Drake is often given credit for being a clever marketer. But the 6 God doesn’t receive nearly enough credit for his power as a hypnotist. His greatest feat in that department has been convincing half the world that modern pop music began with him. But he’s also gotten us to believe that a previous album was a “playlist” and, more recently, that the Toronto Raptors' 2019 NBA Championship ran through him as much as it did Kawhi Leonard.
Now, he’s released a collection of old one-off songs that didn’t make it onto previous albums, and it’s... a Care Package. Which, okay, sure! None of these songs are fresh-baked and there’s not much in the way of sweets, but if Drake wants to re-gift old material and call it a present, we’ll all nod our heads like happy campers.
Well, maybe not all of us. The cynical will be quick to point out the felicitous timing: Care Package arrives just as Drake’s OVO Music Fest kicks off. The album’s purpose seems promotional as much as it is artistic.
Though the former doesn’t necessarily preclude the latter (ask Kanye). For all the hyperbole around Drake, he is indeed a top-notch curator, both of other artists’ music and his own (hence, the “playlist” album, More Life, turning out to be one of his best). And, despite spanning seven years (2010 - 2016), there’s coherence to these 17 songs. Like any Drake album, there’s a lot of Sad Boy Drake, but also some Chest Puffing Drake, and even a bit of Hopeless Romantic Drake. Together, these tracks amount to an album nearly as good as some of Drake’s lesser works (Views or Scorpion, minus the singles).
A casual Drake fan might even mistake Care Package for new material. The tracks aren’t sorted chronologically, and listening through, it’s striking how seamlessly one flows into the next. That’s partially because much of the production is based in timeless samples (Drake sampled Lauryn Hill in 2014’s “Draft Day” before he sampled her in 2018’s “Nice For What,” proving that sampling Lauryn Hill is always a good idea). But beyond those samples, what Drake was doing on the mic really didn’t change much from 2010 to 2016. On Care Package, he shows off different gradations of his skillset (singing, rapping, whining, boasting, and different permutations thereof), but there’s minimal evolution. If BuzzFeed created a quiz in which fans had to guess what year each Care Package song was made, Jon Caramanica and this guy might be the only ones to ace it.
Drake fans and detractors will likely interpret the fungible quality of the Care Package songs in opposing ways. Where Pusha-T might argue that the album demonstrates Drake’s failure to advance (though Pusha would be one to talk), Team Drizzy will hear an artist immune to age. Regardless of where you stand, though, this actually feels like an appropriate moment for Drake to release this sort of project: charitably, it’s a retrospective on one of the most constant and consistent artists of the decade. The way one Care Package song bleeds into the next, sometimes despite being separated by a few years, made me think about just how omnipresent Drake’s nasally voice and 40’s hazily brooding synths have been these past ten years. You might’ve missed these particular songs, but the sounds within them were nearly impossible to avoid. Drake’s music has become akin to the sound of air.
Ultimately, though, my favorite songs on the album were the ones I actually could trace to a specific moment. The light yet vulnerable singing on “I Get Lonely” brought me back to first hearing Drake as I scooped ice cream during a high school summer job. Others, like “Free Spirit” and “Can I?”, were memorable for the fanfare around their respective releases. But the easiest song to track was “Draft Day,” which, with its references to Johnny Manziel and Andrew Wiggins, two prospects who didn’t live up to their hype, is one of the rare instances of a Drake song growing dated. There was something refreshing about that; where most of these songs could lull you into a trance, that one broke the spell.
Listen to the album below