Drake - Take Care

I resisted Drake. I resisted Drake hard. In the beginning, when he was just another face on Lil Wayne’s already-overcrowded Young Money roster, I wondered how the hell anyone was supposed to take this kid seriously. Rap, after all, has not historically been kind to Canadians or to teenage soap-opera veterans. When he released his So Far Gone mixtape, he suddenly started to make sense; his rapping was pedestrian, but he had a silky voice and a great instinct for what sort of music best fit it, and “Best I Ever Had” was the sort of stratospheric pop-rap jam that launches gigantic careers. By the time he release Thank Me Later last year, though, I was done. He was dead to me. I thought his unfunny-punchline hashtag-rap style was clumsy and artless, and I just hated the idea that this kid was already getting surly and self-involved about fame on his first album. But a year and a half later, Drizzy did it. He made a great album. He did it by focusing on his strengths, minimizing his weaknesses, and developing his voice. And more to the point, he figured out what he wanted to say and how to say it. Take Care is just as emotionally affecting as it is musically canny, and it’s miles better than anything I ever thought this kid could do.

The Lil Wayne/Rick Ross/DJ Khaled collab “I’m On One” was my first indication that Drake was doing something special this year. It’s not on Take Care, but it’s really a Drake song with a couple of extra guest verses and some easily-ignored DJ bellowing. On past posse cuts like “Forever,” Drake felt like he had to sound tough and bulldoze through his verses, and it didn’t work — for me, anyway. But on “I’m On One,” Drake floats over the beat, letting icy loneliness creep into his voice and dancing around the airily gorgeous beat on his own verse. The track effectively brings Ross and Wayne into Drake’s universe rather than floundering toward someone else’s idea of rap epicness. And it conveys a feeling — a lost, stoned-out remoteness that finally gives dimension and force to all the fuck-fame silliness of Thank Me Later; without blasting us in the face with the idea, Drake finds away to convey how alienating all that fame might be to a young guy like him. And it also recalls all the too-much-drugs-and-sex coldness of Drake’s buddy and fellow Torontonian the Weeknd, who’s become something of a spirit animal for Drake this year.

That’s something about Take Care: Drake finally has a fully-developed aesthetic, a sound that belongs entirely to him. The Weeknd’s snarly, debauched soul is in there. So is the xx’s wintry goth-pop, and the showers-of-glass bass-wobble of late-’90s/early-’00s Virginia R&B. European club music shows up, but it’s only heard at a distance, as in the smothered-in-blankets thump of the title track, which allows Rihanna to sound like an actual human being for what feels like the first time. And rap music is in there, too — especially the swampy Southern snarls shit and the twerked-up jackhammer snares that first built the Cash Money name. Drake namechecks Yo Gotti, lets Birdman gargle triumphantly on an outro, quotes an old rock-hard Wayne verse at length on “Underground Kings.” “Practice” reinvents a Juvenile crossover-bounce classic as a funereal hymn to Drake’s own loving prowess, and it also serves as a stark reminder that two tracks came from the same rap label, and that the same horniness animates both of them. Drake interacts with this rap music like a fan — never trying to inhabit that hardness the way he did on Thank Me Later, but letting it color his music, flesh out the details.

In the run-up to the album, there have been a few great stories about Drake’s production mastermind Noah “40″ Shebib; my friend Nick Sylvester’s FADER profile, in particular, stands out. 40 is worth noticing. He and Drake have built an immersive, powerful sound, and together they seem to understand perfectly how an album like this should flow. Plenty of big-name guests show up, but they don’t seem to be there for name value; they’re there because Drake and 40 know when different voices are needed. After a few early bleak tracks, the album needs a jolt of energy, so Nicki Minaj blazes through her “Make Me Proud” verse. Then, Drake needs to step outside the heartbreak for some triumphal rap shit, so we get the epically pounding Just Blaze verse and the kingly Rick Ross verse of “Lord Knows.” After the bitter internal monologue of “Marvin’s Room,” Kendrick Lamar stops by quickly, as if to remind Drake that there’s a world outside his head. The haunted Stevie Wonder harmonica solo at the end of “Doing It Wrong” lets that one drown in its sorrow. It’s all very, very smart.

