The current state of the hip-hop union is in flux. ModÂern technology, a prolifÂeration of whiz-kid producers and, quite simply, the talent itself has pushed sounds and structures to new, intelligent, multi-dimensional heights. (Remember âÄúMy BeautiÂful Dark Twisted FantasyâÄù?)
Additionally, the tension beÂtween indie and âÄúlamestreamâÄù culture continues to dissolve. Artists that were once snubbed are gaining a new level of respect. More deserving of this than anyÂone right now as he approaches the release of his second LP âÄúTake Care,âÄù is fresh Young MonÂey golden boy Drake.
DrakeâÄôs approach to R&B-tinged rap has always been clasÂsic in the thematic sense. HeâÄôs a heart-on-his-sleeve, bare-all type, and whether heâÄôs lamenting his lady problems or reflecting on his success, he communicates through self-aware honesty rathÂer than pandering misogyny or âÄúparty tracks.âÄù
But this time around, the outÂlook is different. Whereas âÄúThank Me LaterâÄù addressed a reluctance to become famous, âÄúTake Care,âÄù somewhat predictably, grasps at all of the new, inevitable pressures of his life in the spotlight.
From the first track, âÄúOver My Dead Body,âÄù an introspective check-in with his listeners, Drake throws it all on the table (the monÂey, the expectations, etc.) in a way that hints at nuance. ThereâÄôs still an element of unrest in his delivÂery but it adds a compelling layer of depth âÄî his prologue to the narrative of the album.
On âÄúTake a Shot for Me,âÄù Drake continues along the vein of somewhat jaded reflections, opposing the angst of some girl-that-got-away with his immense success. Musically, the track is straight-laced, wistful R&B thatâÄôs loaded with mood. One would think that that kind of âÄôtude would get old, but because heâÄôs so diÂverse in his delivery, and because it seems genuine, he proves that heâÄôs skilled enough to pull it off.
Where the more soulful, baby-making tracks like âÄúTake CareâÄù and âÄúDoing It WrongâÄù serve their purpose, undoubtedly, Drake thrives most when he morphs inÂto the role of the headlining star. Musically speaking, this means driving beats and a delicate meÂdium between rap-fueled aggresÂsion and lyrical R&B.
Singles like âÄúHeadlinesâÄù exÂecute this to perfection. Nicki Minaj cameos may be nothing new at this point, but the mark our bootylicious Barbie leaves with her turbulent verse in âÄúMake me ProudâÄù makes us forÂget the mediocrity of âÄúPink FriÂday.âÄù Her dynamic with Drake works effortlessly (somewhere Weezy is ripping a mean toke and patting himself on the back).
The roster of star-studded apÂpearances Drake racks up is nothÂing to scoff at (e.g. The Weeknd, Lil Wayne, Stevie Wonder, Rick Ross). Each interpretation plays out markedly different than the one before and again. It highlights his diversity as a performer.
ItâÄôs evident that a lot more thought went into crafting âÄúTake Care,âÄù partly because the sophoÂmore album is the most pivotal to a breakout artist from a marketing standpoint, but also because itâÄôs clear that it was pivotal to Drake as a person. So, while he may be suffering a nouveau riche, existenÂtial crisis, DrakeâÄôs embraced the notion that being honest about it will produce the strongest musiÂcal material, and in doing so, has knocked it out of the park again.