As a label renowned for housing the most obnoxious and self involved of the current crop of commercial rappers, think Lil Wayne and Rick Ross, it can be hard to understand how Young Money, Cash Money has amassed such a following. You could put it down to the current obsession with material gain found in the mass majority of commercial and even underground hip hop, an obsession which reflects the current recession hit world where the dollar is still almighty. You would probably be right if you thought that, unfortunately so. Yet for a label to be truly successful in this day and age, it is imperative that genre specific labels expand their horizons. Drake serves as the label's R&B maestro, with lyrics encompassing love and failed relationship rather than who has amassed the most amount of bling in the shortest amount of time.
Let's not take away anything from Drake's ability as a rapper, as anyone who heard his guest verse on SBTRKT's 'Wildfire' can vouch for. On the lead single from Take Care, 'Headlines', Drake's flow takes off from exactly where he left off on the highlights of 2010's Thank Me Later. He may be reserved to the more radio-friendly selection of Young Money artists, along with Nicki Minaj, yet his talent is fairly unrivalled on the mic and fails to contain any of the gimmicky grunts or laughs that come with Wayne or Ross. His lyrics have much more substance than any of his label mates could muster together, encompassing an autobiographical blueprint that Kanye West laid out some years ago.
On the Weeknd featuring 'Crew Love' he discusses how his ambitions for higher education no longer elude his mind now his family 'have it all'. On the title track, featuring Rihanna, he practically pleads for his former flame. The typical 'make money' themes are apparent in his writing, but it is when he is at his most vulnerable and open that Drizzy's lyricism is at its most appealing.
On these two tracks in particular, other than the revealing lyrics the production compliment effortlessly. Jamie xx takes over production duties on 'Take Care,' carving up his own Gil Scott-Heron featuring 'I'll Take Care Of You.' Meanwhile, long-time Weeknd collaborators Illangelo and Doc McKinney take care of 'Crew Love', the crashing introduction immediately grabs hold of you before the velvety keyboard kicks in. Drake and his long-time production collaborator Noah '40' Shebib have carved themselves a considerably minimalist sound consisting largely of smoothed out piano chords and stifled drum beats. As pointed out in the Rolling Stone interview with Drake, the studio where the majority of the recording took place lacked any decoration, only a copy of James Blake's debut LP on display. The sparsely decorated surroundings and minimalist influence from the young Brit can definitely be heard among the R&B styled horns and drums.
Aside from James Blake, there is one individual that stands out as a muse for Drake. His enthusiasm for the late Marvin Gaye is bountiful and for an R&B artist who insists on maintaining a sense of individuality in his music then Marvin is really the best idol to choose from. With this in mind it is somewhat disheartening that his overall output falls far from being close to that of his idol. Marvin didn't exactly release classic album after classic album yet his music always seemed to have an earthly quality to them. Blame it on a false sense of confidence but the output from Drake lacks this and his work suffers as a result. With a more selfless and positive tone, Drake can finally start to emulate something along the same lines of his hero.