Drake 'Take Care'Drake
(Cash Money / Young Money Entertainment / Universal Republic.)
Having meteorically risen to prominence in the years following his early mixtapes Room For Improvement and Comeback Season, it seems Aubrey Drake Graham has successfully managed to shake the credibility sapping tag of ‘child star’. You see, most of Drake’s Canadian compatriots would have already been familiar with the entertainer; not as the sharply witted, mononymous rapper evinced on Take Care, but as the fledgling, child actor who played teen heartthrob ‘Jimmy Brooks’ in Canada’s Degrassi Junior High. But this is more than just a cheerful little tale of successful-child-star-turned-more-successful-regular-star. It’s not about celebrating the fact that someone has fruitfully navigated the path of Anything-Turned-Rapper; fraught with danger though it is.
Rather, Drake’s back-story serves to enunciate the deft, chameleonic adaptability that defines so much of his current persona and musical output. Drake’s charisma lies largely in his uncanny ability to assume a cavalcade of varying and often conflicting roles – actor, rapper, wallflower, egotist, self-aggrandising misogynist, self-loathing melancholic – and collapse them all dextrously into a singular, coherent persona. He’s the everyman: full of equal amounts of dreams and despair, pride and hope and self-doubt and anguish. And yep, Drake’s the rich, famous, celebrity dating, NBA-courtside-sitting, globetrotting everyman.
This intriguing multiplicity spills into every aspect of Drake’s present career, with the rapper now occupying that utopian limbo between commercial viability and underground credibility. Take Care features collaborative guest spots from hip-hop heavyweights like Birdman and Rick Ross, international pop-icons like Rihanna and Nicki Minaj, and seductively secretive R&B wunderkind The Weeknd. It's an equally diverse, languid concoction of multiple stylistic impulses: there’s sleazy, lecherous crooning in the vein of R. Kelly. There’s enough dirty south swagger and boastful self-satisfaction to remind of Drake’s links with Lil Wayne’s Young Money Entertainment record label. There’s enough emotional gravitas to keep even the most bleary eyed of sentimentalists happy. But the triumph of Take Care isn’t that it flashes references that span the gamut of in-vogue musical styles; it's the way these multiple deviations are merged into something reasoned and consistent.
Drake’s lyrical perspective skitters rapidly throughout Take Care, the content of his rhymes shifting freely between typically outlandish rap braggadocio, wistful gloom and vulnerable introspection. Take ‘Marvin’s Room’, an early highlight where Drake ruminates on the consequences of his newfound celebrity over syrupy swells of keys and warm, metrical dollops of muted percussion. He sheepishly admits; "I’m having a hard time adjusting to fame." Elsewhere he seems accustomed to the arduous rigours of the hip-hop lifestyle. On ‘Underground Kings’ he revels in; "Rapping, bitches/ rapping, bitches, bitches, and rapping, rapping and bitches until all of it switches, I swear/ it’s been two years since somebody asked me who I was/ I’m the greatest man, I said that before (they) knew I was’. He boasts on ‘Over My Dead Body’ that "nowadays it’s six figures when they tax me’ a sentiment that stands in stark opposition to his later feeble utterance; "I need you right now, are you down to listen to me? / I got some women that’s living off me / Pay for their flights and hotels, I’m ashamed."
These oscillations between pimping and whimpering seem ridiculously contradictory in isolation. But packaged in Drake’s charismatic delivery, and layered over the typically tasteful, sauntering production of long-time collaborator Noah ‘40’ Shebib, the overall effect is endearing. Drake negates the severity of much of what he says; all of his flaunting is countered by all of his flailing. He’s rich but it’s hollow; he’s famous but he’s buckling under the constant scrutiny of it all, and women want him for his celebrity rather than his personality. The fallibility of it all is refreshing.
And therein lies the magnetism of this record: you can’t help but envy him for the ostentatiousness of his existence, and you can’t help but admire him for his frequent and candid admissions. Perhaps he articulates the phenomenon best himself; "I hear the shit you say through the grape vine / but jealousy is just love and hate at the same time."
Join the conversation below