I’ll start simply by saying this: Take Care is a really good album. Like, one of the top 5 of the year in hip-hop and R&B. The cool thing to do always seems to be to bash Drake, and at times, he makes it easy to do so (with his hand gestures, overzealous rhymes, facial expressions and stupid commercials where he claims the Heatles are better than the 72-10 Bulls), but there’s no denying the product — unless you insist on being a hater. If it’s not your cup of tea, fine. But as a body of work this is as solid as it gets (in this day and age).
In a time where most albums are simply collections of singles, Take Care is a complete, flowing project. One that consists of several surefire radio hits, no doubt, but they come within the context of the album. Nothing is out of place here. The most crucial thing to grasp in analyzing this album is understanding who Drake is — and what his intentions are — as an artist — something I am just now fully able to do.
The knock on Drake coming in was that he was soft (and he can be), especially compared to the traditional MC. Some of it comes from some of his extra-gangsta, braggadocios, you-not-about-that-life-bwe bars. The other half is media and public perception. Coming in with Wayne, he was labeled and promoted predominantly as a rapper, albeit a friendly one. Placing him squarely or solely in that box is an injustice to him and will cause you to hear his work with a certain set of parameters that he constantly bucks.
Reading GQ’s interview with Drake’s musical right-hand man, 40, finally helped me fully comprehend (keep in mind, 40 produces most of Drake’s records, is his engineer, creative director in some cases, etc.):
“I had a very distinct taste for R&B music, growing up listening to it my entire life and I love producing it first and foremost. It was everything from SWV and Jon B to Silk and Playa and any you could possibly think of,” said 40.
He continued that, “we’re always surrounding ourselves with music like that. Even on Take Care you’ll see a lot of ’90s R&B samples, you know? A lot of different artists from the R&B world of the ’90s—we’re trying to keep that prominent, like the last album with the Aaliyah stuff. I’ve been an Aaliyah fan since I was a kid—me and my sister—so that stuff comes up as well. That Timbaland/Ginuwine era, too.”
These cats is outchea off Aaliyah and Timbaland and Ginuwine! And you can’t tell me that’s not some dope stuff. He mentions Missy Elliot, too. So, while he raps, restricting him — and his music, the production — to that box is a major fallacy.
With this in mind, listening to Take Care is a bit easier and makes far more sense than viewing it as purely a rap album. It is on the same level as his first album So Far Gone (Which was also excellent. Thank Me Later was his major label debut, but technically, So Far Gone was an album. Which is why, looking back, Thank Me Later is much weaker than Gone and Care — he made it in four months, while the other two took at least nine).
Aesthetically it is clean and strong. The sequencing is great. It features verses from 2 of the top 5 wordsmiths in the game right now (in terms of being able to power-pack a verse). While many suffer from scattered production or awkward collaborations, or are forced to leave the producers they came in with (i.e. Wale and the absence of Best Kept Secret on Ambition), Drake rocks with 40 as usual and the familiarity and chemistry between the two is clear and flawless. Other contributors — Just Blaze, Lex Luger, T-Minus — bring quality to the table, and don’t deviate from the album’s overall sound. As a result, Take Care is cohesive as can be.
It does start to drag a bit towards the end, and it feels like every part of the hour and twenty minutes that it is, no doubt. Could he have kept a couple tracks? Maybe. But the songs aren’t that bad. Does he overstep his bounds a couple times? Yep. (On Lord Knows he says, “I’m a descendant of either Marley or Hendrix.” Cmon son.) But by now we’re nitpicking.
As a body of work, this is one of the best of the year. Anyone who tells you otherwise is simply hating or refusing to view the man outside of the traditional rappers’ boundaries. Instead of going through each song, here’s some highlights:
- Crew Love.
- Gil Scott-Heron on Take Care with the drums smackin‘. Sound songwriting.
- Kendrick Lamar absolutely spazzing on Buried Alive, packing more in his verse than Drake does on this entire album.
- The choir on Lord Knows.
- The muted horns and perfect sample on Cameras. Maybe the best I’ve heard from Lex Luger.
- Stevie Wonder’s harmonica cameo on Doing It Wrong.
- Andre 3000.
- The depth of Look At What You’ve Done.