On his platinum-selling 2010 debut, Thank Me Later, Drake managed to blend his special brand of understated Canadian swagger with surprisingly vulnerable reflections on the opposite sex. It didn’t reinvent the wheels of steel, but it acted as both a statement of his vast potential and a titillating wake-up call for hip-hop.
Unfortunately, his second album, Take Care — the bulk of which made its way online over the past several months via individual leaks by Drake himself — spends most of its 17 tracks hitting the snooze button. The battle-rap savagery that electrified his mixtapes is almost entirely absent here. Instead, he half-bakes his woozy rap-croon and glazes it with sluggish keyboard hums, stalling the album’s momentum even when Nicki Minaj does her whirling-dervish act on the disjointed ”Make Me Proud.”
Drake saves all his chest-thumping bluster for ”Lord Knows,” an impossibly huge track built around a bug-eyed gospel choir and a heroic victory verse care of Rick Ross. But that pride is fleeting; soon it’s right back to drumless bouts of existential doubt and post-coital tristesse. It’s possible to lay out all your psychological issues on a commercial rap album — Kanye West does it all the time. What Drake needs is a few more punchlines to brighten up his monochromatic therapy sessions. Surely Canada’s excellent healthcare system can underwrite that. C+