Only Getting Meaner: 2011’s “Take Care” stands the test of time

When Drake released his sophomore album, “Take Care,” in November 2011, I was a sophomore in high school, and admittedly, I wasn’t a Drake fan. I hadn’t listened to much of his music, and all I had heard about him was that he was too emotional for the rap game and really shouldn’t be taken seriously as an artist.

I wasn’t formally introduced to his music until my freshman year of college in 2014, when my friend Kevin told me I had to listen to his third album, “Nothing Was the Same,” which had been released in 2013. I did, and, well, nothing was the same.

I then understood that all the naysayers were wrong. Not only was Drake an artist to be reckoned with, but he was perhaps one of the most important voices pushing contemporary rap, R&B and pop music.

After listening to the project multiple times and thanking Kevin for putting me on to it, he discovered I hadn’t heard the previous album, “Take Care,” yet, his personal favorite, and he promptly smacked me upside my head.

Now I know why.

Although I was late to hop on the 6 God bandwagon, each time I have listened to “Take Care” over the last four years – and trust me, it’s a lot – I have discovered something new. As with any great LP, the songs’ meanings change over time as you grow and experience new things.

From the classic single, “Headlines,” which, needless to say, is a great song, because, well, “they know, they know, they know,” to the artful and generationally poignant “Marvin’s Room,” which finds Drizzy telling his ex, “I’m just saying, you could do better … tell me have you heard that lately?” Drake spared no expense crafting this luxurious, 18-track album.

Of course, seven years after “Take Care,” Drake’s theme of longevity stands firm, as he remains a rap game powerhouse to this day, steering the sound into new territory, making good on promises he made on songs such as “The Ride,” where he raps, “My sophomore they was all for it, they all saw it / My junior and senior will only get meaner.”

Speaking of “The Ride,” the song is a good example of Drake’s unique ability to select features from artists he also sees having incredible longevity in the music industry. Sure enough, pretty much every feature is still putting out hits today, including The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar, Rihanna, Rick Ross, Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj.

One of my personal favorites on the album is the sentimental song, “Look What You’ve Done.” The track finds Drake rapping two verses, each dedicated to one of his parents. He reminisces on the struggles they went through but also their devotion to supporting their son in all of his endeavors, and thanks them, cherishing his newfound success and ability to give back.  “I get to make good on my promise, it all worked out girl, we should’ve known, cuz you deserve it.”

Some other standout tracks bringing absolutely fire verses are “Underground Kings,” where Drizzy raps about the spoils of his long grind to success, and “Make Me Proud,” a song featuring fellow Young Money affiliate Nicki Minaj, in which both rappers vent about the comparative lifestyles of male and female artists.

Overall, this project is full of hidden gems, lyrics to be deciphered and a magnificent, sweeping production style carefully constructed by Drake’s longtime collaborator, Noah “40” Shebib. Re-immerse yourself in Drake’s sonic masterpiece, or listen for the first time, and see why those who hate are misguided and why Drake deserves to demand respect as both a musician and an artist.

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