A Panegyric Upon Take Care
A Panegyric Upon Take Care
Since its leak a few days ago, I have listened to Drake’s Take Care a full way through at least a dozen times already. To be honest, this isn’t just the best album of the year – it may prove to be one of the best hip-hop albums constructed in the past decade. Take Care is an album with such ambition and extravagance that it can only be adequately compared to last year’s masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
It’s easily discernable that Drake isn’t your typical rapper and his latest endeavor exemplifies that fact. Here is a rapper that doesn’t try to give any insight into “street life” which I think we can accept as a breath of fresh air because let’s face it: we’ve heard it all before. Instead Drake explores a different avenue of the lifestyle that, besides by Kanye, is otherwise left untouched. This new strain of rapper tries to demonstrate what it’s like settling into affluence and consequently how the migration affects his ego, his views on life, and his very essence of self. Drake’s sophomore LP considers this aspect thoroughly.
Take Care sheds all the timorous aspects that Thank Me Later possessed, finding its own powerful, dangerous voice teetering somewhere between confident and cocky. In some songs he embraces this pseudo-arrogance to maintain a somewhat disagreeable persona: “Bottom sixes and chains, and some bracelets and rings: / All of the little accents that make me a king.” But that’s what makes him so enjoyable: he’s capable of fluctuating between two distinct moods and he’s effective in doing so because the man’s net worth is there backing up everything he says. (It should be brought to attention that Drake’s net worth is relatively excessive when compared to how long his career has been afloat, and there is no disputing that.) His music has mass appeal and that’s because people are able to pick and choose from his versatile style, allowing them to commend the certain facets that the listener enjoys. He is arguably the most multifarious entertainer in the world right now, but many people dismiss this fact by neglecting the venerable aphorism and judging a book by its cover without giving his true talent a chance. He’s capable of conveying that he may be different but that’s the major reason why he shouldn’t be tested. Men often either worship or reproach the things that they cannot understand and Drake’s success and concurrent condemnation may be attributable to that vein of logic.
Drake’s smart on this album. Some may even describe him as cultivated and I don’t think I could disagree. Drake draws from different influences and pays them homage respectively. The album has a respect for tradition but isn’t afraid to venture into the unexpected. Drake has a definitive feeling for soul music, with this being exemplified by Stevie Wonder’s harmonica solo at the end of “Doing It Wrong.” Furthermore, Take Care is riddled with unique allusions that other rappers have hitherto neglected taking the advantage of incorporating. Take the old Irish toast recited at the end of “Shot For Me,” for example – you just won’t see things like that anywhere else in this genre. Things like this are effective because of their ambiguity. Drawing from the previously stated example, the toast could be interpreted as Drake speaking to the past loves in the song, hoping all the best things for the girls that have hurt or wronged him (which is a very gallant gesture, in my opinion) whilst at the same time tying back to the title of taking a shot to replace Drake’s absence. At the end of “Headlines” Drake delivers an affectionate prayer-like dialogue that’s reminiscent of the supplications that exist in DMX’s albums. It’s a strange entreaty that eerily encompasses the album’s mentality and message.
There are more examples of this cultivation of smart music that vary from the peculiar filtering of what is presumably an oblique folk-soul song in the titular track “Take Care” to the sampling of UGK; from the creepy distortion of 90s rapper E.S.G. at the end of “Over My Dead Body” (which also samples some of “Swangin’ and Bangin’s production qualities) that sends a rancorous “don’t fuck with me” throughout the album to the phone call that impels the story of “Marvin’s Room.”
These incorporations take nothing away from the raw and gripping, personal nature of the album and instead augment the appeal. The production value and guest appearances are all exceedingly impressive. Drake’s protégé, The Weeknd, demands exclusive attention, as his voice is haunting, delicate and forceful all at once: a rare quality that must not be dismissed. His voice materializes itself in the background of numerous songs as some sort of frequent wraith, transporting to the listener an unmistakable sense of anguish or grief. But what makes The Weeknd so promising is that he’s still capable of expressing the lavishness of the lifestyle without evoking us with sadness and this is illustrated on “Crew Love” with lines like “If you broadcast swag, we the news of the city.” The up-and-coming Kendrick Lamar also gets his own verse on “Buried Alive” and, just like The Weeknd, the things he says are not easily ignored. He puts heavy faith in Drake’s accomplishments, espousing Drake’s vice of vanity without addressing that as a morally wrong thing. Lamar’s words are calculated and cool, unpredictable and smooth.
Lyrically, the album is nearly impeccable. Some of my favorite lines come from the solemn, slick-talking “We’ll Be Fine” when he begins the song with “Never thoughts of suicide; I’m too alive. / But I still treat it like it’s ‘do or die,’” only to further express that, “dying isn’t in the plans / But neither was making it, and here I am.” There is a balance in Drake’s lyrics that excites and fulfills nearly every line. Upon closer inspection, the album is much more than just a former actor trying to rap. It stands alone as an achievement that will sustain itself against the test of time.
Take Care boasts an exoteric appeal, but it’s much more than that. This will be an album that posterity will draw from for influence. It will shine as the new standard for those trying to be successful, an exemplar of what a healthy album should possess, a perfect mixture of old and new used to define and defy a genre. Drake has outdone himself and should relish in the fact that this very well may be as good as it gets. Without further ado, Take Care.