By Julian De Ocampo ’13
Drake – “Take Care”
8.5 out of 10
Will there ever be a masterpiece of a hip-hop album?
I would argue that there hasn’t been one yet, regardless of what people will say about Biggie’s “Ready to Die” or Kanye’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.”
I bring this up because Drake’s sophomore effort, “Take Care” comes so very close to glory, barely missing the mark on masterpiece
“Take Care” is a decidedly solemn affair, shockingly so for a rap album, mostly because Drake is just a sad person.
And he’s pretty hung-up on just about everything: money, girls, fame, his mom, his friends, and his simultaneous repulsion and fascination with partying in the nightlife.
In fact, there’s nothing even close to a bombastic machismo track like his past hits “Over” or “Forever” on “Take Care.”
Instead we get slow jams and murky production values that sound as thick as syrup and as glum as Drake sounds on these tracks.
Lyrically, Drake spills his heart in every song, oftentimes letting startlingly insightful adages dribble out from under the density of sultry synthesizers.
“We live in a generation of, not being in love, and not being together / but we sure make it feel like we’re together / because we’re scared to see each other with somebody else,” sings Drake on “Doing It Wrong,” which strangely enough also features a low-key harmonica performance from Stevie Wonder.
Wonder is just one out of nearly a dozen featured artists on this hulking 80-minute, 18-track album.
Some of these guests fare better in Drake’s distressed, blacked-out world than others.
André 3000 brings to the table one of the album’s most poignant verses on “The Real Her,” commiserating with Drake and rapping, “Everybody has an addiction; mine happens to be you / and those who say they don’t / souls will later on say to them ‘that ain’t true.’”
Elsewhere, guest artists often find themselves completely at odds with Drake’s style and production, trying to force their own demeanor onto a song unwilling to accept them.
Birdman fares far worse on “We’ll Be Fine,” the closest thing the album has to a confident brag-track.
Birdman repeatedly refers to the track as “gangsta,” which sounds laughably out-of-place when you consider that Drake is essentially the antithesis of gangster rap, eschewing violent narratives for heart-on-sleeve confessionals.
Other guests, like Rick Ross and Nicki Minaj perform as expected, showing up and giving consistently decent verses.
One of the albums best tracks, “Take Care,” features the trademark stuttering production from Jamie xx of British band The xx, which, coupled with a Rihanna hook, creates one of the best out-of-left-field collaborations of the year.
And while some of the slower numbers can drag, “Take Care” is one of the greatest hip-hop albums I’ve ever heard.
The production is gorgeous, lush and beautiful. Drake’s ear for a complex beat complements his improved flow and vocal abilities.
It’s also one of the best sequenced albums of the year, flowing like a cinematic wonder at times.
It’s a shame that the album falters due to some of the pitfalls that plague most hip-hop albums – inconsistent guest verses, an inability to balance sentimentality and corny one-liners and a far-too-long tracklisting – because “Take Care” might just go down as the moment when Drake grazed the threshold of greatness.
In the end, “Take Care” is a fantastic album that serves as proof that Drake might just be able to change rap music forever.
Here’s hoping to next time, Drake.