When Canadian rapper Drake found out his latest album, Take Care, had leaked online a week before its release, he took to Twitter and in a very practical tone wrote to his 4 million followers, “Listen, enjoy it, buy it if you like it...and take care until next time.”
This pragmatic response is telling of Drake’s approach. On Take Care, he frequently raps about what he observes with a sense of both realism and optimism. This is most present in songs like, We’ll Be Fine, and HYFR, where he says, “I learned working with the negatives could make for a better picture.”
Is it just a given that an album will always leak before it comes out, or do you actually try to figure out where the leak came from?
Nah. You know, my last album leaked, like, 28 days before it came out and that was kind of devastating. I don’t know necessarily know how it happened but I feel that if leaks are somewhat contained — like if your album leaks six or seven days before it’s supposed to come out — I never see it as detrimental or that damaging.
First of all, I’m an artist that was birthed in the generation of leaks on the Internet, so I’m not really trippin’ when the album comes out a little bit before the release date. But when people get it, like, two to three or four weeks before, that’s when it’s hard. I mean, some music doesn’t even last two weeks anymore. People’s interest levels switch so quickly. I was cool with it, though, to be honest, as cool as I could be. Obviously, I wish that they could all hear it at the same time, on the day that it drops, but I think that, unfortunately, with the access everybody has to music, I think that’s just unrealistic unless you drop solely digital, which affects your sales, so it’s a tossup. But I wasn’t too upset.
Can you remember a leak from your formative years that you were excited about as a fan?
I remember when songs from (Kanye West's) 808s and Heartbreak started leaking early, and I was so impressed with the direction that the album was going in. I actually am pretty adamant on purchasing people’s music. I like the artwork and the thank you's. I like to be part of the whole experience.
You knew for more than a year that this album was going to be called Take Care. How did you decide that so early on in the process?
We came up with it when we were touring in Europe with Jay-Z, and we were all on the bus together and we came up with this name, and as the months went on, it just got stronger and stronger. It just started having more meaning, more impact, and I started hearing it more and realized that it’s kind of an infectious title. I was pretty much sold on it. There was never a point where I was like, “Oh, I need a new album title” or anything. I was really happy with it.
So the song Take Care came later?
Yeah, the song just sort of made sense when I heard the Gil Scott-Heron record (the song samples Scott-Heron’s I’ll Take Care of You). The lyrics were right there, and obviously coinciding with the title was just like, “Oh, I’ll just make this the title track.”
You certainly have a lot guest stars on this album. There’s Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna and even Stevie Wonder. I was surprised though that you didn’t have Stevie sing. Instead you just had him play his signature harmonica.
I think that the record, the way it was, was done already when he was listening to it. Vocally, we had tracked it out, and me and him have these other plans for a record where we sing together. We’ve been talking about it for a while now. And I thought this was more of an interesting way to incorporate him in the album, as almost like a musical contributor and a musical guide. He added some great things to that song and I thought that was cool as opposed to having a blatant feature.
There are a lot philosophical lines in these songs, like “jealousy is just love and hate combined.” Are these the type of things that you stow away for a while, just waiting to find a place where they’ll fit?
Yeah, there are little pieces that I collect over the months, whether it be in passing conversation or from reading or movies. I pull from all kinds of references but I make them my own. I try to never directly take a quote verbatim. I try to make it apply to my life or make it work for me. A lot of it is just stuff we think about and talk about amongst each other, like me, 40 [Drake’s collaborator Noah “40” Shebib] and whoever else is in the studio. It just comes from hours of thinking and reflecting on life. I think one of my biggest things is to be quoted. I grew up reading quotes, studying what intelligent people had to say, what wise people had to say, so I think one of my biggest goals in life is just to be a quoted individual, and to be somebody whose words matter.
So you would like to see engraved in stone a line like, “You’re a fine motherfucker, back that ass up.”
[Laughs.] Well, I mean, I don’t know if that’s going to be quoted. But there’s obviously moments of messing around, and then you have your profound moments.
You do swing wildly between both of those moods on this album.
I think that’s just part of my character and my personality and my music, I always find a balance. There’s elements for anyone in there. It almost makes it much like myself, as a person, it’s neutral and relatable to different groups of people. It’s not necessarily geared to just one demographic. It’s more like the balance of, you get your ‘hood shit, you get your ignorant shit, you get sexy music, you get passionate moments, you get life moments and you get vulnerable moments. I think that’s what makes my music unique. I find a way to incorporate all those things into one song sometimes, or definitely into one project.
Yeah, it’s the first time I’ve ever heard country star George Strait mentioned in rap.
[Laughs]. Yeah, man. I’m a George Strait fan. All My Exes Live in Texas is one of my favorite songs.
There seems to be a theme of “us against the world” on this album.
I think I’ve been definitely feeling that a little more than I have in the past. I feel that maybe my career has reached a certain point where I don’t get the same love that I once got, based off the fact that it’s just getting bigger and bigger. One of my favorite quotes is from Gang Starr, “The Rep Grows Bigga,” and that’s real. Things change when that happens.