Take Care’s closest peer is probably Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreaks, an album I loved and one that only improves with time. They’re both bitterly inward, soulfully bratty documents from stylish A-list rap types. But on 808s, Kanye’s dessicated electro hellscape was an actual superstar freakout moment; he made that album to keep himself from drowning, or to help himself drown. Drake’s album is way more calculated, laser-focused on developing what it is, exactly, that Drake wants to say. One approach isn’t better than the other, necessarily. But Drake doesn’t have Kanye’s natural talent — not even close — so he needed to make this album this way. So he’s not rapping as much, not relying on that hashtag-rap format. There are still a few forehead-smackers — “Shout out to my Asian girls, let the lights dim some,” whoof. But Drake has improved as a rapper; he’s more fluid now, and he’s not underlining his halfassed lines with long pauses and beat drop-outs. And he’s also smart enough to realize when he’s not a good enough rapper to say what he wants. So the deepest-cutting moments on Take Care are the ones where he lets his voice drift along in an acid little singsong, one that beautifully conveys his heaviest shit.

My friend Sean Fennessey’s blog post about “Look What You’ve Done” is devastating, and that song — the one about the women who raised him, about his gratitudes and regrets — is really only the beginning. It’s one side of many. We also get Drake on “Marvin’s Room,” begging for help and lashing out at the same time, telling his ex how much he wants her back in the same breath as he lets her know how much sex he’s having. We get “Shot For Me,” with its sad drunken revelry in leaving behind a girl who he still loves. We get “Underground Kings,” where Drake tries to navigate the opposed polarities of rap-stardom largesse and self-doubt so crippling that you know it’s actually true. And we get feelings and ideas that I haven’t even managed to parse yet, since I’m still so struck with the surface-level musical prettiness of this whole album. There’s a lot to process here, and I remain gobsmacked that Drake has become someone who has given us music worth parsing. Salute.

Take Care is out today on Young Money. Check out our interview with the man. And please don’t forget about G-Side’s Island, a truly excellent rap album that came out in the wrong goddam week.

Comments (58)
  1. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • Damn, you cracked our code. 12-year-olds love reading 1200-word think-pieces about emotive rap music.

      • I got to 650 in mine and I probably could have gone on for a few hundred more had it not been for personal restraint and the awareness that, “Hey, only 5 people in the world including 3 of whom which are my friends are actually going to read this.” Of all the reviews I’ve written this past year, though, Take Care was the one that had as much to say about it as Drizzy does about himself in his music. I don’t even consider myself a fan of rap or hip-hop, but had it not been for a certain Pitchfork article that initially wrote him off as “Guy on Degrassi: The Next Generation,” (Note: Huge fan of Degrassi here. Winter season premier this Friday — Is there still hope for E-Claire? Why is Ali making out Jake?!) my interest would never have been peaked a few summers back.

        I’ve read many comments here where someone will say this is nothing but mainstream pop, but there’s a lot more going on here than his rapping abilities (which I admit are no better and no worse than his contemporaries.) I however like to think that when I listen to Drake, I’m listening to it far much differently than say, a girl I went to high school with who doesn’t even know who The Weeknd is, has no idea which songs 40 produced and thinks “it’s my birthday, I’ll get high if I want to” is a genius line but doesn’t appreciate the Andre 3000′s flow in “The Real Her.”

      • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

      • yeah, I think this is a piece too

    • Sidenote: Drake looks like a kid thats been put in time out on the Take Care cover

    • I don’t think it’s Stereogum going out of its way to intentionally annoy readerswith these more mainstream picks, but rather that it’s mid-November and there just aren’t that many big “indie” releases scheduled at the moment. November and December are typically the months where major labels release their big guns because it’s the best time of year for them to sell music due to the holiday shopping season. A quick glimpse over this weeks releases included R.E.M.’s Greatest Hits, a Tegan and Sara live album, Sigur Ros’ Inni, Gym Class Heroes, Childish Gambino, Los Campesinos!, Andrea Bocelli, Slash… This seems like the best pick out of them.

      • nah blood this is an album of the year contender and to overlook it would be akin to overlooking the cultural/generational impact of shabazz palaces – AN INDIE CRIME. Sentence? 100 years of belinda lambert.

        Case closed.

        Det. DT.

        • Although Shabbazz Palaces has been releasing albums as a duo before white hipsters jumped on their bandwagon.

        • I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic about Shabazz Palaces or not.

