Keep Calm and Take Care: A Track-By-Track Review of Drake’s Sophomore Album

This may seem late; Take Care leaked a week ago and every website worth its server fees has posted a review or piece on the album, but I wanted to wait for two reasons. One, I wanted to wait for the actual release date so that the people who actually waited to listen to the CD have a fresh piece to read, and two, I needed time to ingest the album. In the past week I’ve listened to the CD approximately 15 times, with some track play counts closing in on 30. If I had written a review after my first listen it would have read a lot different – and would have been a much less accurate explanation – than this one will be. As a whole, this album is good but not great, even though I think most of the tracks are excellent when they stand alone. I don’t often say this about CDs but the parts are better than the sum. The main reason for this is that Drake seems to possess a dual identity: on some tracks he sings and raps about many of the same emotional topics that appeared on his first CD, even though on other songs he’s fast-paced and cocky, much like the music he has been releasing since Thank Me Later, and especially this past summer. This duality does not allow me to fully enjoy the album as one entity. That being said, there are some really good tracks on Take Care, so here we go:

1. Over My Dead Body (With an uncredited feature by Chantal Kreviazuk)

Producer: 40; co-produced with Chantal Kreviazuk

Favourite lyric: “My city love me like Mac Dre in the Bay/Second album, I’m back paving the way/The backpackers are back on the bandwagon/Like this was my comeback season back, back in the day”

Definitely not a great lyrical effort – even the above “best lyric” is really just an awesome flow combined with a mixtape reference that only real fans would understand – but having a legendary Canadian artist like Chantal Kreviazuk doing the intro vocals and the hook is a big plus. The beat’s cool and it sets the tone for yet another introspective Drake CD.

2. Shot For Me

Producer: 40

Favourite lyric: “I really wish she had a different way of viewing things/I think the city that we’re from just kinda ruined things/It’s such a small place: not much to do but talk and listen/The men are jealous and the women all in competition”

For the second track, Drake stays on his sentimental shit, talking about his lost loves and the reciprocal lasting impressions from his previous relationships. Each time you get involved with someone, you take something away and visa versa, but where Drake is at now, it doesn’t matter; he’ll have 10 more girls by tomorrow but he’ll always be the one to his exes. The hard beat on the chorus is contrasted with Drake’s swooning “ooooh”s, making you want to take two shots: one for the party and one to forget your loss.

3. Headlines

Producer: Boi 1da; co-produced with 40

Favourite lyric: “I might be too strung out on compliments/Overdosed on confidence/Started not to give a fuck and stop fearing the consequence”

Even though I’d already heard this track a ton before the album, it’s no less enjoyable this time around. Drake comes out firing on the first verse, essentially flipping off everyone because he’s the man/killing shit/owns the bank (a recurring theme on this album). The chorus is catchy as hell too, and even though this track possesses many of the elements that make for a great single, it breaks up what was starting to be a sad record with some head banging production from Boi 1da.

4. Crew Love (Feat. The Weeknd)

Producer: Illangelo, The Weeknd & 40

Best lyric: “I got a lot of friends to come up off the strip for me/The same ones that’ll come up off the hip for me”

My first reaction to this song was that I was listening to a Weeknd song, as Abel starts singing right off the bat, while Drake only comes in for one verse in the middle of the song. The production is great and typical of a Weeknd sound, which is understandable considering Illangelo was behind the boards for this one. Altogether the song is good although I’m not sure it belongs on Take Care. I see why Drake wanted it on his CD (he’s the one who supports the crew with $50k vacations and reservations for 20) but the song structure makes it a better fit for a Weeknd project, and with Echoes of Silence supposedly coming out before the end of the year, I wonder if it would have been better suited for that…

5. Take Care (Feat. Rihanna)

Producer: Jamie XX & 40

Favourite lyric: “I’ve asked about you and they’ve told me things/But my mind didn’t change, I still the feel the same/What’s a life with no fun? Please don’t be so ashamed/I’ve had mine, you’ve had yours, we both know”

Easily one of my favourites off Take Care. In my opinion this is one of Drake’s stronger lyrical efforts on the album even though the content of the words have a strong emotional tone. On the production side, Jamie XX’s deep drums (timpanis, perhaps?) and quick tempo have my head bopping during each play, and the Gil Scott-Heron influence/sample is an awesome jump point for this track. (I have to admit I would definitely have been fine without the Scott-Heron vocal bridge only for the fact it doesn’t fit sonically.) My money is on this track being the next single, but all bets aside, the Rihanna/Drake duo wins again.

6. Marvin’s Room/”Buried Alive” Interview (Feat. Kendrick Lamar)

Producer: 40 (with additional production by Supa Dups on “Buried Alive”)

Favourite Lyric: “I was just calling cause they were just leaving/Talk to me please, don’t have much to believe in//I need you right now, are you down to listen to me?”

