The problem with Take Care is that Drake’s honesty is boring. Love or hate his decision to write songs about drunk dialing ex-girlfriends and this self involved “fame is hard” narrative, he fails to be interesting lyrically and musically. Take Care‘s 17 tracks of maudlin pity parties feature the kind of bland pronouncements just about anyone could convey. The act of a great artist is to make the mundane interesting, to present the human condition from an angle not always considered. The Drake on Take Care appears lucky instead of talented. Drake presents his scenarios in a unadorned and straightforward manner with little word play and a confessional style reminiscent of over hearing someone else’s conversation involving people you’ve never met. Unlike Kanye West, who is a mess of doubt and hubris and quite obviously a little crazy, Drake is pretty simple, a rich guy who fucks a lot of women. “Marvin’s Room” might be based on a real ill-advised drunk dial but is Drake any different on this track than any other where he’s telling women “they can do better”. There is a cloying sexism to Drake with his “Take care” and “Make me proud” sentiments that feel jerky and condescending. Drake’s party line would be “Had a lot of sex, made plenty of money, not bragging just saying, feels empty”, delivered in that same plain spoken style, artless and often tone deaf. Drake’s lyrics on his first album and his mixtapes were kinda corny but that corniness was endearing (Heck, I made sure “Best I Ever Had” got played at my wedding) and to abandon those attempts at lyricism for dull statements is a strange decision. Also, what is this; “Don’t listen to those lies/I swear they’re all lies“. This is Drake 2.0 so he’s not trying to be funny.
The beats on Take Care rarely ascend above a plodding midtempo so you can’t even dance to this shit. Just Blaze shows up at one point and straight up kills it but Drake doesn’t help by literally rapping about going through a girls phone and turns what should be a swagged out jam into another pity party. Oh well, I’m just glad to see Blaze back in the game. That dude has still got it. Finally, I don’t know what to make of the choice of turning “Back That Ass Up” into a ballad, but rest assured it was a bad one.
What must it be like when an artist or creative type realizes that their glory days are behind them? Pusha T solo stuff remains a mixed bag of decent spitting on top of whatever beats that is solidly OK, which for anyone would be fine but this is one half of The Clipse, the guys who did this and this and THIS. The beats are never out and out bad but like I said, just OK. The best tracks are the Juicy J feature “Body Work” and the Neptunes production “Raid”. “Body Work” is your standard “we kill people” track and those are usually pretty good and hey so is this. “Raid” has a great beat and inspired verses from Pusha and 50 Cent of all people but strikes out with a particularly grating Pharrell hook which, y’know, hey, they can’t all be winners. The most exciting moment on the album is when Pusha promises a new Clipse record during the outro. Don’t forget to call the Neptunes when you’re making that one, Push.
I was about four tracks into Camp when I realized that I didn’t like any of the Childish Gambino mixtapes and that Camp is just more of the same, frantic rapping with pop culture references but no strong hooks. Obviously Donald Glover wants to be taken seriously as a rapper which means no funny business but Childish Gambino just gives me a “Party All The Time” vibe, Glover playing against his strengths to deliver “serious” hip hop that no one would ever put on at a party or dance to yet is the essence of what type of music he is clearly trying to make. There is no arrogant foolishness or wild eyed frenzy because Glover is so intent on being taken seriously that there is no room to breathe. Watch the video for “Freaks and Geeks“, where Glover raps his heart out with rhyme after rhyme of references and word play but it isn’t exhilarating, only exhausting. It’s a shame that the album title refers to this instead of this.
Talk That Talk has the most good songs by Rihanna in one place at least until her inevitable Greatest Hits album. The ballads are still dull and the sex talk awkward and unconvincing but there are some bangers which I didn’t really expect. Loud did a bait and switch with “Only Girl In The World” and with Talk That Talk‘s lead single “We Found Love” I figured that would be the album’s peak, much like how “Rude Boy” was the shining moment of glory amongst Rated R‘s crappy rock songs and dubstep. Imagine my joy and surprise upon hearing “Where Have You Been”. A straight up monster, “Where Have You Been” is a future Hall of Famer which is surprising since part of the vocal steals it’s melody from a Johnny Cash classic that I wouldn’t think to nick from when crafting a dancefloor jam. The hook is pure butter and proves that Rihanna is at her best when she abandons the ice queen style that she tends to fall back on and embraces being a human being. Most importantly, the beat is fucking sick as hell. Elsewhere, Talk That Talk is about what one could hope for from a Rihanna album with an obligatory Jay-Z verse on the title track that I enjoy in spite of the fact that I find Hov unconvincing in his pose as a man who is still actively pursued by groupies. Over 40 and about to be a father I can’t believe Jay-Z would spend any time interacting with anyone he talks about on the track. The-Dream and Tricky Stewart contribute of course but for some reason their track “Birthday Cake” fades out before it even becomes anything. The dubstep track is relegated to the deluxe version so small favors there. At this pace, Rihanna will make a half way decent album by the time she’s thirty. Just keep making those club bangers, girl.