          Anyways, I agree with the tom about Drake improving a lot and that the album is really good. I never really liked Drake much either, and although the album is probably one of the better albums of the year (especially in rap/hip hop) I personally don’t like it as much as most people have. I like Black Up better than this, but Take Care is impressive. I think some people may rave about it too much, but it is unfortunate that some people won’t even give this album a chance and actual try appreciate it.

          I also really enjoyed that interview with Drake posted a couple of days ago. IMO, it showed Drake in a different light and more than just a successful rapper who can seem annoying on the surface.

        • Uh, The Greatest Story Never Told, Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang, Section 80, Charity Starts at Home, Cole World: The Sideline Story, Watch the Throne…..

          Not taking anything away from Take Care (which I’ll admit is growing on me), it’s arguably not even top 5 in terms of albums of the year form a hip-hop perspective.

  2. Ugliest cover ever, very good album.

  3. Once I put some pants on I’m buying this album.

  4. Best things about Take Care
    1. Crew Love/Cameras 90′s R&B/Rap Hybrid feel
    2. How epic the ‘Lord Knows’ beat get’s during Rozay’s verse
    3. Stevie Wonders harmonica solo at the end of ‘Doing It Wrong’
    4. Andre 3000′s flow on “The Real Her’
    5. ‘Look What You’ve Done’ ability to make you be thankful for your loved ones and wan’t to two-step at the same time

    Take Care. My album of the year. *Birdman’s rant at the end of ‘Well Be Fine’ plays* lol

  5. “I resisted Drake. I resisted Drake hard.” THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID YEEAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!
    :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D

  6. Ya know, not that my opinion on this matter is particularly important, but I just can’t get into Drake and can’t get into this record. The frustrating part of it is that I SHOULD love this record because it fits right in with other stuff that I love, but something about Drake’s content just always falls flat and doesn’t resonate with me. I guess I’ll keep giving it a shot for a little while, but thusfar I have consistently felt that the worst part of every Drake song and album is Drake himself.

  7. Great review.

    I felt the same way. Being from Toronto and being obsessed with Degrassi as a kid, it was hard for me to imagine Aubrey – er, Drake – as a musical force. When I heard he was making music, I laughed it off and just remembered Jimmy rapping in his wheelchair. I liked a few tracks on Thank Me Later, especially Fancy (which I can listen to over and over), but overall I just felt like it was sort of empty pop-hiphop, for the most part.

    After hearing this album those feelings are dead and gone now. I like to think I have a wide and varied taste in music and I’ve heard a lot of great albums this year – but Take Care definitely stands out as one of the best. Any haters are just stuck with their preconceived notions of who Drake is, which is unfortunate because they are missing out on one amazing album.

  8. Coolest cover ever, very good album.

  9. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • Music is music. Who gives a fuck who made it or what label they’re on. If it’s good then it’s good. If it sucks then it sucks. I could care less how many other people listen to it or what type of people they are.

    • I guess I am a “Lamestreamer”. I am not up to date on my street lingo so I am not sure what it means, but I am guessing it is along the lines of: someone who seeks out music they like, not keeping their knowledge to just the radio, and listens to music they like; that’s me.

      • Okay, looked up the definition. I was off, I am actually not a lamestreamer. If I was, I’d listen to Radiohead and NMH with much gusto.

      • thanks for this

        • So Dylan, my guess is you’re between 17-21 and in the “I hate everything that’s mainstream” phase of your lilfe. These are your “college years,” where you get to think everyone’s wrong and you’re right. It’s okay, you’ll grow out of it.

          I guess I’m a lamestreamer (favorite albums include Soft Bulletin, OK Computer, Kid A, Loveless (Sire/Warner), and Daydream Nation (DGC)), but not a “cool dad” because I don’t have kids. What I don’t think you realize is that damn near every record label has some relationship, either by being partially owned by, or by granting distribution rights to, major labels.

          And Dylan, people aren’t downvoting you because they’re “lamestreamers” or “cool dads,” they’re downvoting you because you’re both arrogant AND ignorant, which is a lethal combination.

          • How do we edit comments?

            Second sentence in Second paragraph should read: “What I don’t think you realize is that damn near every record label has some relationship with major labels, either through partial ownership by a major label or by granting distribution rights to a major label”

          • Actually, I downvoted him because I’m a cool dad. (I don’t know what his scarequotes meant.) Stereogum founder Scott Lapatine: Also a cool dad.

