On the cover of Drake’s sophomore album Take Care, the musician sits forlorn amid the trappings of his success: solid gold ornaments, plush cloths and works of art. The heavy-handed metaphor isn’t lost, and it remains the dominant theme for the singer-slash-rapper. Take Care is nothing new for Drake. So while “jealousy is just love and hate at the same time,” as Drake raps on opener “Over My Dead Body,” boredom is just monotony and tedium at the same time.
For fans of So Far Gone and Thank Me Later, Take Care does not disappoint. It’s another powerhouse hour of millennial hip hop and R&B: meditations on fame and happiness, the two rarely meeting. Production is top-notch; Noah “40” Shebib’s mellow bass and wistful orchestration provide a strong counterbalance to the punchy radio rap of tracks from Lex Luger, Just Blaze, and Boi-1da. Drake picks his spots to shine, dropping witty lines like “shout out to Asian girls / let the lights dim sum” and sounding fierce on “Under Ground Kings,” an epic 9th Wonder-produced tribute to UGK.
Most of the features are thoughtful and well placed. Verses from Rick Ross (“only fat nigga in the sauna with Jews” a totally Ross pronouncement on “Lord Knows”) and Nicki Minaj (her weird-out punchline rap the highlight of grimey Top 40 hit “Make Me Proud”) are scene-stealers, as always. “Crew Love,” his collaboration with protege The Weeknd, may fit better in the latter’s oeuvre with its blasts of dissonance and atmospherics, but it’s a high point for the OVOXO crew.
The highlight of the record, the title track, combines all of these elements. The beat is a reworked version of the Jamie XX and Gil Scott-Heron collaboration “I’ll Take Care of U.” Rihanna takes the place of the Godfather of Hip-Hop and slinks through the chorus, which lets Drake sound more urgent that someone for once. The ghost of Scott-Heron looms large throughout, especially during the breakdown.
Unfortunately, the last third of Take Care is mostly comprised of slow jams and wasted guest appearances. Don’t get too excited about Stevie Wonder’s credit on the mournful “Doing It Wrong:” the soul legend only shows up as a harmonica player. Similarly, “The Real Her” is another syrupy slow jam of which Andre 3000’s verse is highlight by default, if only because fans are forced to grasp at the table scraps he deigns to share these days.
Take Care‘s Cash Money connection comes from an unexpected source, since Lil’ Wayne’s verses, both on “The Real Her” and “HYFR (Hell Ya Fuckin’ Right),” are mostly forgettable and feel tacked-on. Instead, Drake saves it for last, in his brilliant flip of what is arguably Cash Money’s most important song, Juvenile’s 1999 breakthrough Back That Azz Up. On “Practice,” Mr. Graham takes that unmistakable synth melody and chorus for a smooth ass ride through the 504.
On the spaced-out street single “Marvin’s Room,” Drake raps (or rather drunk dials) that “I’ve had sex 4 times this week / I’ll explain / Having a hard time adjusting to fame.” It’s a smart line, but it’s also something we’ve heard before, seemingly ever since he burst on the scene two years ago with So Far Gone. Drake doesn’t need to find happiness in his fame – he just needs something new to talk about.