(Young Money; 2011)
By Colin McGowan | 17 November 2011
What do we talk about when we talk about Drake? We talk about bath salts, S&M pornos, and club drugs. Which is to say we all know what Drake is and what Drake does; it’s a matter of the amount of pleasure we derive from what he produces with what he does. Here, world: 80 minutes of restrained sobbing into one’s champagne bucket interspersed with wobbly shit-talking and a handful of sex sessions with aspiring actresses. Take Care is as much a Drake album as its dumbfuck gilded melancholy cover suggests.
There is a point in the career of many a notable artist at which their aesthetic congeals and stiffens, fossil-like, to the extent that discussing the aesthetic becomes a useless exercise. I don’t need to tell you that the drums on “Marvin’s Room” undulate beneath Drake’s laments like a secret. You already know this. That is what drums sound like on a particularly somber Drake song. The worst tracks on Take Care are the ones on which Drake’s clunkiness as a rapper is forefronted? How surprising! At one point, does he croon, “It’s my party / I’ll get high if I want to”? He does.
So, yes: Noah “40” Shebib beats, expensive liquor, bad sweaters, douchebag-dom, apologies, sober Wayne cameos, self-loathing, sad hooks, triumphant hooks, titanic hooks, “do me like the women from my town would,” tastefulness, VIP booths, and puking into virgin white toilet bowls at the Chateau Marmont. You want all of these things pumped into your consciousness. Or maybe not you, specifically, but enough people to fill Madison Square Garden dozens of times over do.
Drake knows this. He wrongheadedly spits on “Lord Knows” that he doesn’t “make music for niggas who don’t get pussy,” which is one of the dumber things he says on this record, but perhaps also the truest. You see, Drizzy believes he’s cultivated an audience of pussy-getters; it makes no sense to him that a venn-diagram composed of “people who get pussy” and “people who are a fan of Drake” wouldn’t be one circle set exactly atop another circle, the top circle engaged in ass-slapping copulation with the bottom one. This is, of course, not the case, since half of our staff hates Take Care, and, surely, at least one of them has done what R. Kelly sings about once or twice in the past month.
This fact is basically irrelevant to Drake. For how famous and divisive he is, Take Care rarely acknowledges those who dislike Drake’s music. (In fact, he devotes more time apologizing to the emblematic Woman He Was A Dick To than he does addressing his critics.) Those hundreds of thousands of Madison Square Gardens fans he has are the only kinds of people he speaks to on Take Care, and if not all of them are getting laid, they, at least, get Drake. This is enough. If Drake had it his way, one imagines he would deliver this album via fan newsletter. He made this record for them—which is why his aesthetic so thoroughly encases this record like a cocoon made of syrup—and he’d rather any stone-throwers politely evaporate.
Which is my main problem with Take Care. Thank Me Later (2010) was a record that slowly burned its way into my heart despite my not really liking Drake all that much. This is largely because Drake is (was?) a brilliant executive producer. The pacing, guest appearances, and production on Thank Me Later are objectively staggering, and if you don’t think “Fancy” is one of the most fun rap singles of the last half-decade, we probably can’t get drunk together. Take Care, by comparison, is a distillation and expansion of the Drake-ness that was employed with restraint on Thank Me Later. Many of the tracks here sound like less poignant approximations of the muted languor of “The Resistance,” which is one of my very favorite tracks on Later. But that concept blown panoramic? One can only produce so many variations on a theme before they cease to be variations. I like opening tracks like “Over My Dead Body” and “Take Care” a lot, but some six or seven songs in, when Take Care starts to sound like a dismal echo of the preceding thirty minutes, my interest wanes.
The only decidedly un-Drake aspect of Take Care is its curious three act denouement. Were Drake’s usually impeccable instincts when it comes to sequencing operating at peak capacity, the lilting “Look What You’ve Done” would bring the album to a close. Instead, we get an appendix of a pretty okay Weezy collaboration (“HYFR”), Drake doing Will Ferrell doing Robert Goulet doing Juvenile on the “Back Dat Azz Up” kinda-reinterpretation “Practice,” and “The Ride,” which just sort of sleepwalks for six minutes until the album extinguishes. The trio of tracks serve as a fitting conclusion to an album so bloated its belly sits atop its $400 jeans like an inner tube.
But I return to the thesis: this is the Drakest record in existence. You love this record. You listened to it and confirmed that Drake is still “soft” or some shit. You skipped it entirely. Whatever. This is the sound of Drake’s meticulously-shaved balls—luminescent orbs of jade—rubbed like a scouring pad against the zeitgeist’s stubbly face. For 80 minutes. Friction is inevitable. But for a record so widely distributed and listened to, it is targeted at a remarkably narrow audience. Like Tha Carter III (2008) gleefully proclaiming “fuck off!” to Weezy haters, Take Care espouses a more tepid “don’t listen, then…” to those unimpressed with Drake. This seems fair to me. I suppose those of us peering through the window just to be flabbergasted by one’s enjoyment of bath salts, of S&M pornos, of club drugs, of Drake, are perverse. But this isn’t for those of us, anyway.
[Editor’s Note — 18 November, 2011: Unfortunately, after this review was published, we were informed by numerous readers and staff members that “Practice” was, in fact, not the album’s closer. Colin has updated his review to take this fact into consideration. We apologize for the oversight.]