"Want my old shit, buy my old album" —JAY-Z
Drake’s emergence as the rising star of hip-hop’s blog era wasn’t executed with the paintbrush of Picasso. His way of illustrating life with words is like pictures taken with the front-facing camera on a cell phone, creating the intimacy of flipping through a collection of perfectly framed photos. Memories are frozen and feelings are immortalized. Every moment is recorded with an iPhone.
Knighting Drake the foremost rap artist of the selfie generation was a natural declaration after Take Care, a sophomore release that kept the Toronto romantic within the frame at all times.
Instagram being Drake’s social media medium of choice is appropriate, we see him how we hear him. His pictures aren’t worth a thousand words, they’re more like abstract whispers from a man living large and loud. But he recently uploaded an image—Drake is sitting down at a marble table, having a drink—that is currently making the most noise across Twitter timelines and Facebook feeds. It’s dark and grainy, his black shirt almost causes the superstar to blend into the darkness. He stares into the camera with a face painted pensive, a look that says, “I need this whiskey.” Any other artist could post the exact image and would’ve received a moderate response, but not Drake.
Not when the snapshot resembles the album cover for Take Care. Raving fans have spent the last few days rejoicing the picture as a sign of a sequel, the second coming of Take Care Drake.
So Far Gone was the big introduction, a welcome mat release that inducted Drake into the league of promising rap stars. Take Care was the promise fulfilled, the album that solidified Lil Wayne’s protégé as an artist of our time. Emotions were worn like blood-soaked cufflinks, personal thoughts became words for the world. He wasn’t the best rapper, he wasn’t the best singer, but everything he said and sung resonated with a generation of kids who were like him―searching for love, searching for self, searching for serenity.
Drake was trying to cope with awkwardly transitioning into a rap star while most of us were awkwardly trying to transition into adulthood. He gave us the soundtrack to our selfies and status updates. We could enter “Marvin’s Room” once he unlocked the door and mused on all the good girls lost once inside. The album may never receive universal acclaim as a classic but it represents an era of rap where many fans lived their lives through his music.
Those are the listeners desperate to see Aubrey drop the accent, cease the day-drinking anthems, and return to the mood music that struck a chord. Sadly, they want a return to a place that can never be recreated in the present. They need a new soundtrack for this new phase in life―Views and More Life didn't cut it.
Since the picture hit the web, Billboard wrote an editorial that gives Drake tips on how to make Take Care 2 a classic, and it reads like a wishlist to remake the predecessor: be your most honest self, bring in The Weeknd, chummy up with old rivals, and find balance between the singing and rapping. Even though most of these qualities still appear in his music, the piece is a humble request to build a modern replica, to do it all again just like you once did.
The plea articulates what the masses think they want, but do we really need another Take Care? Art isn’t meant to move in reverse. It is the ugly truth rarely embraced by a craving audience. Drake can grow out the curls, but it doesn’t return him to who he was in 2010-2011. He can reunite with The Weeknd, a major collaborator who doubled as a musical organ donor to bring Take Care to life, but he is far from the starving young man who lived in a house of balloons. Rihanna’s new relationship can reopen old wounds, but Heartbreak Drake won’t be resurrected.
Even if art could move in reverse, why beg artists to make music that’s already been made? You wouldn’t ask Michael Jordan to soar from the free-throw line in a 2017 slam dunk contest. Would you ask Barry Jenkins to write and direct another Moonlight in 2018? Would you really want a re-wrapped Christmas gift from 2011 six years later? There is absolutely no need to give what has already been received. Moving backward is for moonwalkers.
The curse of nostalgia is comfort. It feels good to discover something enjoyable, and it’s natural to cling upon and crave that feeling. Nostalgia is a form of escapism that doesn’t harm the soul, but it can be jading to taste and reality. Sequels rarely live up to the originals because they can never recapture the magic that you fell in love with that first time. Attempts at remaking the golden moments lose their original impact. It’s a new dog performing an old trick. Surprises become stale and tricks become tropes.
Expectations grow even higher when entertainment is marketed as the successor of what you love. Rap is littered with sequels that pale in comparison. Jay’s third Blueprint is practically Hangover 3, an unnecessary addition to a franchise that should’ve stopped after the first. From Eminem’s second Marshall Mathers LP to Kid Cudi’s third Man On The Moon, disappointment almost always outweighs respectable successors. Every once in a while you get The Game’s Documentary 2 or Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Pt. 2, but they are few and far between and still don't fully live up to their predecessors.
A sequel only promises to inherit the same name, not the same music. Yet, no matter how often history will show us this, fans continue to ask in their best DJ Khaled voice for another one.
When Late Registration was released, I’m certain the soul sample fans asked for another College Dropout. When Graduation conquered the world, I imagine disgruntled Late Registration enthusiasts demanding another “Touch The Sky” over “Good Life.” With Yeezus and TLOP in the rearview, "The Old Kanye" has become its own entity. Because his style is never stagnant, Kanye is constantly facing off against the project he buries.
JAY-Z articulated a similar struggle with fans when he rapped the quote that begins this article. Jay didn’t want to continue fighting against the ghosts he created, throwing out one line to silent all the yells for him to do what was already done. Rappers who truly care about the craft are constantly looking forward, trying to do better than they did before. Drake can title his next album Take Care 2 but that will be a boulder on a shoulder that’s already carrying the weight of failing to deliver a universal classic album. Unless he’s preparing to best his opus, he is simply setting himself up to be viewed under the most critical microscope.
The soul of Take Care can still be found in Drake’s recent releases. “Jungle” from If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late is arguably one of the best examples to defend Aubrey’s ability to make mushy, millennial R&B. “Redemption,” one of the best songs from Views, is the same introspective musing that grapples fame and women in a way that he couldn’t capture as a bright-eyed youngster on his second album. For the rap enthusiast who looks at Drake's voyage into pop with disgust, “4PM in Calabasas,” “Do Not Disturb,” “Lose You,” “Weston Road Flows” and various others over the last few albums present a growth and refinement to the rapping he was still attempting to master.
Yes, Take Care was before the writing of ghosts haunted Drake’s every line and legacy; before he was constantly accused of vulturing artists, stealing flows and riding popular waves. The only controversy around Drake during Take Care was the constant criticism of his cotton-candy softness. There wasn’t any added noise surrounding the music. It was the best of times—we just didn't know it yet.
Drake could be feeling the pressure of his dominance beginning to shift. His success in pop may rake in rewarding numbers and accolades, but rap will move on when signs of stagnancy are shown. Announcing a second Take Care will cause waves of excitement, but unless he’s able to return and exceed his previous form, Take Care 2 will be another trending, chart-topping, record-breaking letdown.
The camera phones have been upgraded, the selfie-generation has moved forward with the times, and Drake will have to do the same or he risks becoming just another picture in the photo book.
By Yoh, aka Views From The Yoh Part II aka @Yoh31