For an artist whose first album was titled Thank Me Later (2010) Drake already seemed prepared for his almost instant rise to prominence. It didn’t hurt that this effort was preceded by a highly acclaimed mix-tape in So Far Gone (2009) with some help from friends such as Lil Wayne that would pave the way for a slew of notable appearances on his debut from the likes of Jay-Z, Weezy once again, Alicia Keys, T.I., and a then hardly known Nicki Minaj. With Take Care, the 25-year old rapper from Toronto shows himself to be ready to step out of the honeymoon period that came with his quick success and prove that he’ll be around for a while.
While much of the content of his earlier efforts centered around the spoils that come with the fame; Take Care instead focuses on the toll that it takes on himself. In a similar vein to 808’s and Heartbreaks, we find an album that exposes the artist a lot more as many of the tracks tend to be more introspective than boastful. It’s important to understand that much has changed since Drake has broke out onto the scene just a few short years ago – the hybridization of rapping and crooning is at it’s peak as evidenced by other rising acts such as The Weeknd, and sweaters haven’t been so cool since Bill Cosby; both can be partially attributed to him.
Drake has clearly achieved that awesome life that he longed for in 2009’s “Successful,” with Take Care he’s ready to share it with us rather than simply brag. In “Headlines” he sings “I know I exaggerated things, now I got it like that.” It’s appropriate that the next track is “Crew Love,” produced by fellow Toronto breakouts The Weeknd, in which he raps “And really, I think I like who I’m becoming, There’s times where I might do it just to do it like it’s nothing, There’s times when I might blow like 50k on a vacation, For all my soldiers just to see the looks on all they faces.” Seriously, who wouldn’t want to be friends with this guy? This track also switches between crooning and rapping with a kicking drum beat that really makes it stand out towards the end.
“Take Care” is the next track on the album and is probably the most club friendly on this album, with a hook coming from Rihanna. This song is a rework of Jamie xx’s rework of the late Gil Scott-Heron’s “I’ll Take Care of You.” While the two original songs are much more about undying support for the subject matter; Drake’s version is instead more of a send-off which is a theme that is found several times throughout this album. “Make Me Proud” expands upon this theme by adding some praise. Appropriately enough, Nicki Minaj serves as the muse for this track to whom Drake sings “I know things get hard, But girl you got it” before going into the chorus repeating “I’m so proud of you.” These two heat-seekers have had stellar collaborations, first on Thank Me Later and then on Minaj’s Pink Friday, and “Make Me Proud” is a touching ode to this relationship that is once again one of the album’s best.
The real popper on this album comes near the end on “HYFR (Hell Ya Fucking Right).” A smooth synth opens the track and without hesitation, Drake delivers his best rap verse on the CD, hardly taking a breath in the process. This anthem is about embracing life and answering the repetitive questions that come along with it. The questions of course are delivered from Lil Wayne who probes Drake in the hook by asking “Do you love this shit? Are you high right now? Do you ever get nervous? Are you single?” to which the response would be found in the song’s title.
Sticking to the New Orleans locale, the following track is Drake’s take on Juvenile’s “Back that Ass Up,” except it’s repackaged as more of a ballad with Drake crooning over the slowed down beat. While this doesn’t pack in the swagger of the original; it reinforces a cool sense of confidence that is also present elsewhere throughout the album.
While Take Care features several stand-out tracks, the album as a whole has a few stretches where the songs slow down a bit and sound monotonous tend to drag on. Drake is at his best when in the company of his friends and has a great ability to feed off of other artists. The album as a whole is definitely an insightful look into Drake’s life and shows promising signs for what’s to come.
By Jesse Zryb