Music Review: Drake’s “Take Care”

Is it sufficient praise to say that Canadian rapper and singer Drake’s new album Take Care has left me nearly speechless? Before this review begins to sound hyperbolic, let me clear something up: by “speechless,” I don’t mean that I’m completely bowled over by the quality of the album–although it is, indeed, a great album. Rather, I’m talking about the pure density of this thing. In essence, this album, a nearly 80-minute opus of rap and pop and R&B and whatever else Drake decides to throw in there, is impossible to talk about because there’s so much to talk about. Take Care may or may not be the best album of the year, but it’s almost certainly the most ambitious and replayable. This is an album that’s full of things to listen to, from the awesomely bizarre sampling of Gil Scott-Heron’s voice on the title track, to the way Drake burrows his voice deep into the sampled mix of “Cameras,” to the detuned-piano effect on “The Real Her.” The two records don’t really sound alike, but the closest structural comparison I can make is Flying Lotus’s Cosmogramma (2010). Both records are full of stops and starts, changes in mood and tempo, and segues and interludes and so forth. To put it simply, Drake’s artistic energy would be tiring if the record weren’t so darned fun to listen to.

Take Care's enigmatic album cover

Take Care is something of a tightrope act for Drake, as he constantly teeters between boredom and bombast. When the relatively lightweight one-two punch of “We’ll Be Fine” and “Make Me Proud” threatens to curb the album’s momentum, the Just Blaze production “Lord Knows,” with its gospel choir and booming drums, relieves the sluggish pace of the preceding two tracks, and it works beautifully. Lest you think that Drake is going to let things get monotonously grandiose after the paroxysm of “Lord Knows,” he slyly gets in-house producer Noah “40” Shebib back behind the production board for the two-part “Cameras / Good Ones Go,” a languid track that lets Drake juxtapose his adopted Houston drawl with his beautiful singing voice. Consider this: I’ve just expounded upon the consistently brilliant production and sequencing on this album, and this is just four of the seventeen (!) tracks on the album.

So yes, Take Care is an “album’s album,” a fully cohesive work of art in which every song–nay, every minute–seems calculated in advance. The dominating voice behind it all is, of course, Drake himself, and with this album he somehow reinvents himself without changing his personality or artistic vision. “Look What You’ve Done,” perhaps the most touching song Drake has ever written, adeptly displays how he’s completely refined and improved his style and delivery while still retaining what made him unique in the first place. “Boo hoo / Sad story / Black American dad story,” saying more about race and struggle in America in one line than he used to be able to in ten. When he takes a legitimate artistic risk in tacking on a voicemail from his grandmother at the end, the emotional payoff is tremendous; “Look What You’ve Done” is an almost unbelievably powerful statement from an artist who many have accused of posturing.

Ultimately, isn’t that what Take Care is all about? Drake is showing, not telling, his detractors why they’re wrong about him. “You won’t feel me ‘til everybody say they love you but it’s not love,” he spits on closer “The Ride,” and then convinces everybody to love him with the seemingly endless bars thereafter. Things go similarly on opener “Over My Dead Body”: “I think I killed everybody in the game last year,” he brags, and then validates it with four more minutes of slick punchlines, tight singing, and one of the best rap choruses I’ve heard all year. When I mentioned earlier how variegated an experience Take Care is, it wasn’t without reason; this album is something of a thesis statement for Drake as a multifaceted artist in a musical environment where talented rappers need to be more than just that. With Take Care, Drake has proved that his bark is more than matched by his artistic bite. Let’s all be thankful that his victory lap has such an immensely enjoyable soundtrack.


-Alex Robertson, Arts Editor 

Posted by on November 11, 2011. Filed under Arts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry