By Aaron Calvin, Entertainment Editor
The album cover of Drake's "Take Care" really gives the most accurate impression of its content. Sitting in a room with a stark black and tarnished gold palette, Aubrey "Drake" Graham seems to be concentrating with his well-honed melancholic expression. He seems a modern day Midas, "Take Care" taking the form of a testament to the pitfalls of fame and its affect on his relationships.
While Drake has always been the sort of rapper who isn't afraid of being vulnerable, he raises the stakes on this album by fully indulging himself in his emotion. His persona still contains the sort of cocky boastfulness that seems inherent in artists like Drake, a child actor whose adulthood transition into the world of hip-hop seemed almost effortless. But underlying each boast is a pervasive sadness that at times borders on sentimental.
The first part of the album mostly involves Drizzy setting the mood for the record while immediately confronting the listener with some of the best and most interesting songs. "Over My Dead Body" sets up the context and texture, the laid-back yet engaging nature of Drake's flow. "Headlines" draws the listener in while "Crew Love" throws a curve ball of sorts, a hometown pride song featuring fellow Canadian and indie R&B darling The Weekend.
The title track features a subdued but effective Rihanna hook with a Gil Scott Heron-involved Jamie xx production. These tracks show Drake's willingness to explore an area outside of the traditional hip-hop world and returns fantastic results.
If the title track is a high point, the album then dips into a valley. The tracks between the first part of the album and the song "Make Me Proud" form a sort of R&B no-man's-land. It's not that Drake's auto tune-tinged singing is terrible or completely uninteresting; it's that it suffers from following up a series of tracks when Drake is rapping well over interesting production, suffering in comparison.
"Make Me Proud" picks things up a little bit, featuring an engaging if fairly predictable verse from fellow Young Money artist Nicki Minaj. If nothing else, it provides a vamp up to "Lord Knows." This track, featuring Rick Ross, acts as one of the most standout songs on the album. Just Blaze provides bombast in the form of a squalling church choir while Drake seems to be spitting faster and with more precision than is usually required of him. Even Ross' verse doesn't seem quite as lazy as generally expected of him.
The rest of the album coasts along on a series of fairly unremarkable tracks, with the exception of the "HYFR (Hell Yeah, F—ckin' Right)" and the closing track "The Motto." Both of these tracks feature an admirable verse from Lil' Wayne, Drizzy's Young Money mentor.
Drake's most visible criticisms have always been directed towards his willingness to discuss his emotions and lack of an unwavering bravado. Certainly, if Jay-Z has "99 problems, but a b-tch ain't one," Drake has a similar amount of problems but b-tches are most of them. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Drake's so called "soft" rap is merely rap that is unafraid to drop the façade of bravado. If nothing else, it makes a nice counterpoint to the unwavering materialism and braggadocio of albums like "Watch The Throne." While not every track isn't gold, the ones that are make this an important album in Drake's oeuvre.