Don’t hate me but this song bores the shit out of me. I heard it when it first came out, I found it boring; I heard it on the radio, I found it boring; I heard it on the CD, I found it boring. Musically it’s no better or worse than any of Drake’s other sappy songs but lyrically it’s a disappointment, and structurally it’s an even bigger disappointment. I’ve gotten used to the rapping/singing mix that is employed in almost all of his songs, and I really do like his first verse, but I’m shocked that even on the album his second verse is four lines. How are you going to do that Drake? That’s not teasing, it just seems lazy.

As for “Buried Alive”, it’s an A+. Kendrick comes in and rips it, undoubtedly stealing the show. I’d love to eventually hear Drake and KL trade bars on a track rather than this divide, but I’m happy to wait until then.

Drake from his GQ photoshoot

7. Underground Kings

Producer: T-Minus & 40

Favourite lyric: “You girl, you right there, you look like you like this shit/How’d I know, how’d I know? That’s me on some psychic shit/I could tell a lie if you asking me my whereabouts/But I might talk that real if you ask me what I care about”

As it stands, this is my favourite track on the CD. Drake comes out swinging right from the beginning and carries the song all the way to the end. I have nothing bad to say about this song; I love the lyrics, love the flow and love the production. On that note, I wish T-Minus would produce more of Drake’s stuff; no shots at 40, Boi 1da or anyone else but on this album I think Drake came the hardest on T-Minus’ production.

8. We’ll Be Fine (Feat. Birdman)

Producer: T-Minus & 40

Favourite lyric: “These days women give it to me like they owe me one/But they crave attention though they always saying, ‘show me some’/But girl you ain’t the only one that’s trying to be the only one”

Drake’s flow on this track is cool; it reminds me of a replay where they’ll play a part fast, slow it down for a second then return to full speed just as quickly. The track features another dope beat courtesy of, surprise, T-Minus and a really catchy hook. Lyrically speaking, the title pretty much says it all: no matter what happens with life/girls/money, Drake and OVO have nothing to worry. (As I listen to the chorus I imagine me and my boys taking a collective shot at the bar before splitting off into the crowd.) I would have loved a 3rd verse to replace Stunna’s “spoken word” at the end but hey, he shouts out Toronto – and doesn’t try to rap! – so I can’t hate too much.

9. Make Me Proud (Feat. Nicki Minaj)

Producer: T-Minus

Favourite lyric: The whole chorus

This song is kind of a weird one to me. Lyrically, neither Drake nor Nicki say anything particularly witty or important but both of their flows are great. And to complete the trifecta, T-Minus produces yet another banger that has unlimited replay value (which is how they got away with talking about nothing.) It would have been nice for Drake to go in one more time; I feel like there’s too much Nicki on it, especially at the end. Altogether it’s mediocre but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop listening to it anytime soon.

Rick Ross & Drake

10. Lord Knows (Feat. Rick Ross)

Producer: Just Blaze

Favourite lyric: “Drug money, outfit record clean/Spend it all on me and my fuckin’ team/Matchin’ Rollies for real, matchin’ Rovers for real/Places they say they’ve been, we’ve actually going for real”

By far the best overall track on the CD. Just Blaze slaughtered the production with a full fucking choir(!!!) and a full drum backing track that really drives the beat home. Lyrically, I like this track as well; all the rhyme schemes are good and he touches on what seems like a hundred topics in one “verse”. And then there’s Ross. I like his verse but I really wish he rapped over the same choir/drum beat that Drake did rather than the toned down version. Either way, best track on the CD.

11. Cameras/”Good Ones Go” Interlude

Producer: 40; “Cameras” is co-produced with Drake

Favourite lyric: “Are you me, are you me, what you know about the team/Man these niggas got to stop it they be crowding up the scene”

“Cameras” has a sweet little groove and I really think the Weeknd kills his backup vocals and they add a lot to the song. “Good Ones Go” is an entirely different sound but still slow-moving. But the best part of these tracks are the messages. “Cameras” discusses one of my favourite topics in life: appearance vs. reality while “Good Ones Go” deals with a theme we have probably all been through, but I won’t get into specifics. Both parts are awesome though.

12. Doing It Wrong

Producer: 40

Favourite lyric: *snores*

To keep this short, I am going to skip this song 90% of the time it comes on. It’s boring and this Stevie Wonder “feature” was hella disappointing; if I wanted to listen to him play the harmonica, I would listen to “Fingertips (Pt 2)”. Next.

