In November 2011, Drake, just one year after his debut album, released Take Care. The 18-track (20 if we're talking the iTunes Deluxe Edition) was heralded as being a relatively retrospective and introspective sign of the times; an abundance of oversharing buoyed Drake's efforts and made the burgeoning superstar still a man of the people, adding onto the mythos surrounding the sophomore effort. Plus, for some listeners, the album served as an introduction to Drake's "rival" Kendrick Lamar and another Canadian export, The Weeknd. I'd like to take it a step further. I hope I don't tick off people in Drake's camp or lose my Boi-1da.com writing pass, but, thus far, Take Care is quite possibly his magnum opus.
Now, I won't bore you with "oh, this album incorporated a slew of different styles to create an overarching theme of loneliness in the public eye for a young man still trying to find himself." That's the stuff you'd get from your typical music critics and the like. Instead, I want to focus on the mechanics of what makes Take Care Drake's best work so far, broken down in a way that isn't just a bunch of buzz words. Why? Well, for those who live and die on that sort of thing, I'll let Drake say it himself...
In later projects, we've seen Drake take on the role of a cocky (but rightfully so) shit-talker. I mean, since Take Care and 2013's Nothing Was The Same, he's had a pretty solid chokehold on the game that, even with shots from artists like Meek Mill, he hasn't relented on yet. Inversely, with earlier projects, we saw "The New Fresh Prince" still muddle his way through that "I want to be taken seriously as an artist" phase. He, and listeners, were somewhat unsure of how to take him. He, pun intended, knew that there was Room for Improvement to how he approached the game, but wasn't sure of how to do so.
Was he a backpack rapping and acting Saitama, doing it only for fun, but minus the bald head and trope-bending manga and anime roots (I had to)? Was this him trying to get in good with the Phontes of the world to put them over while still getting his own buzz? Would Drake always be the guy talking about "the best he ever had?" These were questions people had with the first couple projects. We knew that Drake could rap. We knew that he had elements in tracks such as "Replacement Girl," his Improvement tracks (such as his "Kick Push" freestyle), and parts of So Far Gone that spelled success. But, even as So Far Gone and Thank Me Later came and went, some listeners were still confused as to where he'd go. For me, I think it took him, like Kendrick through his first few projects, some time to perfect what he was going after for that "second phase" of his career.
|Though their "first phase" music is different, both Kendrick Lamar and Drake's "second phase" projects have similar themes, projections, etc.|
Additionally, when Take Care finally dropped, we were treated to something akin Drake's gkmc. He finally perfected his ability to put together tracks to tell a story (one of, again, self-discovery and analysis of self-worth in the face of a blossoming career). On top of that, the production on the album felt so much more intricate and alive. We were given what's become that "classic" OVO Sound. 40, Boi-1da, T-Minus, helming most of the production on this track, gave us bouncy tracks such as "Headlines" that were still brooding while also giving us "Doing It Wrong" and the "Cameras/Good Ones Go" medley. Essentially, we got alternative R&B with some hip-hop and electronica vibes to the point where the album starts to transcend conventional genres in some ways.
Additionally, through the progression of Drake's music, we got some pretty dope moments. These moments include Stevie Wonder playing the harmonica on "Doing It Wrong," Andre 3000 dropping knowledge on "The Real Her," and the Rick Ross collaboration "Lord Knows" where Drake dusts off some Comeback Season-esque bars (read: "backpacker" but not overly "backpacker" to the point that he's out here alienating people who aren't fake Hoteping out here or whatever). Plus, the title track and the fact that almost half of the album dropped as singles.
Perhaps Marvin Gaye's spirit inhabited Drake for a bit.
|Collage credit: NPR|
Stick with me for a second. After all, a chunk of the album was purported to have been recorded at Marvin's Room. But, this album's highs and lows, on top of being Drake's best work to date, remind me a bit of Marvin Gaye's Here, My Dear. It's moody as all hell and borderline depressing at points, detailing Drake's climb to relevancy in music (and the costs of said relevancy, including trust issues, wanting to reconcile possibly dead relationships, dealing with newfound friends and enemies).
Even the highs of the album, such as "Lord Knows," still showcase some of these elements. And like Here, My Dear, Drake doesn't give a damn about being "cool" or overly suave. He just spills everything over an eighty-minute album without caring much about the consequences, somehow making even cooler than if he was posteuring about how bad-ass or GOAT he is/was, which helped to cement Drake's status in hip-hop.
With Views from the 6 on the way this week, you owe it to yourself to revisit this 2011 gem. Yes, Nothing Was The Same and IYRTITL presented a lot of the newer Drake energy and shit-talking we've seen on stuff from Views thus far. But, without Take Care to set the foundation to Drake's ascent, we may not have any Views to look for.