(Cash Money Records)
Drake's Take Care is one of 2011's most anticipated hip-hop albums, and like most sophomore releases, it was preceded by ridiculously high expectations. Much like the debut Thank Me Later, Drake finds success blending his relatable everyman vulnerability with narcissistic bravado and the image of being a reluctant hip-hop prince. Drake switches effortlessly between high-energy raps and a smooth croon – a dichotomy he has become famous for – over flawless production from mammoth producers such as Just Blaze and Lex Luger. Thematically, Drake doesn't touch any new ground on this album: he complains about the hardships of stardom, reminisces on the females long gone and fires lyrical shots at the ever-present "haters". The album's guest list is a star-studded affair, with appearances from label mayes Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj as well as the new-school darlings The Weekend and Kendrick Lamar. Stevie Wonder's hauntingly beautiful harmonica solo on the ambient Doing It Wrong and Andre 3000's witty end verse on The Real Her are unexpected gems, propelling the album to become his most musically diverse yet. The album would be much more concise if a few songs were scrapped from its hefty 18-song tracklist. Still, Thank Me Later showcases Drake's versatility as an artist; just when you think you can pigeonhole him, he throws you for a loop and surprises you with the sometimes brilliant and unexpected.