Drake Compiles an Impressive Collection of Outtakes for ‘Care Package’
Drake’s latest offering, “Care Package,” compiles songs from throughout his career that have floated around on Soundcloud and YouTube, but never made their way onto an official release. The compilation has been released through Drake’s label OVO Sound, which he used for his early mixtapes, but none of his commercial releases. Described on an Instagram post as “some of our most important moments together available in one place,” it gathers many songs that have long been familiar to fans from album promos. Clusters of tracks fall into specific eras, but are shuffled randomly, as to give a panoramic retrospective look, rather than a chronological recounting.
A main attraction is four older songs released in anticipation of 2011’s “Take Care,” which have become classics to long term fans, despite never seeing an official release. The quartet will be hailed for nostalgic value, a throwback to a distinct earlier stage. Opener, “Dreams Money Can Buy” finds Drake sampling edgy UK electronic artist Jai Paul’s song “BTSU,” which had surprisingly taken the world by storm at the time. One might have expected Drake, ever the savvy marketer, to hop on a fully finished track for for sheer publicity — the way Jay-Z used to do, calling out, “It’s ya boy!” Instead, we get a tastefully tempered sampling, with Drake’s rapping center stage. The track serves as a memorandum of the moment when Drake was suddenly outshining everyone, as he makes sure to notice, boasting, “It went from top five to remaining five / My favorite rappers either lost it or they ain’t alive.”
“Trust Issues,” a softer cut, encapsulates the very hip-hop drive behind this newfound success. Drake boasts, “All I care about is money and the city that I’m from,” a sentiment given plenty attention throughout the full selection of tracks. The track finds Drake at his best R&B crooning, and will be recognized by many from DJ Khaled’s sampling on 2011’s “I’m On One.” “Club Paradise,” strategically released third in the sequence, finds Drake in between worlds, switching between laidback rapping and singing, with backing vocals from The Weeknd. Here, a rep to his hometown comes in the song title, lifted from the name of his favorite Toronto stripclub. Finally, Drake rather amusingly channels the relationship drama that fills so many of his songs into a purportedly tough ode to tattoos on the Rick Ross-featuring “Free Spirit,” with the refrain “Tat my name on you girl, so I know it’s real.” Another track that makes “Care Package,” “Paris Morton Music,” titled after the eponymous model, also stems from a Rick Ross collaboration, repackaging a verse used for Ross’ 2010 “Aston Martin Music.”
Another slew of tracks comes from the era of 2013’s “Nothing Was the Same.” Again, Drake released promos, including “The Motion,” an exceptionally smooth production that finds Drake in a levelheaded and laidback mindstate, singing with finesse, and trying out new inflections with his rapping. Two tracks from this period stem from a series of songs, each mentioning a particular city and time of day. “4PM in Calabasas” delves into Drake’s career history with plenty of illuminating references, including his father’s advice: “Mike never tried to rap like Pac. Pac never tried to rap like Mike.” We know who turned out right, and you have to hand it to Drake for playing by his own rules, in this respect. It also adds perspective to Drake’s vitriol against his dad on 2013 single “Worst Behavior.” Although “4PM” isn’t nearly as scathing, it disses Puff Daddy, Joe Budden, and Meek Mill, and managed to provoke a surprisingly chivalrous response from Budden, who tweeted, “Even if he dissed me & Puff the whole time….. He ain’t sound that inspired in a minute.” Drake goes further on “5AM in Toronto,” a straight rap track, on which he takes jabs at the Weeknd, Chris Brown, and Common.
The brilliantly titled “Girls Love Beyoncé” was rumored to be a single from “Nothing Was the Same,” but stayed loose. Drake hasn’t been shy about his love of Destiny Child’s 1999 single “Say My Name,” having performed a cover of it at his 2011 “OVO Fest.” Here, he enlists singer James Flauntleroy to sing the chorus of that sing, while he chimes in for reflections about relationship trials and tribulations. Beyoncé herself shows up on the closing track of “Care Package,” although just in a couple sampled snippets. Drake intended to include “Can I” on his 2016 album “Views,” but chose to release it alone after it was leaked. There’s a harbinger of that album’s megahit “Hotline Bling,” in the line, “Can I call instead of text you on the hotline?”
Two other leaked cuts make the compilation. “How ‘Bout Now?” finds Drake in his angry, vindictive mode, much like “Worst Behavior,” except this time directed at a former girlfriend. At one comical point of his tantrum, he rages about her wanting to listen to Ludacris, another rapper whom Drake one had a beef with. The other track, “Heat of the Moment,” couldn’t be more different. Drake is loosened up and crooning away, focusing his attention on the plight of the youth. Some of the lyrics are like a farcical distillation of something like Talib Kweli, and Drake invites his father for a barely coherent ramble, concluding triumphantly, “Be a 100% man, and use a fucking condom.” Right.
Interspersed are various tracks from other stages. “Draft Day,” an outlier in its old-school stylings, is dedicated to rookie football player Johnny Manziel, who hails from Drake’s own Toronto, and even sports an OVO tattoo. Coinciding release “Days In the East” finds Drake putting on his puffed-up, chest-pounding voice, sounding like a frustrated child as he goes into autobiographical detail, but ultimately comes across as having reached some enlightenment. At one particularly poignant point, he recounts visiting Erykah Badu for advice on recognizing true love. Among the other odd ends is “My Side,” a harder, edgier outtake from 2015’s surprise mixtape “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late,” which fans might recognize from a snippet in Drake’s short film “Jungle.” “I Get Lonely” a remake of TLC’s 1999 song “Fan Mail,” is the sappiest song of the set, mainly a looped chorus with Drake sounding as if singing with scrunched-up lips. And then, there’s the largely-unrecognized hardcore fan favorite “Jodeci Freestyle,” titled as an homage to R&B icons Jodeci. The track teams Drake up with another of hip-hop’s main players, J Cole, to wing it at the mic — and provided that they’re both absolutely freestyling — it’s a definite highlight.
“Care Package,” as its title suggests, is an album for dedicated fans. Even that might be an overstatement, as those fans likely already have these songs on their own playlists. Drake knows how to promote himself, and it’s hard not to see this release as little more than a marketing maneuver. That said, the compilation contains an impressive number of tracks well deserving of an album. The big budget production of Drake’s official debut, 2010’s “Thank Me Later,” was widely seen as a betrayal of the distinctly Toronto sound he honed on his early mixtapes. Many of the songs more steeped in that original style sadly went unappreciated, and are finally done justice here. Along with this, the various odds and ends showcase Drake’s dynamic range and different states and stages, making for a far greater set of songs than the typical collection of outtakes.
“Care Package” is available Aug. 2 on Apple Music.