Drake is a smart, successful man. It’s a shame that his success is a reflection of his intelligence more than his talent. It is in this light that we can justify the praise often lavished upon him – his pursuit and acquisition of the American dream. What is often forgotten though, is that his music, while representative of and befitting the American dream, isn’t particularly good. Kanye West can write introspective lyrics, contrast them with ridiculous boasts and lavish millions of dollars on a sample and despite this still have something interesting to say. Drake does not. We often falsely compare Drake and Kanye, but Take Care is evidence that these comparisons are only demeaning to Yeezy and completely unfounded.
Unfortunately, we live in a musical climate that too often settles for mediocrity, the word ‘classic’ is bandied about with tremendous ease and there are simply too many underqualified people making claims for legendary status. It seems that in this age of the internet, it is too easy for someone to simply say they are the best, and for people to believe them, than doing it the ‘old fashioned way’ and earning it. When this is stated (especially with regards to what is referred to as ‘hip hop’), too often the term ‘hater’ is levelled and accepted as a rebuttal. Why do people simply switch off when someone elaborates upon the reasons for their ‘hating’?
Hopefully you will allow me to explain why I do not rate this album or this artist highly, and you will spare me the indignity of being labelled a ‘hater’.
Drake has assembled a fantastic supporting cast of slightly lesser known, but more talented artists. From 40 Shebib, The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar and even André 3000 (it pains me too that André 3000 is a smaller name than Drake, regardless of credentials). Drake has a very solid core of ‘underlings’ to go alongside the more commercially viable features of Rick Ross and Lil Wayne. This balance is what gives the impression of artistic integrity and commercial appeal that many claim Drake is all about. Drake has a chameleon like ability to blend in with the various scenes, crews and sounds of the industry today, and through the harnessing of these has become a huge player in ‘hip-hop’. It is this chameleon like ability that also highlights quite how devoid of personality he is. Nothing on Take Care is Drake’s.
People state it is his lyrical content, which can be as equally ‘female empowering’ as it can be ‘ghetto’, that separates him from the rest. Although, it is through this contradiction that the corniness in his ‘empowering’ lyrics become so prevalent. Drake aligns himself with the more debaucherous, sleazy and drug fuelled scene of The Weeknd and Abel Tesfaye, entirely unconvincing as the lonely stoner. As the song changes, so does the style, with Drake now aligning himself with the ’96 Jay Z; ‘mobbin’. Then we get the Kanye West inspired boasts of greatness without the pedigree: “I’m a descendant of either Marley or Hendrix” – it’s at this point in which you hope to hear the irony in his voice, and fail to. In terms of rhyme structure or ‘flow’ Drake is strictly Young Money, and that isn’t a good thing.
The reliance on repeptition for rhyming is an insult to my intelligence, as is the elongation of words to fit within a bar. Yes, Lil Wayne does this, and gets rightly derided for it (#thingsbetterthanthecarter4 was trending on twitter for over 24 hours), but AT LEAST Lil Wayne does it with a sense of humour. Drake comes across as vapidly deadpan in his lyrics, aspiring for something deep but barely scratching the surface.
“So I’m goin’ through her phone if she go to the bathroom ‘n her purse right there… I don’t trust these hoes at all.”
Is this a line that represents anything but being, dare I say it, ‘bitchmade’? No female empowerment here, no genuine sensitivity here, no angst here… just a dude admitting he is bitchmade and people buy this. You may also have noticed how none of it rhymes either.
Others state it is again the versatility of Drake to slip from verse to croon effortlessly that sets him apart, but the fallacy in this argument is that he simply cannot sing well. His voice comes across flat every time you sneak a listen of it unsynthesised, and amazingly comes out flat even when auto-tuned. Having already critiqued the issues with his verses, both lyrically and with regards to flow, it leaves little to enjoy if his ‘singing’ isn’t any good either. Again, this further perpetuates my assertion that Drake (as an artist) is devoid of personality, because his music lacks an identity. We do not get a real sense of who Drake is as a person, and for someone who is so ‘sensitive’, criminally, nor are we compelled to.
The real merit of this album that cannot be faulted, is that it is a cohesive piece. The production is tight throughout, and though not exclusively produced by 40 Shebib, the majority is, and it shows. The energetic, muffled, grumbling beats are very enjoyable, although there is a major misstep in the Jamie xx beat sampling Gil Scott Heron for title track ‘Take Care’ – it’s a mess. What I take exception to, is the fact that Drake is credited with this. The production is not Drake’s, nor is the idea of this particular sound that is so cohesively apparent throughout the LP. It is apparent that The Weeknd’s free released LP ‘House of Balloons’ was a huge inspiration, although it is only labelled inspiration due to their friendship, otherwise this album would be nigh on stylistic plagiarism – or swaggerjaggering if you like Cher Lloyd. The notion of a cohesive record is not a new one, nor is it solely The Weeknd’s, but it is the combination of R&B/Hip-Hop and the dark, distorted, bassy, ambient, 4am sounds that is.
This is a man who surrounds himself with talented people, and is lavished with credit and acclaim for their creativity. For a Canadian, it’s very American of him.
Of course, despite not enjoying Drake’s voice in the slightest, be it when ‘singing’ or ‘rapping’, it would be ignorant to not find pleasure in even some of the most shamelessly derivative aspects of this album. Crew Love featuring The Weeknd is entirely listenable, despite Drake’s best attempts at sabotaging it. Lord Knows featuring Rick Ross features an absolutely masterful beat from Just Blaze, and Rick Ross’ featured verse overshadows Drake’s atrocities; the line ‘Only fat nigga in a sauna with Jews’ accounts for half of this album’s score. The Real Her is yet another case of a more skilled featured artist – André 3000 – saving the beat and song from Drake.
Ultimately, when not featuring someone more innovative than Drake, this album falls incredibly flat. Worse still, it becomes annoying and stains the air it populates. Lyrically, the album offers little and their delivery less, to the point in which it is actually unlistenable. It is a shame, because if Drake were to channel his true abilities as an identifier of talent and instead of choosing to stifle and take credit from them, became an enabler, he could prove to be incredibly valuable to music. This is highly unlikely however, and until Drake learns how to rhyme, how to sing or how to shut up, we will all be stuck with his impotent claims of greatness.