Drake's 2010 debut Thank Me Later was one of the most striking hip-hop coming-out parties in recent memory. The Canadian rapper's tales of the high life were tinged with a sense of regret that perfectly fit the spare, somber tone in his music. The much-anticipated follow-up is more expansive, with producers from Just Blaze to the Neptunes to Lex Luger creating tracks that range from piano-laden R&B to Southern hip-hop, and guests like Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, The Weeknd and Lil Wayne rolling through to liven things up. Drake is still the same lovably conflicted dude, and that's part of what makes Take Care – which leaked over the weekend – compelling.
1. "Over My Dead Body"
"Shout out to Asian girls / Let the lights dim sum." Take Care opens with a grandiose ode to fame, power and money, complete with the kind of poignant pianos and synth streaks that undercut his brags with a tinge of sadness: "I was drinking at the Palms last night / And ended up losing everything I came with," he raps. New record, same old miserably kick-ass life.
2. "Shot For Me"
A bass drum like a heartbeat leads into a ballad complete with Eighties synths Phil Collins might croon over, as Drake pours over the wreckage of an old love: "May angels protect and heaven accept you." When you break up with Drake, you don't just get an ex-boyfriend – you get a benediction.
In the context of this dark-tinted album, the straightforwardly flashy "Headlines" sounds practically joyful, even as Drake apologizes for his fame. The song's martial beat and strobe-flash strings suggest the superstar entrance of a champion prizefighter. Of course, with Drake you worry he just might get in the ring, and sit down in the middle and cry.
4. "Crew Love"
Featuring Toronto singer The Weeknd, it's some avant-R&B lushness: echoing snare shots, finger snaps that sound like they were recorded in a cathedral and crooned background vocals that go "take your nose off my keyboard / What you bothering me for." It's a tender ode to metaphorical family in the face of a world where everybody wants a little Drake.
5. "Take Care"
The Drake and Rihanna duet moment does not disappoint. Guitars scrape across the sky like fighter jets and tom-toms roll over sad house music pianos. It's crushed out R&B heaven: "I've loved and I've lost," she sings, and they spend the song reassuring each other that they're worth trusting. Very sweet.
6. "Marvin's Room"
Only Drake could take a song this dark and sleepy and make it resonate the way it has. Here, at eight epic minutes, it enters the canon of greatest drunk-dial songs of all time (up there with the Replacements' "Answering Machine"). But even in abjection, Drake comes through with his own special savoir faire: Who else calls his ex and complains he's been having too much empty sex this week and probably gets her sympathy?
7. "Underground Kings"
Opening with a gangsta Simon and Garfunkel reference, this pumped up track has a Lil Wayne-like flow and a liquid diamond-spoked Southern rap track from 9th Wonder; Drake tells his Horario Alger-like story of going from underground to superstar, from riches to more riches: "It's been two years since someone asked me who I was."
8. "We'll Be Fine"
A relatively thugged-up track for Drake; his voice distorts as he sings about how down he is and a Canadian buddy comes in to big-up "that Uptown shit," as in uptown Toronto. So, if you're ever in Toronto and you're looking for where the gangstas are, just tell your cabdriver, "Uptown, you Hoser!"
9. "Make Me Proud"
All of Drake's alleged girlfriends are in the house. Now, it’s Nicki's turn. Over taut hi-hat clicks and synthed-up guitar flares that sound like you're hearing them through a wall of cotton candy, Drizzy celebrates a the kind of girl who's fine with a complex mind, as Nicki Minaj comes in for a characteristically hot verse ("double-d up hos, dolly partin!") and a searing vocal hook on the chorus.
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