By now, we all know the story: the mix tape literally heard round the world. Self-released album, So Far Gone, got nearly 2,000 downloads in the first two hours and transformed Drake from underground rapper with a ton of buzz to one of the biggest stars on the planet (quickly followed up with signing with Lil Wayne’s Young Money record label and a full-length on there, Thank Me Later). What endeared him to the hearts of his many fans was something rarely found in the ultra-macho world of hip-hop: self-doubt.
Now, two plus years later, the eagerly awaited release of Take Care is finally here and fans can answer those questions that have been lingering on their minds: How will the established superstar’s style evolve now that he no longer has to be unsure of himself? What sort of magic can he create now that a platinum album has erased all self-doubt? But despite the sold out shows, endorsement deals, and all the other lavishness that comes with superstardom, Drizzy still has a ton of reservations.
1. “Over My Dead Body” – The album opens with a down tempo track of pianos and synths that probably would have been best suited for the more introspective side of Drake. Instead, he announces his presence with “I think I killed everybody in the game last year” and proceeds to give the audience plenty of the usual boasts and clever wordplay.
2. “Shot for Me” – A slickly produced ballad that starts with finger snap percussion, “Shot for Me” showcases what Drake does best. In this track, he simultaneously boasts of his accomplishments, rubs it in to past loves, then takes a step back and tells them how much he misses them. Dating this man has to be exhausting.
3. “Headlines” – Here we go: boisterous Drake with a track to match. A drumline beat is paired with rapid strings and it perfectly complements the swift flow Jimmy Brooks lays down. But even here, Drake finds a way to let his self-doubt be known, if they don’t get it they’ll be over you…
4. “Crew Love” – Drake brings along his protégé and fellow Canadian, The Weeknd, on Crew Love. Fans of The Weeknd’s mix tape will instantly dig the airy, echoing sound here. Drake’s contribution to this track (it’s much too short to be called a verse) is for his “soldiers.” A song with The Weeknd and Drake has unlimited potential, too bad they didn’t live up to it here.
5. “Take Care” – The bar is already set high for a song featuring Drake and superstar Rihanna, but the title track meets expectations. A simple riff piano repeats over 808-and-Heartbreak-esque drums while the pop princess provides a sexy lead-in and hook and Drake offers to forgive transgressions. Produced by Jamie xx, it samples his own reworking of Gil Scott-Heron’s “I’ll Take Care Of You” (originally on I’m New Here and then of course on the Jamie xx/Gil Scott-Heron remix album We’re New Here) – so basically a sample of a sample of a sample.
6. “Marvin’s Room” – Featuring samples from a cellphone “drunk dial,” “Marvin’s Room” is an ultra-modern take on the “I want you back” song. Only a former child actor and breakout superstar could expect reconciliation or even sympathy from the line “I’ve had sex four times this week, I’ll explain.”
7. “Underground Kings” – 9th Wonder produces possibly the best instrumental on the album. “Underground Kings” is Southern crunk that brings to mind Three-6 Mafia or, wait for it… UGK. Lyrically Drake takes the listener on a ride from “rags” (back when I was on my Acura flow) to riches.
8. “We’ll Be Fine” – The most straight forward “rap” track on the album. The feeling is grimier here than anywhere else on the album. The strength of the hook alone could make this song a single. Too bad Cash Money C.E.O. Baby comes in at the very end and makes sure that will never happen.
9. “Make Me Proud” – Drake champions the strong modern day female. Nicky Minaj destroys her verse then hangs around and lays down a sultry hook. Will these two just get down to it and become the first couple of hip-hop already (sorry Jigga and B)?
10. “Lord Knows” – Just Blaze creates a monumental backdrop with gospel chorus vocals over old-school soul. Ricky Ross stops by on what feels like the biggest song on the album. Drake agrees as he is at his most alive here.
11. “Cameras/Good Ones Go” – Lex Luger puts some low end growl underneath Drake’s explanation to a past love that everything you see in the media is not always true. The interlude is a prophetic ode to the ones that will eventually get away.
12. “Doing It Wrong” – All that needs to be said here is HOW ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE A LEGEND LIKE STEVIE WONDER ON A TRACK AND JUST HAVE HIM PLAY THE HARMONICA?!? Let’s move on.
13. “The Real Her” – More reluctant awesomeness from Drake; disillusioned by truckloads of females relentlessly throwing themselves at him. Something everyone can relate to. The real treat here is Weezy being Weezy and Andre 3000 taking it down a notch and sending the listener off like only he can.
14. “Look What You’ve Done” – A piano ballad about the little people that got him where he is today. Unbelievably, even in a song about the family that helped him along the way, he still finds time to send shout outs to two girls that he used to date (and claims to still be in love with).
15. “HYFR (Hell Yeah Fuckin Right)” – The eerie synth that warbles its way through the background of the track is a dead give-a-way that Lil Tunechi is in the building. Drake lays down a sprinter-quick flow before passing the baton to F. Baby. It says something about Drake’s ego that the two tracks featuring his mentor and mega-star seem destined to never be released as singles.
16. “Practice” – The most overtly sexual song on the album. A fuzzily distorted Drake lets a female know he is a fan of the new tricks she has learned. Only Drake could turn a song as crude as “Back That Ass Up” into sensual R&B. The whip-crack percussion on the hook is a nice touch to the subdued rendition of the Juvenile classic.
17. “The Ride” – The Weeknd wails over the entire 5:51 of this richly produced track. Lyrically, it’s just more cautious tales of how treacherous the awesome lifestyle of a baller can be. The most poignant line is delivered at the 2:41 mark: “Telling stories that nobody relate to / and even though they hate you, they just keep telling you they feel you.” Not many people can identify with much that is said on this album but they will buy it; financially telling Drake that they “feel him.”
It is apparent now that we will always hear the self-evaluating side of Drake. It has been nearly three years of award shows, national ad campaigns, and general superstardom and Drake still doesn’t seem comfortable in his own skin. But every so often the great ones don’t. While he may question his choice of women, and whether or not the life of a superstar is really worth it, we don’t question his ability to make hits. With plenty of radio friendly hooks and a few key megastar appearances, Take Care will be a staple on the charts for many weeks to come. There is still potential for growth (and a little more should have come on this album), but it is a well above average record that manages to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump.