One of the most important things in this industry known as the music business is growth. It’s one thing to see an artist evolve and it’s another entirely to see a rapper release a hit and disappear from the game, or even release music constantly but never show any type of movement in terms of comfort and evolution. We as the supporters of Hip-Hop have watched MC’s change and adjust for years since the days Afrika Bambaataa. It was, of course through different outlets from those that we may use now but regardless, the people watched as rappers and artists did more than spit bars, but actually change with the ages, some in positive ways, maintaining themselves as individuals and still managing to remain relevant while others fell through the cracks, from the top of the charts into ambiguity and anonymity. In this day and age, it’s so much easier to have more access to an artist if he made himself open to it, thanks to the internet. That said, an artist such as Drake, who is believed by many to be the leader of the “new school” amongst a wave of new talented stars, leads by example in that light but in the best possible way: regardless of how available (or unavailable) he may be to the world wide web, his stories and lessons always reveal themselves in his music.
To say Thank Me Later was highly anticipated is an understatement, as the hype surrounding this man has been insane ever since his mixtape So Far Gone hit the mainstream circuit then carried over, through the 1st album sales. Drizzy is all too talented with exposing his flaws via his music and through his relatable work, Drake’s debut album may not have met Lil Wayne’s expectations sales wise but it did manage to be considered solid enough to keep all eyes on him. After that Drake’s efforts were veiled, quietly working on his sophomore project as he toured and suddenly revealing a new group of affiliates to his OVO team known as XO, led by the hypnotizing artist The Weeknd. Then as tracks started to make themselves available via his website, Drake started his campaign to his next project Take Care utilizing the same formula his fans are familiar with. The hype began to rebuild itself as he pressed on, between the various rumors of who he was with (in relationships AND label wise), his involvement in his boss Lil Wayne’s “I’m Good” track and even the features for his own album. Now as we arrive on the eve of Take Care Tuesday, Drake is hours away from releasing his sophomore album exactly the way he wants it. Now, given that it’s exactly the way Aubrey Graham wants it, does that make it perfect, let alone album of the year?
Drake glides in right on “Over My Dead Body”, the beat that would be the result of Thank Me Later‘s “Fireworks” and “Dreams Money can Buy”. It leaves a lot of room to be lyrically free but Drizzy sticks to his usual flow over the beat, taking the time to deliver a “Fireworks” type of feel with all of the points he addressed. Less emotionally fueled and more to the point, potent lines are delivered like “I think I killed everybody in the game last year man, fuck it I was on though” that clearly show you where his mind state currently is. Doing the same as the intro on his debut, it shows you a large canvas, touches on certain points, and leaves it to the rest of the project to fill in the rest. “Fireworks” Part 2, is how I personally view it.
Here Drake gets into his emotions quickly with “Shot For Me”, speaking over the slow tempo about a special woman from his city who he changed forever by being with her. He confesses that he misses her but her issues with how often he was able to be around were too much of a burden. “You and the music were the only things that I’d commit to” he mentions as he slides over the beat, reminding the listeners of his issues with good women and how he’s never been foolish enough to choose a woman over the money and fame. We’ll never stop getting these stories from Drake and while I’m not entirely mad at that, I do feel this track was only bonus worthy. Not bad at all, but needed? No. Fit well with the rest of the project? Not exactly. Nonetheless, the end carries the tone of the lead single from the project, slightly hinting at what was to come powered by a sample over it, and honestly that moment itself was the part I enjoyed most.
Drake gets into some actual lyricism as he continues to discuss where he is and why you don’t want to step on anyone in his team’s toes. Open reflection happens here in a way that if you would’ve heard it ahead of time, you could’ve guessed that it was meant to be the album’s “Over”. A short 3 minutes of rapping and singing over the canvas that is a Boi-1da beat leads Drake into a different version of Headlines, as the end contains a spoken word poem from Drizzy, talking more on what he heard the people would rather hear of him. It seems that so far the TML streak continues, as we get “Headlines” right around where we would’ve gotten “Over” on TML, give or take a track.
Here the album takes more of its own distinct turn, as the stabs of seven pound the beat in between The Weeknd’s unique singing. Abel (The Weeknd) sings in question, wondering why the women follow him and his crew over the others in the room, comparing his troops to C4 explosives. He takes over for a lot of this song, serving it as more of an interlude than anything with Drake nonexistent until about 2 minutes into the track. Pride in his team is as much a given as you would think on a track titled “Crew Love”, as he speaks on how satisfied he is to be who he is, taking care of himself and his team, which he claims is “everything we believe in”. 40 takes no prisoners with the instrumental, managing to be powerful with the stabs but still far from aggressive. It’s Drake’s team to lead, but “Crew Love” shows off, if anything, the supporting roles at their finest.
Drake and Rihanna enjoy each other’s company on the radio friendly “Take Care” where Ri Ri handles the hook and allows Drizzy to get comfortable in the verses. He speaks to a woman with his words, and it’s almost impossible not to seriously consider that he was speaking to her with his verses, speaking of how when the parties are over, they can just”go slow”. Far from the best thing I’ve ever heard, but infectious in it’s presentation, this track will take over the radio with the right push, “Find Your Love” style.
The extremely vulnerable “Marvin’s Room” lingers through here, allowing Drake to tell his latest and greatest ex in song that she needs to be back with him. The entire track follows a strict path of weakness and need, wanting nothing but the one he knows he lost to another. Drake manages to make having millions sound like the most depressing thing ever, but nonetheless it’s a solid track, ending with Drake rapping but still pushing his previous words in his singing, insisting that he knows he put himself in his current situation. The track quietly sneaks into our surprise guest.
We’re greeted by Compton’s own Kendrick Lamar for the “Buried Alive Interlude” where he quickly gets into a amazingly well written series of bars all linking to each other seamlessly. From mentions of an alien that gave a certain Toronto native an addiction (which you can assume is the fame) to an Aaliyah mention to living in the matrix and how women are the taste makers for the music he crafts, Lamar shines for a solid 2 and a half minutes with a verse that will need many listens just to capture the entire picture he paints in his moment.
Drake’s getting back to his ways on “Underground Kings”, rapping more in an aggressive lane for a short 3 and a half minutes, and considering the hook, it’s really only two and a half. Straight to the point with his lyrics this time around he touches on some moments in his past, comparing it with how he is now. A solid track for sure, but at this point we’ve gotten more singing than rapping on this actual project.
Two for two, Drake delivers a satisfying (longer, thankfully) record with “We’ll Be Fine” where we get more actual rapping. Well done over a great beat (done by Toronto producer T-Minus who also produced Moment 4 Life) Drizzy utilizes that little advantage he has that allows him to naturally sound great on a track. It proves true on the hook, where he’s really barely making an attempt at singing, just carrying lower notes right within reach of his regular tone and yet, it sounds superb. A great (single worthy) track that is ended by Birdman, who talks his sh*t over the instrumental at the end, tying it up neatly.
“Make Me Proud” has single written all over it just by the Nicki Minaj feature. Drake had a certain point he wanted to get across with this one, mainly to strengthen his fan base with the women (as if he needs it) and it wouldn’t be complete without Minaj in there, despite her verse being highly disappointing. Altogether a decent track.
Now THIS is what we were waiting for from Drake. We expected this from Track ONE on this project. Lyrical power, points made and cleverly delivered left and right, backed by a classic beat by legendary producer Just Blaze. The Young Angel absolutely loses it over this beat, mixing his aggressive flow with his honesty perfectly. “Of all the things they be poking fun at, never the flow though, they know I run that.” he says as he stomps all over the beat, acknowledging the haters in his glory. It’s easy to give Drake the win on this track until you reach the second half where the beat flips entirely, allowing Ross to spit his own verses over a modified version of the beat and although Rozay’s side was better in terms of the instrumental, Drizzy’s overall effort wins between the two. One of the better tracks on this entire project.
I’m more pleased with Lex Luger and his production of this track than I am about Drake on the actual track itself. Drake’s ho-hum delivery here just sounds lazy. The “Good Ones Go Interlude” however, is an improvement over the former part of the track definitely, and overall balances it out.
Picking up from those good girls that are going bad, “Doing It Wrong” is soft and comes across with the vibe of So Far Gone, as do a number of tracks on this project. Describing the moments that may hurt the most, Drake unleashes his singing voice for the entire track, while the legend Stevie Wonder takes to the harmonica for the bridge towards the end. Drake mentions how he “needs something different” and at this point I’m thinking the same thing.
With “The Real Her”, the track that probably caused the most chaos in terms of buzz, Andre 3000 and Lil Wayne join Drake over a quieter, slower instrumental in the essence of So Far Gone. Overall the track doesn’t manage to surprise or meet the hype. Just disappointing on all levels, considering the underwhelming beat, Lil Wayne’s failure to return to form, and 3Stacks delivers a decent verse, but even for him it fell short and fails to save the song.
Drizzy and Tunechi join forces again to take on the idea of being pressured about bullsh*t and tell their own stories with women in their respective verses. Singing is practically nonexistent as they abuse the rapid fire flow, surrounding a very unique hook regarding the questions they get asked in these interviews. Drake steps out and stands in front of Wayne on this one, although both verses are far from their peak in terms of lyrical ability. Lil Wayne speaking of “meeting a female dragon and having a fire conversation” doesn’t do anything for the track but it does manage to remind me of Lil Wayne’s disappointing efforts on Tha Carter IV.
Produced by Chase N. Cashe, Drake’s “Look What You’ve Done” is a letter to his mother and those who have been there and stuck by him back in the day when things were much more difficult for him. Drake shines here with a simple beat, and tells a couple of stories that seem to only get better with each listen. Simply put, well done.
In a daring move on “Practice”, Drake takes Juvenile’s hook from his southern classic “Back That Ass Up” and revitalizes it in his own words for the hook on the record, taking over the verses with his singing abilities. The track itself stands on a very thin line between genius and awkward, as some who know of Juvenile and his hit previously may not be able to adjust to the vulnerable Drake delivering the same lines but eliminating character from the equation, Drake delivers a creatively good ballad with this one.
Drake takes 5 minutes out to throw the listener in and out of his perspective on how he views things, rapping over a simpler beat produced by The Weeknd (who harmonizes throughout the track repeatedly in the background, adding to the beat) and Doc McKinney. Emotionally available as ever, Drake clearly allows those to make whatever they please of his emotions and views, speaking on what he notices as he walks streets living life in the best way he believes he shouldn’t. “My sophomore I was all for it, they all saw it, my junior and senior will only get meaner, Take Care n*gga.” he concludes as he allows the instrumental to ride. “The Ride” is Drake showing out.
Heavy West Coast influence, a surprisingly good Lil Wayne verse (if you don’t think so you’re missing some underlying points), a 2nd Mac Dre reference and an infectious beat you just have to nod to make up “The Motto” which Drake claims he actually borrowed from his fellow artist Rick Ross. This track was definitely made to be more of a crowd pleaser and considering it’s placement as a bonus track, it’ll probably serve that purpose.
The final track out of the bonus cuts is the catchy “Hate Sleeping Alone” where Drake speaks on his addiction to having women that don’t mean nearly as much to him in his bed at night because of the fact that he can’t have the one he truly cares about. Honesty through arguments and the ability to relate are Drake’s key factors to making this track a hit, and somehow it doesn’t feel old or repetitive at all. Not the perfect way to end a project, but better than concluding with “The Motto”.
Aubrey Graham is looked at in various ways. He’s hated and judged and his sensitivity, and at the same time he’s praised for all that he’s done in his short time as the frontrunner for the new generation of artists. One thing he claimed going into the making of this project was that he felt rushed about making Thank Me Later, and with this project he took a lot of time and put all of his effort into it, releasing it when he felt it was best. He also noted that he wanted to return to his So Far Gone roots with this project and while I do feel he accomplished that, he also arrived at the same issues. SFG was an amazing mixtape lengthy and as relatable as it was emotionally powerful but it lacked a powerful punch. It was more softer records and less rapping. Although TC is definitely in SFG’s zone, simply put, it isn’t as good and still suffers from the same flaw.
It’s believed that making it in the industry is a double edged sword to some, mainly because of the fact that with the gift of fame and glory comes the curse of comfort and satisfaction. Most of the artists involved in Hip Hop today and really arrive at greatness lose the hunger that you may have heard from them previously, that got them there in the first place. The curse seems to have hit its mark with Drake. Throughout the project I kept asking myself where the serious hunger to be at the top of the game was. I’ve been a fan of Drake since his Room for Improvement mixtape, back when rapping was a hobby and acting on Degrassi was paying his bills and it seems as he’s growing in fame, he’s only losing more of that hunger we as Hip-Hop lovers want from him in the first place. It shows in some tracks (“Lord Knows”) but even in those where he’s rapping full on like “The Ride” it feels like Drake is giving us all of him emotionally but more for the fact that he thinks it’s what we want, not wanting to do it himself with the intent to remain the top dog. Overall, Take Care is not a bad effort from Graham, but it’s just not the best. Quantity does not mean Quality, and it shows here.