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Take Care

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November 17, 2011 at 05:00 AM EST

On his platinum-selling 2010 debut, Thank Me Later, Drake managed to blend his special brand of understated Canadian ­swagger with surprisingly vulnerable ­reflections on the opposite sex. It didn’t reinvent the wheels of steel, but it acted as both a statement of his vast potential and a titillating wake-up call for hip-hop.

Unfortunately, his second album, Take Care — the bulk of which made its way online over the past several months via individual leaks by Drake himself — spends most of its 17 tracks hitting the snooze button. The ­battle-rap savagery that electrified his ­mixtapes is almost entirely absent here. Instead, he half-bakes his woozy rap-croon and glazes it with sluggish keyboard hums, ­stalling the album’s momentum even when Nicki Minaj does her whirling-dervish act on the disjointed ”Make Me Proud.”

Drake saves all his chest-thumping bluster for ”Lord Knows,” an impossibly huge track built around a bug-eyed gospel choir and a heroic victory verse care of Rick Ross. But that pride is fleeting; soon it’s right back to drumless bouts of existential doubt and post-coital tristesse. It’s possible to lay out all your psychological issues on a commercial rap album — Kanye West does it all the time. What Drake needs is a few more punchlines to brighten up his monochromatic therapy sessions. Surely Canada’s excellent healthcare system can underwrite that. C+

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Take Care

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