“Since Take Care, I’ve been caretakin’” Drake raps on the tail end of the song “Redemption”. That was 2011. “Redemption”, one of the lesser known tracks off Drake’s fourth studio album Views (or fifth depending on who you’re asking), finds us in 2016 at the cultural zenith of Drakedom, which seemingly may stretch on forever if his run continues. Its hard to remember a time when Drake wasn’t caretakin’, or at least wasn’t in a monetary position to be doing so, but way back in 2011 the empire had yet to exist, the king had yet to wear the crown, and the future citizens of the kingdom knew only cookie-cutter, pop-machine product Drake. Looking back on this time in my life, before the existence of Take Care, I cringe. 2011 changed it all. It was the year Drake became Drake.
Before that, there was this guy, kind of awkward, light-skinned, Jewish, Canadian. I know what you’re thinking, dweeb. Yes, that’s the same dweeb that’s on the cover of Thank Me Later, and no that is not Drake. That, is a young artist taking his first nervous step toward the mainstream, and believe me, many concessions were made for the sake of fitting that mold. But from this first botched and imperfect attempt, which did indeed reach the mainstream masses, something new was born, a sound, and a confidence and sureness in that sound.
I knew it, that sound, the first time I heard the ephemeral echo of the piano on “Over My Dead Body”, the opening track off Take Care. Already the sonic template, and Drake with his first few words, seem more mature, reflective. This is the work that allowed Drake to reflect, now with one album under his belt as a referent point he was for the first time able to temporally locate us in the Drake story-verse, now a trademark of any Drake album. This brand of reflective, mythic autobiography is at its finest on Take Care, with songs like “Look What You’ve Done”, “Marvin’s Room”, “The Real Her”, and “Shot For Me”, which introduce the listener to the life of pre-fame Drake, laying the foundation for his later reminiscing, and a plot line for his saga.
The bangers, of course, are also present. Songs like “Headlines”, and “Crew Love” inhabit playlists at every party, while “Take Care”, the namesake of the album, was a radio mainstay well into 2012. This pattern has also become typical of later Drake albums, further proof of the significance of Take Care in the formation of the Drake persona. The features hit hard as well with Lil Wayne dropping in, and a rare verse from the hermetic Andre 3000. Of supreme importance though, is the “Buried Alive Interlude”, the first major label exposure of the world to the likes of Kendrick Lamar. This talent spotting ability foreshadows later Drake collaborators lifted into the limelight, including the Weeknd, PartyNextDoor, and Sampha.
All in all Take Care has come to embody the chart takeover unleashed by Drake in 2011 that continues today. Take Care is different though, because it is the first time listeners were caught in the web of Drakedom, of the beats, the raps, and the vibe. Beginning with Take Care the empire was built, the King became a caretaker, and to this day he longs for the simpler times, when he was just that awkward guy.