Without a doubt, Canadian hip hop artist Drake has his own lane that many admire but few can attempt to venture into. Combining catchy melodies with a sharp rap pen game, other artists trying it out either come off as half-hearted or just lacking overall. While critically acclaimed and commercially successful, the former Degrassi actor continues to be one of the most polarizing figures in hip hop today due to his ability to make technically and stylistically sound music yet have it permeated with an overkill of emotions and vulnerability as opposed to the tough guy bravado present in the majority of hip hop. On his sophomore effort Take Care, the follow up to his debut Thank Me Later on Young Money Entertainment, Drake embraces and indulges in the trend of rappers imitating his formula along with his personal success and uses it to fuel a strong sense of arrogance throughout the album.
As far as artistic growth from his last album is concerned, Drake continues to stay in the lane he created for himself and remains safe within those boundaries. Relationship angst, hunger for (continued) success, female-catered ballads, and boastful declarations made to haters and rivals are Drake’s proven fortes, and what is expected is delivered on Take Care.
One can either enjoy or get completely turned off by Drake’s sometimes unfounded and pretentious sense of pride, as there is a wide array of excellent artists in the hip hop genre these days that can lay claim to the boasts he makes on songs such as the ethereal yet vengeful opening track “Over My Dead Body”. A majority of the album personally left me wondering exactly what he is so mad at other than past loves, doubters and people that just dislike his music. There is never a moment where he analyzes the real problems of the world that affect him, but once again, Drake chooses to stay safe in his prime zone. While being personal in your music is always welcome to a listener, personal music business talk, which is all over this album, heavily alienates anybody from relating.
The highlights of the album occur when Drake provides alternate and ambitious perspectives to his strengthened fortes. Sonically, anything Drake and fellow Canadian crooner The Weeknd collaborate on results in effective experimental r&b rap, as the more Weeknd than Drake track “Crew Love” and album closer “The Ride” are prime examples of this chemistry. Previously released single “Marvin’s Room” combines Drake’s boastful and romantic angst together very well and closes out with a refreshing and unconventional verse from one of the West’s brightest, Kendrick Lamar on “Buried Alive (Interlude)”. Relatively recluse producer Just Blaze returns to the limelight to provide the most outstanding beat of the entire album on “Lord Knows”; a rather adventurous sound selection for Drake that perfectly fits his arrogant verbiage. Ambitious beat selection fails on the the album’s title track featuring Rihanna, which comes off as a misplaced full blown pop/techno fusion experiment gone wrong. After a slew of dreary and lackluster female-centered tracks (including a Stevie Wonder harmonica section, a strangely smooth Lex Luger beat, Andre 3000 and Nicki Minaj cameos and more), the killswitch is flipped when Drake and Lil Wayne relentlessly attack on “HYFR” and prove just how effective a duo album by the two would be, despite yet more relationship angst on the track.
Drake sums up his motivation with “Look What You’ve Done”, an ode to the struggles his parents went through and how he appreciates them then and now. With this in mind, his confidence is somewhat justified, though the ability to negate the faults in his calling card concepts is something he definitely needs to work on for his junior and senior albums, which in “The Ride” he says will “get meaner.”
Highlights: “Crew Love”, “Marvin’s Room/Buried Alive”, “Lord Knows”, “HYFR”