One of Drake’s classics turns seven today.
“I think I killed everybody in the game last year man, fuck it I was on though.” Those are the first words we hear from longtime Toronto actor and (at the time) budding rap star Drake on his second studio album, 2011’s Take Care. Coming from “Over My Dead Body,” this was a strong assertion to open up a record that would go on to be regarded by many as Drake’s only classic album.
The assertion wasn’t wrong and its reality carried over from 2010 to 2011 once this album really hit home. People couldn’t deny its excellence. Any doubts that Drizzy’s debut album Thank Me Later and its sonic inconsistency caused for Drake were silenced by the cohesive dual threat that was Take Care. It turns 7 years old today, and its effects have withstood the test of time in music which is only quickening in pace.
The 19-track album was released on November 15, 2011, with features from Rihanna, The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar, Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Birdman and Andre 3000. Running mate Noah “40” Shebib handled a bunch of the production, along with contributions from Boi-1da, Jamie xx, T-Minus, Just Blaze and more. Stevie Wonder most notably lays down an iconic harmonica solo toward the end of “Doing It Wrong” as if the song wasn’t already a one way express trip to your feelings. We won’t get into the discussion about whether or not fellow Toronto staple Abel Tesfaye collaborated on just four songs or the entirety of the project, but either way, his influence was present and benefitted the overall project.
The album shows a Drake who is aware of his status and what comes with it, which ultimately helps him to learn a lot about himself. He really did kill everyone in the game the year prior, with a successful debut in Thank Me Later and some big features alongside top talent in Hip Hop and R&B. “What’s My Name” with Rihanna and “Aston Martin Music” are just two of the many tracks Aubrey touched that took over music for periods of time.
With this success came money, acclaim and women but like always that quickly turned into greed, hate and feeling jaded. The women and jaded parts were especially prevalent for Drake, who lays out all of his emotions here on tracks like “Shot For Me,” “Marvins Room,” and “The Real Her.” Though his music always had a sense of vulnerability and openness, looking at tracks like “Houstatlantavegas,” Take Care Drake was a whole different beast. He is heartbroken, lonely, and lost in love. While the somber content was indicative of Drake’s versatility, it simultaneously drew the ire of Hip Hop fans who sought a pure rap album from Champagne Papi.
The longstanding idea held by many that a prerequisite for rappers to be taken seriously was to have a street background had consistently reared its head with Drake, causing many to question his legitimacy as an artist. The mixed race, light skin Jewish boy from Toronto, Ontario was known for being Wheelchair Jimmy on a teenage drama and was then beginning to croon about love in his music while trying to be a rapper. He got this reaction early in his career when his longevity was in doubt, but Take Care was the final straw for many especially given its positive reception.
Even though this content and similar forms have been a source of debate, Drake is partially responsible for the shift in sound manifesting today and he influenced up and comers behind him to try their hand at the half rap/half sing niche. You don’t have to just be a hard rapper. But you also don’t have to just sing and be sad. You can blend the two, ultimately having the gangsters in their feelings and the nerds feeling tough.
Drake toed this line successfully throughout his entire career and is responsible for the advent of artists like Tory Lanez, Bryson Tiller and 6lack. They took note of the dual purpose of Take Care and Drake’s subsequent content, combining a sense of yearning and flexing that ultimately hit the bullseye for all of them.
This is by no means some extended, tearful diary entry though. Jimmy raps his ass off as well. There are certain braggadocio energies and confidence exuded in tracks like “Headlines” and one of the three Lil Wayne-featuring tracks “HYFR.” “Lord Knows” is Drake entering Rick Ross’s world of boss talk and luxury rap, and he nails it. The phone line may not be so boss-like, but the paranoia is understandable. “Look What You’ve Done” is a heartwarming thank you to his mother Sandi and grandmother Evelyn which helps the 6 God maintain his nice boy image amidst all the sex talk and attempts to seem macho.
K Dot was an ascending rap star himself, but linking up with Drizzy for the “Buried Alive Interlude” and later on his Club Paradise Tour was just the push he needed to be really taken seriously in the mainstream spotlight. No, we are not crediting Kendrick Lamar’s inevitable success to Drake. Even Kenny himself admitted that Drake helped him to get on people’s radars. The Weeknd, whether he was the brains behind the album or not, shined on “Crew Love” and provided the foundation for smooth outro-feeling track “The Ride.”
Rihanna and Drake seemingly already had the formula figured out for a banger between the two of them, following up “What’s My Name” with “Take Care.” Andre 3000‘s scene-stealing verse on “The Real Her” still gives chills to this day. One could make the argument that along with being arguably Drake’s best and most complete album, Take Care features some of the best guest appearances of any album in his discography.
“Since Take Care, I been caretaking.” Though this line from Redemption off of 2016’s Views is understood as a reference to the rapper amassing the success and money to be able to care for those around him, one could also perceive it as a reference to how he views his place in rap. Drake may see Take Care as the holy grail of his rap career much like many others, and as a result, he claimed the throne a long time ago rendering it only necessary to maintain over the years. Speculation of course, but given his ego and approach to the game, it’s not as far off a reach as one may think.
It’s been an eventful 7 years for Drake, and there are a few moments since Take Care that could be seen as turning points in his career. While his beefs revealed more of him as a person and his triggers, and the subsequent albums showed the many ways he can evolve an as artist, Take Care was simply Drake marking his territory as a groundbreaking star in the game. He was already around, but this album was the signal for you to wipe the lenses of your glasses and look at him differently.