Top positive review
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Album of the year
on 14 November 2011
Drake is a paradox; he's filthy rich and loving life, but since extreme highs lead to extreme lows, he also often finds himself depressed and insecure. "We live in a generation of/not being in love," he croons for perhaps the pivotal lyric of the whole album. He has all the girls he could wish for yet can't trust any of them. Drake makes music to reflect the generation we're in, reflecting equal parts materialism, disillusionment and self loathing, chronicling dispassionate sexual encounters and drug taking amongst the backdrop of egomania and emotional turmoil. All this he has channelled into Take Care, where amongst the masterful moody soundscapes of the beats, he sings and raps lyrics that are self deprecating, clever, revealing and most of all affecting.
Whilst a lot of the hate on Drake stems from typical populist backlash, there is also a level of misogynistic distaste in the rap community for his sensitive lyrics, large female fanbase and a suspicion at his relatively privileged background. Further anger comes from `serious' hip hop fans stems who feel Drake doesn't make real rap music, with his emotive soul bearing and silky singing voice. Those people are right to some degree - Drake is far closer to the minimalist/soul/blubstep of someone like James Blake than he is to murderous hardcore rap stars like Wu-Tang. But it isn't as if he has no predecessors in the genre; his flow is highly derivative of Lil Wayne, and lyrically his raw pathos brackets him with Kanye West, Kid Cudi and, further back, Tupac Shakur, albeit without the political bent of the latter's early work. And in a genre where there is such a traditional importance on `keeping it real', it's telling that Drake doesn't lie about gangster fantasies in his lyrics to appease hardcore rap fans, instead tapping the subjects that he knows about namely women, fame and Toronto (unlike Mobb Deep, whose art school past completely contradicted their violent tales, or more recently Rick Ross, who far from being the cocaine trafficking `teflon don' he portrays in his flows, is actually a former police officer).
Drake isn't a bad pure rapper by any means, and like Kanye, his flow is improving with every song. He doesn't get outshined by the guest verses, which are well placed and complement him, with Andre 3000 ("sitting here sad as hell/listening to Adele") and Ross himself ("only fat n**** in the sauna with Jews") providing especially strong additions. It's ironically Drake's mentor Wayne who lets the side down, with three fairly routine offerings.
Musically, this album is incredible, sounding smooth and classy throughout. It's one of the most polished hip hop/RnB albumx you'll ever hear production wise, and huge credit needs to go to Noah `40' Shebib, who did most of the beats and handles almost all of the production, giving it more of a cohesive sound than Thank Me Later. It's not all self pitying slow jams either, there's a few bangers in there too, including the impressive double whammy of `Make Me Proud' and `Lord Knows', the latter featuring a typically soulful beat from Just Blaze. The sequencing is great too, going high and low at just the right times, meaning even at seventy minutes the album doesn't drag.
This is, then, a phenomenal piece of work. Drake's output this year has been nothing short of spectacular; it says a lot when you consider that tracks as good as Trust Issues and Club Paradise never even made this record, you know it's a fruitful time in a career. I scoff at the notion that we are living in a dreadful time for music; the hazy, stoned, emotional music of Drake, Frank Ocean and The Weeknd has produced three classic albums in the last few months, and that's just one micro genre - the year in music has been strong across the board, and much of it with a cohesive sound and identity. It should be cherished - artists as prodigiously talented and consistently magnificent as these are rare things.