Rhys Smith, Contributor
Ordinarily I’m not a big fan of hip-hop: very few current artists particularly impress me with both their lyrical content and production skills. It’s an inflammatory statement, but right now, hip-hop is a stale genre of music. However, Toronto’s own Aubrey Graham (more popularly known as Drake) is definitely beginning to push the boundaries of rap music with his sophomore album, Take Care.
Although Drake has been in the limelight since the early 2000’s with his role as Jimmy Brooks in the hit sitcom Degrassi, he didn’t start releasing music in the form of mixtapes until 2006. And it wasn’t until last June that he released his debut album Thank Me Later, which has since gone platinum in both Canada and the US, and in addition has received great critical acclaim. Drake’s latest effort, though, outshines his first album by a long shot.
Released last week, Take Care starts off in an exciting fashion with the track “Over My Dead Body”. An ambient guitar track in the background provides a catchy melody while Drake sets the tone for the album: he’s back, embracing the fame, and won’t stop at anything. The next five songs on the album are a whirlwind of clever yet intelligent rhymes, as well unforgettable melodies (the infectious debut single “Headlines” comes to mind), and mouth-watering collaborations (fellow Torontonian and forward thinking artist The Weekend is featured on “Crew Love”). However, the track that really makes headlines is the title track, “Take Care,” featuring Rihanna. Using all of the instrumentals and even some of the vocals from the highly influential Jamie XX remix of “I’ll Take Care of U,” Drake ascends to a new level, blending groundbreaking dance music with mainstream hip-hop. The second half of the album continues along steadily, although perhaps not quite as electrifying: songs like “Lord Knows,” and “HYFR (Hell Ya Fuckin’ Right)” are fairly unimaginative, typical hip hop tunes, although they serve the purpose of filling out the tracklist with big name collaborations (Rick Ross, and Lil Wayne, respectively). That being said, there wasn’t a single song on the entire album that I skipped, which is a rare feat nowadays for an album of any genre.
Drake’s second album is packed with many memorable, catchy tunes. But what makes Take Care more than just a great hip hop record? I can give you two reasons. First of all as I mentioned before, Take Care pushes musical boundaries, combining several different types of music from dance to minimal R&B. Some serious production has gone into this album. Influences as variable from aforementioned The Weekend to James Blake can be heard on Take Care, which is highly unorthodox for a mainstream rap album. Furthermore, the lyrical content of the album forms a cohesive unit rather than a collection of songs, intertwining themes of acceptance of fame, lost love, and family relationships. Take Care is a real story, rather than a mixtape chock-a-block of rhymes, which is so standard of current hip-hop releases. Drake is more than just an urban thug with a rap sheet, which is a breath of fresh air. Take Care is highly intriguing, and is necessary listening for anyone who appreciates music that pushes boundaries.