Aubrey Graham didn’t claw his way up through rap game like the legendary moguls before him. He grew up in a posh Toronto neighborhood. He attended an esteemed private academy. He had a bar mitzvah. Compared to the fictional Papa Doc, Drake’s street cred is lacking to say the least. But in reality, he had to grow up just as fast as any other kid who’s innocence was snatched away from them prematurely. His parents divorced when he was three, leaving him to deal with his mother’s debilitating rheumatoid arthritis. Much like Lenny Kravitz, he reconciled with the permanent social handicap of never being black or white enough. That’s where he found his hunger. You don’t need exit wounds or a prison sentence to gain respect — just raw talent — which has aged to a fine cream right before our eyes.
It’s damn near impossible to mature at the right pace as an entertainer with the voracious consumption of digital music. He felt rushed during the production of Thank Me Later. It served as aural catharsis for all the necessary growing pains that come with instant fame. Now his crew is getting bread. He’s back in Toronto. In more ways than I can count, Take Care is a farewell to the up-and-coming mixtape Drizzy and the beginning of a 25-year-old veteran having full command of his verbal arsenal.
Being the ladies man he is, it’s no surprise some of the standout tracks here are female driven. Producer Noah “40” Shebib (who’s been his main man since the Degrassi days) makes his impression felt on the piano-synth driven opener “Over My Dead Body” featuring some dynamite digital pipes from Canadian singer Chantal Kreviazuk. Kanye might even bow down to the presence of the colossal bass drums (reminiscent of “Heartless”) on the title track which tries to tie a nice bow around the Rihanna rumors that were inflamed by last year’s “Fireworks”. But with the exception of his pillow talk Elle interview, “Marvin’s Room” paints us a very real picture of the kind of trouble drunk dialing in the club can get you. The second half morphs into a trippy interlude spun with ridiculous ease by rising star Kendrick Lamar.
Contrary to popular belief, Take Care isn’t all that soft. The rap hand is deadly strong on gospel heavy “Lord Knows” featuring personal mentor and grunting extraordinaire Rick Ross. Mad props to big time guest producer Just Blaze who brings the Lord’s house down with an earthquaking children’s choir. “Practice” is a clever cover of YMCMB’s first major hit “Back That Ass Up” made all the smoother with an impressive range framed by distant accapella. Abel Tesfaye (The Weeknd) lays a soft and steady R&B track for him to put all the haters to bed: “You niggas gettin older/I see no threat in Yoda/I’m out here messing over the lives of these niggas/That couldn’t fuck with my freshman floata/Looking at that fucking chip on your nephew’s shoulder/My sophmore/They was all for it/They all saw it/My juniors and seniors will only get meaner”.
If you can take anything away from this sophomore effort is that this dude loves his Mom. Amidst a jangly somber piano backdrop we catch a poignant glimpse of critical moments in his career and how his better half has always managed to keep him grounded on “Look What You’ve Done”. This song retains absolute authenticity when you hear him talk about depositing all that money back in her checking account and finally putting her up in a nice apartment. Money might not be able to buy you happiness, but it sure as hell feels nice when you can pay back those few people who were with you since day one. He’s made peace with his past, paid his debts and only wants to move forward. The real question is will his rabid fan base let him?