We have to admit, we came late to the Drake party. It wasn’t until the orchestral bombast of ‘Over’ that we realized he was onto something amazing.
The lyrics of the hook (“I know way too many people here right now/That I didn’t know last year”) spoke of the trepidation that fame and money brings. It’s a theme which dominates ‘Take Care’.
From the cover – which depicts Drake as some sort of battle-worn Roman Emperor who’s eaten too much gold-encrusted swan at dinner and is paying the price – to the nocturnal sonics (thanks in part to collaborations with Jamie XX and The Weeknd) contained within, ‘Take Care’ is a classic post-fame album. The rapper contemplates his newly found riches that equally intrigue and disgust him.
In the spoken word intro to ‘Crew Love’, he touches upon the albums themes saying: “Make this an open letter about family and struggle/About it taking forever/About hearts that you’ve broken and ties that you’ve severed.”
‘Over My Dead Body’
“I know you don’t love me, baby”, is the way Drake chooses to open ‘Take Care’. He starts as he means to go on. Against this Frank Ocean-ish backing Drake ponders the state of his career, taxes and more. “I guess you win some and lose some,” he concludes. Let the emo-hop begin!
‘Shot For Me’
He’s in full-on 80s crooner mode, as the synths sit expansively over a machine-gun drum beat. “Alesha, Katya, I’m The Man,” he emotes to all the girls he’d loved before (well some of them at least). There are shades of The Weeknd’s dark clubland odes on this track (not to mention the locked-in-a-cupboard backing vocals) and even Bon Iver’s ‘Beth/Rest’.
You know this one where we find Drizzy mixing regret with bravado over a choppy riff. He’s filled with a mantra of “realness” and “money over everything” yet, this being Drake, it’s more complicated than that. “Then she wanna ask when it got so empty/ Tell her I apologise, happened over time,” he emotes in his eternal search for self reflection. The layers of tone are all very ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’.
“There’s a roomful of niggers/ What are you following me for?” sings The Weeknd’s Abel Tesfaye on a track that sounds like it could have been taken from his ‘House Of Balloons’. And if the theme of being hounded by unwanted attention seekers and groupies hangs heavily on the hook, Drake’s one verse finds him celebrating the fact he can splash out on his family (the “crew” of the title) and, like, buy them stuff.
One part xx remix (Jamie xx produces and his Gil Scott-Heron collaboration ‘I’ll Take Care Of U’ features heavily), one part Chicago house monster, and one part lovelorn duet between the former ‘What’s My Name’ collaborator Rihanna, the title track is an early album highlight. “You hate the fact you bought the dream and they sold you one,” Drake sings (to Rihanna? To himself?) before Scott-Heron’s ghostly voice comes juddering in like a warning of things to come and flips the whole thing fantastically 360.
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Following on exquisitely from ‘Take Care’, this is all 3am regret, and xx-like soul searching. Over the flat-lining synth line and the barely-there sighs of a voice on the other end of the line, he breaks the maxim of ‘don’t drunk text’ (no, Drake, no!). Sounding like he’s half asleep when he’s singing he begs an ex to “talk to me please, I don’t have much to believe in,” whilst complaining about his state of mind (“too many drinks have been given to me…. I’ve had sex four times, I’ll explain/ Having a hard time adjusting to fame”). A wonderful malady.
Possibly the most swaggering moment of the album thus far. Drake ditches the shell shocked tone for a moment and goes back to his ‘Thank Me Later’ rapping style, as he tells his story from underground hero to reigning king.
‘We’ll Be Fine’
A partner to ‘Underground Kings’, ‘We’ll Be Fine’ finds Drake riffing about his past over a choppy beat that sounds not unlike ’50 Cent’s ‘Ayo Technology’. A shout to Aaliyah here, a reference to Nicki Minaj and “uptown shit” there, this feels slightly retrograde compared with some of the futureshocking, drowsy soundscapes which have come before.
‘Make Me Proud’
It doesn’t reach the blissful places that their last team up (‘Moment For Life’) did, but ‘Make Me Proud’ is still… pretty good. Drake reels off the qualities he loves in his lady, before Nicki and does what she does best – drop a spotlight-stealing verse (possible because of her Dolly Parton reference).
Producer Just Blaze creates a majestic soundscape, a gospel choir, a refracted orchestra and an old skool sample. It’s all very ‘College Dropout’ and Rick Ross’ verse gives this air-punching track some vocal gravitas (but also some comic relief). Lyrically Drake’s under the cosh again; negotiating the male/female divide, fending off the haters and fans who have their knives ready. Paranoid or battle-weary? It’s hard to tell at this stage.
‘Cameras’ / ‘Good Ones Go’
A slightly dark, low slung bass line and sparse drum beat finds Drake warning a new love that there’s a difference between on-stage chemistry and real love. “Look like we in love, but only on camera,” he growls, as what sounds like a New Jack Swing sample recorded off the radio plays. Outro track ‘Good Ones Go’ sees Drizzy reminiscing regretfully over a lost love (“The good ones go, if you wait too long”) and a Weeknd-styled backing track. We’re making a welcome return to the dark heart of the album.
‘Doing It Wrong’
The track wibbles nervously with Drake pining for “something different” from relationships which end with him lying “I love you’s” and being “in a generation of not being in love,” into this comes Stevie Wonder’s lonely harmonica which, appropriately, sounds like it’s pitching in from another time and another (more innocent) place.
‘The Real Her’
Could be a partner to ‘Shot For Her’ with its shout outs to ‘Houston girls’, ‘Atlanta girls’ and ‘Vegas girls’ and of course there’s a healthy shot of existential angst brewing in the hook’s search for ‘the real her’. Label boss Lil Wayne turns up (“sometimes I Stevie wonder,” he puns) as does Andre 3000 for an uncharacteristically dour rap (“sitting here/sad as hell listening to Adele”) where he assesses the groupie situation (“please be careful/the bitches got the rabies.”)
‘Look What You’ve Done’
A heart tugging reminiscence about his family, aided by what sounds like Tom Waits drunkenly banging out a tune on the piano. Most touchingly he shouts out to a departed relative (Mother? Father? Aunt?) who believed in him before he was famous. Features an endsong answer-phone message from what sounds like his grandmother that will send you grabbing for the tissues (if, let’s face it, you’re not already there).
‘HYFR (Hell Yeah Fuckin Right)’
Weezy makes a second appearance , railing against journalists who ask silly questions (“are you high right now?””Are you single?”- sounds like a Twitter Q&A to us rather than an interview). The title (“hell ya fucking right”) is apparently how they address these queries. That means we can still ask; “where do you get all your lovely jumpers from then Mr Drake?” right?
Similar in tone to ‘Shot For Me’; there’s clattering drum beats and icy synth action going on. The hook seems fashioned on The Weeknd’s ‘The Morning’, as we find Drake morosely club bound once more.
With the Top 40 filled with club-minded bangers, ‘Take Care’ is the epic comedown. Drake has raised his game significantly, cornering the market in emo-hop. There’s few ‘hands in the air’ moments, but instead there’s depth and intelligence here that makes him stand out from the crowd.