13. The Real Her (Feat. Lil Wayne & André 3000)

Producer: 40

Favourite lyric: “You got your guards up, I do too; there’s things we might discover/Cause you got a past and I do too, we’re perfect for each other”

This is one of the better slow tracks on the CD and is purely baby making music, which doesn’t upset me in any way. Ironically the thing I don’t like about this song are the verses. I don’t like Wayne’s or 3 Stacks’ – sorry Kevin – because they don’t say shit all that’s important and 3000 sounds more like he’s talking than rapping. I’d have redone this track with Drake’s singing and new verses (not sure who, just better ones than are currently on the track).

14. Look What You’ve Done

Producer: Chase N Cashe; additional production by 40

Favourite lyric: “Yeah, just a young kid in a drop top Lexus hopin’ that I don’t get arrested/Just another kid thats goin’ through life, So worried that I won’t be accepted”

Drake’s ode to his family is a point of contention for me. This is the one song I can’t articulate my thoughts about because I honestly don’t know where I stand on it. The message regarding the importance of family is cool, as is the Static Major sample, I just don’t really know if this fits anywhere on an album (but if there was a suitable album, it probably would be this one). Either way, this has little replay value for me and listening to Drake’s grandma at the end is a little much; it was a nice touch but I don’t think I can handle it over and over.

Drake & Lil Wayne on tour

15. Hell Yeah Fuckin’ Right (Feat. Lil Wayne)

Producer: T-Minus

Favourite lyric: “What have I learned since getting richer/I learned working with the negatives could make for better pictures/I learned Hennessy and enemies is one hell of a mixture/Even though it’s fucked up, girl, I’m still fucking wit ya”

An interesting slow moving hi-fi beat with a spit-fire verse from Drake and another solid hook from Wayne. Not necessarily a stand out but it’ll definitely stay in medium rotation.

16. Practice

Producer: 40; co-produced with Drake

Favourite Lyric: “Girl I know it’s real cause I’ve been around/You only want what’s real you just never found it”

This song will get nexted on most play throughs as it doesn’t provide anything different in terms of musicality or content. Slow song, Drake singing, Drake saying how he’s the one you’ve been waiting for and a little drum beat that hits in 5 second intervals. Not enough to keep me listening.

Drake & The Weeknd at OVO Fest in Toronto, August 2011

17. The Ride (Feat. the Weeknd)

Producer: Doc McKinney & the Weeknd

Favourite lyric: “You know it’s real when your latest nights are your greatest nights/The sun is up when you get home, that’s just a way of life”

When this song first appeared online, some influential individuals in the hip-hop industry tweeted their praise for this track, saying that Drake had really hit his stride in terms of rapping. I’ve listened to the song numerous times and I just don’t get what the big deal is. I think Abel sounds great but Drake doesn’t impress me here. He’s not bad per se but my expectations were (unfairly) high from the beginning and weren’t met.

18. The Motto (Feat. Lil Wayne)

Producer: T-Minus

Favourite lyric: “Tell Uncle Luke I’m out in Miami too/Clubbin’ hard, fuckin’ women ain’t much to do”

Much to the dismay of the same individuals mentioned above, this song is easily top 5 on the CD for me. Drake’s verse is pretty nasty and he sounds great over jerkin’ music, there’s no denying it. Throw in a catchy hook that is bound to start a movement (YOLO) and Weezy at the end, and boom, you have a hit record.

19. Hate Sleeping Alone

Producer: 40

Favourite lyric: “But she don’t want a weekend, she wants all of me or none of me/If she can’t work with all of me then she say she done with me/You say that you over me you always end up under me/You know how it goes”

I haven’t listened to this song too much but the few times I have, I liked it, even if it embodies many elements that are becoming a bit too predictable in Drake’s music.

Drake performing live

At a basic level what makes these tracks really good is Drake’s flow. There are certain points when the lyrics are whatever, or the production might not go as hard as I’d like but Aubrey never misses a beat, so to speak. If I listen to Take Care as background noise, it’s impossible not to groove along because his voice is always perfectly on beat and this creates a sub melody that allows the listener to zone out and in at the same time. This will go down as a good album but I think know Drake can go harder; I hope that before his career’s over he makes at least one album front-to-back showcasing only his rapping skills. I know he likes being deep and emotional and I’ll admit he does it well, but it’s just not the Drake I want to hear all the time. Once in a while, sure, but 19 versions of “The Motto”, “Underground Kings” and “Lord Knows” would make me a much happier fan.

Big shoutouts to HipHop-n-More for all the production credits.

One Response to “Keep Calm and Take Care: A Track-By-Track Review of Drake’s Sophomore Album”
  1. J says:

    Drake thinks he’s “gangsta” – he’s mistaken. I’m suprised at how many N bombs he drops throughout this album. He was born and raised in one of the richest parts of Toronto. Never had any “hood” issues growing up. He was rich from the start. He’s not a “nigga” nor should he be throwing around that term so loosely. His mind is lost in this rap game.

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