Starting with the ornate melancholia of “Take Care,” from 2011, Drake elevated the unfurling of one’s imperfections into an art form. It wasn’t just his interest in scrutinizing his own contradictions, by now a trope for any thoughtful rapper. It was the harshness of his raps and the unabashed softness of his singing, the way his music flitted between styles and rhythms, expressing a restless desire to become someone or something better. The music sounded intimate and precise, owing largely to a close-knit circle of producers, led by his friend Noah (40) Shebib, who swaddled his voice within their digital purrs and tolling bells.
The thing about introspection, though, is that it allows us to think of ourselves always as works in progress. While this is a healthy realization with which to greet every day, it doesn’t make for the most compelling narrative. In recent years, Drake has grown perhaps too comfortable in this perpetual state of self-examination and light sadness—he bleeds onto the page and then admires the pattern he leaves behind. He mines his past, not as a reason to change but as rationalization for his worst behavior.
Hua Hsu, “The Self-Conflict Zone”, The New Yorker (16 May 2016), 96.