November 8, 2011

Test Spins: Take Care

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Before the release of his first album Thank Me Later, Drake’s name was barely known. He had more fame from his acting gig as the handicapped Jimmy Brooks on Degrassi than as a rapper, but after the tremendous success of his first album and his collaborations with the greatest acts in hip-hop and rap, Drake has made quite a name for himself.

Drake’s sophomore album, Take Care, which is slated for a Nov. 15 release, was leaked on the Internet last week. While sophomore albums can be difficult to master, this studio album is no disappointment. On his sophomore album, the Toronto-bred rapper and songwriter proves his immense talent, and the album features a bevy of interesting collaborations.

A clear focus of this album is Drake’s success so far and the celebratory status it has brought the rapper in the past few years.

The opening track, “Over My Dead Body,” is solid, and his raps flow smoothly as he discusses his career and his hopes for the future. “Headlines” is reminiscent of Drake’s older songs: catchy beats and a smooth integration of his raps and singing as he boasts of his success and money. On “Crew Love,” The Weeknd sings over trippy electronic beats that are overproduced to bear a hazy, mellow quality. Drake comes in around the last quarter of the song, and though his verse is very brief, he offers soothing, effortless rhymes, as he asserts that he wants to live his life in high quality — “I’ve never been one for the preservation of money / Nah, much rather spend it all while I’m breathing.”

Drake’s collaboration with Rihanna on “Take Care” is as promising as one would expect it to be. The track has a very catchy dance beat with potential to be a radio hit or club jam. Rihanna’s sultry and gentle voice offers a pleasant interruption between Drake’s verses, and Drake interchanges between singing and rapping, providing much variety throughout the track. On “Make Me Proud,” Drake and Nicki Minaj work together yet again. Nicki adds some of her usual sassiness to the song, but neither the lyrics nor the beat are anything spectacular.

However, on some of his collaborative tracks, the featured artists steal the attention away from Drake. “The Real Her” starts off with lackluster lyrics and a repetitive melody, and the core excitement does not come along until the last two minutes, when Lil Wayne and Andre 3000 make their appearance. Lil Wayne performs an especially stellar, though short, verse which is packed with sharp quips and puns—“I know I’m not supposed to judge a book by it’s cover/I don’t wanna be in the blind, but sometimes I Stevie Wonder [about her].”

The eight-minute long “Marvin’s Room / Buried Alive (Interlude)” is basically two songs in one, with the first, “Marvin’s Room,” being a mellow and sorrowful plead as Drake drunkenly confesses his love to a girl over a telephone. Drake’s lyrics lack substance, and the overall sound is droning, but the track suddenly picks up its momentum five minutes through, once Kendrick Lamar delivers his verse in the interlude — the raps flow naturally in this long verse that impressively has very few pauses.

One of the most powerful tracks on the album is “Lord Knows,” where Drake delivers a long and flawless verse over the sounds of a choir as he challenges the public’s criticism, stressing how hard it is to make it in this generation. He assumes certainty for his future: “I’m a descendant of either Marley or Hendrix/ I haven’t figured it out cause my story is far from finished.”  Though almost unnecessary after Drake’s outstanding performance, Rick Ross’ verse at the end seals the deal.

Drake proves his talent on the tracks where he raps without the help of featured artists and carries the songs by himself. On “Under Ground Kings,” Drake raps with great intensity and energy and focuses on how he got to this successful point in his career: “I’m the truth that’s right I fucking said it / The living proof that you ain’t gotta die to get to heaven.”  “We’ll Be Fine” elaborates on a similar theme, as he explains how he is trying to enjoy the present and appreciate all that he has — “since I saw Aaliyah’s precious life go too soon, she deserves the credit for how I’m about to get it.”  The chorus could be more creative and catchy, but the raps, and not his singing, appear to be the focus of this song, and he delivers these clever bars with confidence and assertiveness.

Overall, Drake bears a great amount of confidence on this album. The album is a solid and very thought-out endeavor, but Drake takes few risks. The tracks seem repetitive at times, and though his tracks have more substance and meaning than those of most of his peers, there is little variety in the subjects he raps and sings about.

Nevertheless, Drake proves he has immense talent and that he plans on bearing a lasting influence in the music industry. As he states in his track “We’ll Be Fine,” “seems like yesterday that I was up and coming/still so young that I ain’t had enough of nothing.”

Original Author: Dina Khatib