On the cover of Take Care, Drake dons a black robe and gold jewelry, appearing to brood intently with his head slightly bowed. On Thank Me Later we saw Drake wearing an intensely anticipatory facial expression, as if he was a freshman quarterback finally getting his chance to win the big game in the 4th quarter. Clearly, Drake didn’t just win that game, but rather evolved into a hip-hop giant in less than a year. He has achieved success beyond his wildest dreams, and the photograph on Take Care aptly describes his current mental state; in a higher hip-hop echelon where few others can claim residency and surrounded by wild displays of opulence, but seemingly thinking about his childhood friends and lovers back in Toronto. It is worth mentioning that the transition period from “that dude from Degrassi” to rap royalty was not particularly easy for Drake, and it was stagnating for him. A plethora of songs about his aversion to fame, easy money and loose women propagated from this transition phase and populated mixtapes and radio stations nationwide. Fortunately Drake has since refrained from such Cobain-esque whining about vast success, and now he seems to relish it more. In “Club Paradise,” a great song that barely missed the official track list, Drake rehashes these same have me pity on me because my-life-is-so-hard-because-I’m-rich-now-and-all-women-want-me stories, but in the end he seems to embrace his recent wealth.
Drake is undoubtedly an intelligent person, and somewhere along the line he recognized the truth behind his mass appeal. While most listeners cannot relate to private jets and making nearly a million dollars off a mixtape, but suffice it to say, even though we all know what happened to that poor bastard Gatsby, most Americans (and Canadians) want to achieve the American Dream, and numerous complaints from those who actually do achieve it come across as artificial, because, after all, it’s difficult for most fans to sympathize with a man easily making seven figures while the rest of us chow-down on our fourth cup of roman noodles for the week just to afford gas for the week. On Take Care, Drake has hunted down his shortcomings and thoroughly achieved the perfect balance between fear and gloating.
This wasn’t the sole victim of Drake’s tweaking process however. On Thank Me Later, despite lauding him with overall praise and acclaim, many critics cited various reasons for why Thank Me Later would fail the classic-or-not debate five years later. Surprisingly, Drake took mostly all of these criticisms to heart, this time around cutting down on the big name features, including more versatile flows and rhyme schemes, and including less mainstream material, causing many to wonder if his black-box-where-suggestions-go even exists.
Drake’s ingenuity lies in his ability to transmit episodic moments from his personal life in a brutally honest conversational fashion. His lyrics still contain witty punch lines and metaphorical emblems that litter the verses of typical Top 40 radio emcees, but Drake is able to subtly camouflage these cliché techniques with a domineering confessional tone. As mentioned earlier, Drake is not immune to self-aggrandizing however, but considering the accelerated ascension of his career in the last two years, his numerous triumphs and vast monetary gains are, like his distressing romance dramas and strip-club sagas, an authentic aspect of his personal life.
The solemn atmosphere depicted in the album artwork lends itself nicely to overall aura and temperament heard in the album’s recordings. In short, from start to finish, Drake’s album sounds exactly how the album cover looks. Part of the reason for this is the stellar handiwork of Drake’s instrumental team, led by Noah “40” Shebib, Jamie Smith of The XX, T-Minus, Lex Luger, and Just Blaze. Each of these musical masterminds add instrumentals to the record that tremendously compliment one another, culminating into a somber sonic ambience which pervades throughout. Add Drake’s personal revelations, which often times border on tragedy, and from track one to seventeen you have an album that bleeds phenomenal cohesion, with few shippable songs in between.
The problem with reviewing albums of this magnitude is that with so many notable songs, it is impossible to mention them all while still maintaining credibility and boring you to death.The album opens with my personal favorite track, “Over My Dead Body,” featuring fellow Canadian artist Chantal Kreviazuk. More so than any other song on the album, as intro songs are supposed to do, the track sets the tone for the rest of the album. Drake reflects on fame, long lost friends and loved ones, his career, and his future aspirations. Other songs where Drake displays his lyrical skills are “Underground Kings,” “Headlines,” and “Lord Knows” featuring Rick Ross, the latter track will for many win the vote for best track on the album. Drake and Ross are in rare form here, trading 90’s golden era quality verses about the myriad trials of a trill lifestyle over a mind-blowing instrumental provided by Just Blaze. The title track, featuring Rihanna and an exceptional sample from the late Gil Scott Heron, is surprisingly one of the best cuts on the record, and it is advised to enjoy it now before the radio outlets overplay it into submission in the not so distant future. “Look What You’ve Done,” is another more-notable-than-notable track. Hip Hop devotees may recognize the soulful sample, provided by the late Static Major’s rehearsal demo video. Here Drake switches up his flow and gets more personal than ever before lyrics wise, and the outcome is undoubtedly a case for one of Drizzy’s best songs.