Since his debut studio album Thank Me Later dropped back in June 2010, Drake has been on his game. With ladies swooning, rap’s biggest names wanting to collaborate with him, four hit singles off the album, partnership with YMCMB, menthorship from Lil’ Wayne, and Thank Me Later being certified as platinum – you could say that the little man from Degrassi has done alright.
His first addictive album had a triumphant and upbeat sound, long but solid verses, and more than enough crazy hooks to cement Drake’s place on the international hip-hop scene.
Naturally, fans and critics have been eagerly awaiting the release of his second album. Promising to not let his creative decisions be dictated by anyone other than himself and his collaborators, Drake announced that Take Care would be about keeping it honest and creating songs that he truly loved. “Headlines,” the first track to be leaked on the web, even ends with a few explanatory lines for his loyal fans: “I heard once that they would rather hear about memories than enemies; rather hear what was and what will be than what is; rather you make this an open letter…”.
True to his word, Take Care is honest, introspective, and thoughtful. Fans feel like they’re getting a glimpse of the real, maybe even wiser, Drake. And the shift from popular hip-hop songs about fame, money, partying, and broads is a nice change. That’s not to say that the album is less cool or less masculine than Drake’s previous harder-hitting tracks. It’s simply a different approach. Flows about his “flashy lifestyle” do come up, but the “good guy” interior synonymous with Drake and his music envelops the album.
In 2009, Drizzy said Thank Me Later was created after studying his favourite rappers, Nas and Andre 3000. Now, in an interview with Vevo, he sites iconic artists like Stevie Wonder (who is featured on the album, playing the harmonica on the heart-breaking track “Doing It Wrong”) and Tupac as inspirations for Take Care’s sound. As a result, most of the beats are softer and more melodic, the musicality is better, the vocals are stronger, and the collaborations are harmonious, not forced. Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, The Weekend, Lil’ Wayne, Rick Ross, and Andre 3000 make for huge featured names, but the partnerships aren’t just about pairing two superstars for commercial reasons.
For fans who loved the hard-hitting, repeat-worthy songs on Thank Me Later, check out “Headlines,” “HYFR” feat. Lil’ Wayne, and “Underground Kings.” But Drake’s strength is in the swoon-worthy, chill out tracks reminiscent of the smooth, melodic rap of ’90s artists like Tupac, Biggie, and A Tribe Called Quest (“Over My Dead Body,” “Shot For Me,” and “Crew Love.”)
There are also more serious and more personal tracks than we’re used to from Drake. “Doing It Wrong” feat. Stevie Wonder and “The Real Her” feat. Lil’ Wayne and Andre 3000 make you want to just turn the lights off and listen. Their subject matter adds undeniable value to the album and makes Drizzy more relatable to his fans. There are lyrics on the kinder side: “May your neighbors respect you, trouble neglect you, angels protect you & heaven accept you” (from “Shot For Me.) And there are hooks and clever verses that will be playing over and over in your head: “you hate the fact that you bought the dream & we sold you one” (from the title track, feat. Rihanna.)
Nothing is off the record on Take Care, including Drake’s private life. The flows are mostly about the music industry’s expectations, his competition, his return to the scene, his love for Toronto, his family, his recent experiences and the women in his life.
However, when it comes to the topic of women, contradictions come into play. Many have pegged Drake’s lyrics as womanizing at times or brash in terms of his description of strip clubs and the women who occupy them. Yet, although some flows can seem misogynistic, others are sweet verses about the women he loves/loved. “Marvin’s Room” is a ballad about him drunk dialing a girl he has feelings for, who happens to be with an undeserving guy. While the very personal “Look What You’ve Done,” a thank you to his mom for her support, ends with a clip of her speaking to Drake. The album is somewhat lyrically driven by Drizzy’s relationships with women. Like most of us, there are times when he sings about being hurt and then there are times where he’s doing the hurting.
Drake’s singing is at its best on Take Care, as he continues to blur the lines between hip-hop and R&B. He surprises with his strength – sometimes even making you wonder if he’s really the one singing that part. Strong vocals are also present on the powerful track “Lord Knows” feat. Rick Ross, when both rappers are backed by a gospel choir.
The beauty of the album is that despite the pressure and fame, Drake’s still keeping it real. He seems to know what the industry wants right now (smoother, more personable rap) and has the perspective and talent to deliver it. Ever aware of his strengths, he’s mastered the art of the slow-burn. Take Care boasts strong lyrics that you want to pay attention to, melodies that are sometimes nothing short of gorgeous, and powerhouse collaborations. Drizzy gives his fans all of himself and, as a result, you feel as if you’ve just been let in on the real side of Drake.