Artist: Drake

Title: Take Care

Label: Cash Money

At a distance, rising Canadian singer/rapper Drake seems worth investigation; the 25-year-old first found fame co-starring in teen drama Degrassi: The Next Generation, and his second album, Take Care, includes A-level guests like Stevie Wonder.

It's clear that his creative gifts are credible and dynamic. Sadly, no amount of R&B musical talent can justify the surprisingly raw language plaguing most of these seventeen cuts—even if it were being used only to reflect a cultural authenticity, it could still be called excessive.

Don't put too much stock in Drake's sensitivity on the relatively clean title track featuring Rihanna and a sophisticated sample from jazz legend Gil-Scott Heron.

Such tenderness may be real, but more often his flows fall back on the f-word and the n-word like some people use "uh" or "you know." In "Marvin's Room," a drunk dialer advises the object of his lust to ditch her current love interest ("f--- that n----") and come on over.

Album opener "Over My Dead Body" has an alluring sonic arrangement, but who needs to hear anyone bragging about their big money or making vulgar references to their sexual conquests? "Make Me Proud," with the always-colorful Nicki Minaj, boasts a good groove and an overcoming spirit, but there's no pride in relying on another round of crass word choices along the way.

Similarly, there's thoughtfulness in the mellowed out "The Real Her" and a compelling appearance from Outkast's Andre 3000, but the song is still rooted in an unhealthy hook-up mentality. And it doesn't get much darker than "HYFR" with Lil Wayne, a mixed-message ode to fame and debauchery whose acronym title involves more expletives.

Again, nobody's knocking Drake's inherent ability; his voice is strong, he can spin a rhyme better than most, and the production values are fresh. But there's something nagging about the title of that song featuring Wonder on harmonica—"Doing It Wrong." There's just too much about Take Care that isn't right.  

*This review first published 11/28/2011