Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dear Drake (re: Take Care)

The Midas touch?? Ehh... Debatable.

The truth is such a paradoxical concept. They say the truth sets you free, yet the truth hurts. Half a truth makes a great lie, but when you find the truth, it's more that you've found a truth. Truth is sought by the masses but attained by the few. Truth makes for great art, but only when placed in a palatable medium. Such is your issue, Drake. Your truth is a complete paradox. It has certain aspects that everyone can relate to, but make people (especially men) so uncomfortable, that they can't accept it. While you make music that embraces the whole gamut of male emotion, you are so unabashed in your portrayal during Take Care that it is impossible for the average man to listen without casting improper libel on your name, Drizzy.
Sidenote: I'm tired of people labeling any type of defamation via social media 'slander'. For you non-lexical thinkers, the proper term is libel, or defamation by written or printed words. Slander is the same, but spoken. I know it's splitting hairs, but with the way writing is going down the pooper, I had to make the disambiguation.

Take Care was named so because you supposedly rushed the production of Thank Me Later and wanted to take your time while putting your sophomore project out. Production-wise, this is a masterful album. It does not have the beautifully eclectic sound that Kanye's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy has, but centers on the sonically dark, sensuous sound that marked Thank Me Later. It is obvious that you were heavy handed in your production, taking care to make this your album again.

Content-wise, the truth you convey is anything but careful. From your verses to your features, the honesty of how (excuse my French) fucked up the industry makes the artist, is evident. Kendrick Lamar says it best when he muses about the penchant for music to beget sex:
Live the ambiance all cause the audience / One day said I would do it / So instead of a verse being read / Ima go ‘n get some head off the strength of my music
The themes of love lost and the downfall to fame are exceptionally reckless, almost reminiscent of a melancholy teenage love affair. No stone is left uncast (not a word, but it sounded hot) when dealing with the hurt of being broken hearted, whether by one's own doing or by the ills of another. It is this truth, that love does indeed hurt, that makes Take Care so off-putting to the host of caveman-esque listeners saying you're as soft as terry cloth, Drake.

Songs like 'Marvin's Room/Buried Alive' only serve to add flames to the firestorm of softness allegations, yet the candidness afforded is undeniable. What stone-hearted ogre can truly say that they've never been hurt? How is reveling and thriving in light of hatred pointed towards one's art considered 'soft'? Drake, your truth is one that is seldom seen, yet needed in this day and age. 'Lord Knows' is a positive example of this truth. For all of the flak aimed at your neck, you've got Teflon both metaphorically and on the track with Ross as you deflect criticism about your place in hip-hop history:
They take the greats from the past and compare us / I wonder if they'd ever survive in this era / In a time where it's recreation / To pull all your skeletons out the closet like Halloween decorations
It used to be a case where a rapper's dirty laundry was only aired out on wax. Now that MTO and TMZ and Necole Bitchie and whatever other gossip sites there are lend themselves to that end, that line is extremely powerful, even though it will fly over the heads of most in terms of gravity.

I have to say, Drake, that listening to Comeback Season before So Far Gone before Thank Me Later before Take Care was a HUGE mistake. The change in your style is almost ridiculous. From the rapper who idolized Phonte to the syrup-sipping YMCMB harpy, it's a bittersweet transition. Did you have to lose the socially awkward, prodigally-talented ideal that marked your earlier works in the pursuit of fame? I suppose you comment on that phenomenon on 'Underground Kings':
Live a little, cause niggas die a lot, and lie a lot / But I'm the truth -- that's right, I fucking said it / The living proof that you don't gotta die to get to heaven
Is that really the truth, Drake? Is that really your truth? I'm not sure which truth to believe from you, Drake; the tortured musician or the ballin' outta control rapper. It seems as if the latter is prevalent during this album, as with the last.

The downside to truth is that not everyone's truth is palatable to a wider audience. Drake, as much as I appreciate you discussing the plight of heartbreak, you need some other kinds of truth... Seriously. Big Ghostfase allusions aside, this album explored a whole new frontier of emotion. I wasn't ready for such a sultry ambience while listening. It honestly had me at a loss for words, especially when 'Doing it Wrong' came on. Of the 18 tracks on Take Care at least half dealt with women in some way. Really, Drake? I know they say that women drive the majority of record sales, but that doesn't mean the truth you convey should be entirely centered around the fairer sex. Jay-Z would be disappointed, as his chorus on '99 Problems' claims. 'The Real Her', was more of the same, oozing with heartbreak from the soul of a tortured musician. Yes, it's relatable, but only for a while. (see my post on Joe Budden's woman troubles) After essentially visiting the same theme on Thank Me Later, you would think you'd stop hitting industry parties and strip clubs looking for your Cinderella, Drake. Come on, son... The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. There's got to be a new impetus for your next musical work, or I won't be able to stomach it again.

I had to wonder why your album started to sound like a wasteful-spending broken-hearted, broken record halfway through, and I could think of one reason: Weezy F. Baby. The Clown Prince of Syrup-Influenced Music has infiltrated what little integrity the music industry leaves in most artists and destroyed it, Drake. The result of this unholy union is a track like 'Practice'. Drake, I may be classified among the rank-and-file of so-called haters, but this has to be one of the most God-awful pieces of music I've ever had the displeasure of blasting through my speakers. Never mind that you tried to turn a twerking anthem into an R&B song, or that Wayne must be paying a grills-worth in royalties to Juvenile, or that an appearance from The Lonely Island is the only thing separating this song from being a parody. This was the equivalent of sticking scalding butter knives in my ears, Drake. Hearkening back to my theme of truth, someone in that studio needed to tell you the truth about that song. Lack of truth is the reason Eminem's recent work sounds like a watered-down cocktail and why heads will never be able to accept that death in hip-hop doesn't equal martyrdom. Your sophomore offering shouldn't have suffered from the truth being withheld in your recording process. It's clear that while this album was inherently yours, there was a lot more Young Money in your Kool-Aid than most listeners would be lead to believe.

Drake, I'm conflicted in writing this letter. While I commend another good listen, with more shades of emotion being exposed for a mostly emotionless listener-base, I can't condone a lot of the songs, content and decisions made concerning Take Care. It's almost as if you don't believe a lot of the truth you're conveying. You can deflect the and hate welcome the praise, but you can't even begin to describe what got you there. You may be able to wax philosophical about the ills of trying to find love, but you probably will never get any closer to finding it. You may be a 'king' in your own mind, but are one sitting on a throne in jeopardy, mostly of your own doing. The bane of truth is not only being able to convey it, but also being able to use it to grow. I think what concerns me the most about Take Care is the lack of growth. It's as if this album had a confused take on the same truth from Thank Me Later, resulting in a melancholy, teenage hormone-laced version of what should have been the album. That's the truth; the careful, unabashed truth. You need a reality check, not only to stop you from bigging up your gun-toting henchmen, but also from letting the pain of girl problems completely stain your work. It will make for a more widely-accepted and enlightening truth on your part.