          • My guess is he’s 17-18, just read Hipster Runoff for the first time and thought it was hilarious. Decided all music that isn’t Animal Collective sucks, and doesn’t realise that everyone went through that month-long phase 3-4 years ago. That is entry level Dylan.

    • Just because you’ve read Hipster Runoff doesn’t mean you (a) need to quote it on other blogs or (b) are just too cool for Stereogum.

      • First of all, I don’t really even read HRO anymore. 2nd, Anco sucks ass. 3rd, I have no problem with mainstream music, I love almost all mainstream rap from the 90′s. I just think (not all, but most of) today’s mainstream music sucks. The only reason I would even say anything about it is not to sound arrogant or ignorant, but because I don’t understand ‘indie’ blogs that shove Drake down everyone’s throat like he’s the second coming of christ. And I know everyone’s gonna say “Drake is amazing you don’t know what you’re talking about.” But I can name atleast 10 hip hop albums from this year that are better than this, so I’m not coming from an ignorant point of view. I like to read indie blogs for indie music, If I wanted to read about mainstream artists like Drake, I’d go to rolling stone. So you guys can say whatever you want about me. I really don’t care, I won’t be visiting here much more anyways..

      • Remember when Dylan only had like a few replies? Now the replies are so bountiful it’s like they sold out, so effing lamestream!

        p.s. – “Cool Dads” best band name of the year

  10. Props for mentioning G-Side. Island is My personal favorite album right now, but it’s partially because I’ve been anticipating it since the summer. The One… Cohesive was great as an introduction to the entire Huntsville scene, but it left me wanting more of just G-Side and Block Beattaz. Island managed to fulfill my expectations and then some, so I really hope they gain a bigger audience. They sure as hell deserve it.

    Take Care is great, and Marvin’s Room has been on repeat for me for a long time, but G-Side won this for me personally.

  11. For another take on this that may leave you speechless in the face of such brilliant writing, check out Big Ghostfase’s review :

  12. is there any popular artist (particularly of the rap variety) that you initially dislike that you don’t eventually end up rationalizing in favor of man? this album is even more boring than his last, and so far as i can tell an “Entertainment Weekly” review of all things is the only one that’s matched my thoughts on it.

  13. When i listen to his lyrics on this album, they seem similar, and on par with those written by Fiona Apple. It is a huge compliment, but im not sure Drake would take it as such. Either way its a fucking great album.

    • So cry if you need to, but I can’t stay to watch you
      That’s the wrong thing to do
      Touch if you need to, but I can’t stay to hold you
      That’s the wrong thing to do
      Talk if you need to, but I can’t stay to hear you
      That’s the wrong thing to do
      Cause you say you love me, and I’ll end up lying
      And say I love you too


  14. there is not one misplaced hair in the beard

  15. its a solid album. I like it. Love the production also, but not the great like everyone is purporting it to be. A good 7/10.

    I also don’t get why it’s only me, but this can’t be that much better than shabazz palaces/st. vincent or even the weeknd’s efforts? I know 40 has already said he based his production predominantly on 808′s, but this doesn’t seem to be far removed from that, or possess even the same verve to get away with being this derivative.

    It also seemed to me that on this album, the best tracks are the ones when other people are showing him how its done. e.g Kendrick on Marvin, Andre on ‘real her’ and ross on ‘lord knows’.

    I don’t know man. It’s only a day after it’s release. Maybe it’s a grower. Maybe i’ll better positioned to like this album more when, inevitably, everyone is making bullshit copies of his style.

  16. Shoot, this guy is so right.
    Having elements in your music which are popular and/or trending right now could only be a money grab and anyone who doesn’t make the music they dreamed of as kids is a huge sell out. Case and point, Rebecca Black and Neon Indian. Eight-Bit sounds and Chill Wave are trending right now, and chillwave didn’t even exist in the 1990′s when Alan Palomo was a kid, so he must be out only to make money, not because he loves his music and not because Era Extraña is one of the best albums of the year. Rebecca, on the other hand, clearly makes music any three to eleven year old would love, therefore she probably dreamed of making this music as a kid and isn’t in it for money, so anyone with logic can see that Black is the true artist and Palomo is a money whore.

  17. Sounds like run of the mill hip hop to me.

  18. listening to this album right now, it is great.

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