of the album’s most heartfelt jams. Drake’s thank you to those who believed in him, specifically his grandmother. Her soundbite at the end is manipulative; if this song doesn’t make you think of your own mother or grandmother while at the same time making your eyes well up, you clearly have no soul.
17 “Practice” – B+
Perhaps the most controversial track on Take Care, Drake decided to pay homage to his Cash Money ancestors and remake Juvenile’s classic “Back That Azz Up.” As a ballad. Yes, you read right. But what’s even crazier is that it totally works. The subject matter is crude—Drake is telling the young woman he’s wooing that all the men she’d previous slept with were merely practice for him—but 40′s airy take on Mannie Fresh’s instantly familiar strings and Drake’s vocal interpretation of Juvy’s profane come-ons make “Practice” stand out.
18 “The Ride” – B+
Drake closes out the album by attempting to put us in his shoes. It’s a dope track, co-produced by The Weeknd and co-opting a soulful hip-hop vibe that’s reminiscent of College Dropout-era Kanye. A great way to close out a dope album.
19 “The Motto” featuring Lil Wayne – B
The first of two bonus tracks, “The Motto” has Drizzy combining powers with Lil Wayne over a hyphy-influenced track. The song, which shouts out Bay Area legend Mac Dre, is comprised of boastful verses over heavy 808s and a throbbing bassline.
20 “Hate Sleeping Alone” – B-
The second bonus track is decidedly less melancholic than the rest of the album yet still find Drake pining for a young woman’s affections over atmospheric production. While the song is decent, there’s a reason it’s considered a bonus track instead of part of the album proper. Had it been left off, it wouldn’t have been missed.
Overall Grade: B+
Our Favorite Tracks: “Lord Knows,” “Make Me Proud,” “The Real Her”
Our Recommendation: BUY
Ultimately, Take Care succeeds because Drake has finally found his footing as an artist and is willing to give all of himself to his fans. Has he made a classic? Well, only time will tell. But one thing is certain: by finding a nice middle ground between the emotional resonance of So Far Gone and the commercial stylings of Thank Me Later, he’s created a style that is innovative and enthralling. If he continues to take care with each successive project, there’s no doubt that Drake will make music that will endure for years to come.
What are your thoughts on “Take Care”?
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