Drake featuring Rihanna “Take Care”

We’re probably the last people on the Internet to have anything to say about Drake‘s now month-old (counting its initial full leak) Take Care, which really has less to do with any serious Drake-hate emanating from these parts of the Web as much as it does the exhaustion from even thinking about having to sit through an entire album revolving around whatever too much money/ too much fame/ too many women issues Drizzy is moping about now.

Sure, the man is always good for a verse that’s more clever than not and his seductive way with a melody needs to be boxed and sold, but considering when it comes to his own material, he leans more towards deep, moody and introspective (with the backing tracks to match), the idea of swimming around in his lyrical and sonic broodiness for an hour or so (especially with so many other rappers now doing the same) just isn’t as immediately inviting as it once was an album and a mixtape or so back.

When we finally got around to listening to the album in full however, we were immediately struck with how foolish our hesitancy was (and then proceeded to listen to it over and over, as if we could possibly “catch up” with everyone else’s time with the album with numerous replay spins).

With Take Care, Drake has not only capped off 2011’s Year In Music nicely (managing to hold the same critically acclaimed X-mas-time sweet spot Kanye usurped with last year’s similarly masterful My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy), but achieved something few rappers (hell, artists of any genre) have the ability (or talent) to do when it comes time to record sophomore projects: check back in on the predecessor, absorb what was done right and figure out how to truly make it better.

For TC, that means gorgeous productions that demand one’s need of the best of the best headphones and car audio systems; sharper uses of both his singing and rapping halves (sounds like someone is as tired of the hashtag rap sub-genre as everyone else) with stronger, more seamless, transitions between the two; and, most key, dominant naval-gazing themes that aren’t as torturous or awkward to listen to, never once leaving one bored or ready to jump off a bridge.

Attempting to point out a singular highlight from an album full of stand-outs is no easy feat (not to mention that the album sounds best in one listening session swoop), and it’s woefully regretful that the track we pick here isn’t one featuring stellar guest turns from The Weeknd (here, doing his dreamy lullaby vocal best on “Crew Love”), new “next big thing” hotness Kendrick Lamar (who deepens his street/ blog buzz with a beautifully strange starring role on “Buried Alive Interlude”), Andre 3000 (who hypes Adele in another Best Sixteen Cameo of the Year award honoree on “The Real Her”) or the one and only Stevie Wonder (providing a harmonica solo [!!!!] on slow jam “Doing It Wrong” that deserves to be twice as long as it is), nor the one that gob-smackingly re-writes Juvenile’s “Back That Azz Up” into a creeping “make it rain” sex ballad (“Practice”), but damn if the title cut doesn’t deserve a special shout-out of it’s own.

A major event of a record that boasts an appearance by slick radio magnet and Album of The Year Grammy nominee (pause) Rihanna and takes its musical cues from The xx’s remix of Gil Scott-Heron’s “I’ll Take Care of You” (itself a remake of the Brook Benton-penned, Bobby “Blue” Bland soul-blues classic that became a #2 R&B hit way back in 1960), “Take Care” can best be summed up as the new “No Diggity”, a celebration of black pop’s past, present and future in its running of the gamut through jazz, soul, blues, hip hop, R&B and house.

And it’s in that last genre that the record pulls out it’s greatest thrill, a 4/4 thud and sprinkle of five-note piano that establishes a refreshing deviation from the endless Euro-cheese and dubstep imprints currently in fashion in mainstream pop’s dancier output, and, in the darkness hiding in the spaces of its sparsely constructed, forward-moving throb, provides a complimentary underlining to the mature emotional slivers that fuel Driz’ latest self-serious, melodic rumination on what it’s like to be a grown-up in a game of relationships and romance that no adult has ever really found the hand book for.

Tack on the suddenly everywhere (again) Rihanna sounding atypically human as she services a shoulder to her “What’s My Name?” partner (“If you let me, here’s what I’ll do/ I’ll take care of you”) in warm, hushed tones and a deliciously twisted breakdown that chops Scott-Heron’s grizzled vocals to a deep bass pulse and tribal thump, and “Take Care” lands as one of Drake’s uniquest, and most endlessly rewarding, creations yet, a tune that alongside the recent works of Kanye (and his The Throne partnership with Jay-Z), Diddy-Dirty Money, Odd Future, Frank Ocean, The Weeknd and A$AP Rocky makes the future of urban-pop light up with an exciting creative promise we can’t wait to delve deeper in…while also asserting the point that the next time Drake drops something new, we best be one of the first in line to download it.

Hear the song below, peep a performance of Florence & The Machine’s blog-beloved Live Lounge remake and snatch up a nice re-edit from the fingertips of Junior Sanchez.

“Take Care” (iTunes) (Amazon):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Florence & The Machine “Take Care (Drake Cover)”:

BONUS: Drake featuring Rihanna “Take Care (Junior Sanchez Really Care’s House Mix)” (DL):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.