Between the islands that are Drake’s five albums, there are miniature land masses with treasure chests stuffed with gold. Sensing the opportunity to rake up on riches, he has collected his most recent booty and culled it together as Care Package. But instead of reading into this as a money and attention grab (which it may still be but all the same), Care Package is a definitive anthology of not-so-secretive works that makes a lot of sense pulled together as a unit, as opposed to being flung over the internet’s balcony on periodic occasions over the years. No longer will you need to hope that “Dreams Money Can Buy” didn’t get taken off of SoundCloud, or listen to a pitched-up-or-down version of “How Bout Now.” These songs, and more, are now together, and they paint a portrait of Drizzy’s seemingly endless blueprint that hasn’t just arrived, it’s been here. And it’s damn near bulletproof.
There’s something magical about Care Package, and it’s not just the memories attached to the various release dates of its songs. Drake makes great music of the moment, but it’s often hard to imagine going back through his discography with the promise of new Drake practically always around the corner. A large part of what makes Care Package feel like a genuine gift is that all the songs sound current. These lyrics are made for Instagram captions and really bad Tinder bios. The dominating 808s of 2010s trap passed over Drake’s music and, instead, his softer, Noah “40” Shebib-produced music wouldn’t sound out of place in your headphones at night before bed, or through your car speakers and out of the window as you push 80 miles per hour on the freeway at night. There’s a stormy feel to it, too, possibly coming from the downpour of emotions that push their way through a large part of the project’s tracklist.
Emotions aren’t just in the R&B, which there is a lot of, but also in the plethora of punchlines. “Dreams Money Can Buy” is a cutting intro that slices with one line in particular: “My favorite rappers either lost it or ain’t alive.” The lyric hits differently in 2019, especially following Drake’s falling out with a certain rapper that inspired him in his early career. “Draft Day,” “5 Am in Toronto,” and “Jodeci Freestyle” are stuffed with one-liners that range from finger-snapping to cringe-worthy, but they also find time for witty life observations and serious glimpses into the mind of the rapper battling fame and fortune in his 20s (“26 on my third GQ Cover”). Drake’s rapping, today, hasn’t changed much: Maybe a little less inventive and a tad bit more plagiarizing (“Nonstop” is as close to a 21 Savage song that you’ll get without 21 Savage actually being on it). But here, over the course of eight years, we hear the hunger of someone not already cemented as a legend. That drive falls off for anyone in a similar situation, so it’s understandable. It’s just nice to here Drake with this kind of fury again.
What kicks Care Package up a notch in Drake’s catalog is the singing, which he was truly getting into the swing of once these songs began flying out in 2010 starting with “Paris Morton Music,” an alien and ethereal vocal track. His voice has always been on the lighter side with a celestial glint, but over the years, he found a way to ground this approach while keeping it both masculine and feminine. “Trust Issues” and “I Get Lonely” are attacks on toxic masculinity which emerged before the phrase became popular online, and they are so vulnerable and open that you’ll feel like he’s talking louder than he actually is. It may not be the final form, genre-leading Drake that exists today, but it’s not the softness that has changed, just the approach. So when listening to the diaristic songs of Care Package, you appreciate the attempts, even they are clunky at times.
When all cylinders fire though, it’s a dream. “Free Spirit,” the 2011 collaboration with Rick Ross, is still as poignant and demanding today as when it came out. “Tat my fucking name on it so I know it’s real” will forever be one of the sexiest, empowering bars in rap. And then there’s the mystical “Girls Love Beyoncé” which manages to be both beautiful and heartbreaking in only ways that Drake knows how to be (“I’m just trying to find a reason / Not to go out every evening / I need someone that will help me / To think of someone besides myself”). The flip of Destiny Child’s “Say My Name” turns it into a plea instead of a demand, one that the song itself reinforces with Drake’s somber lines and personal anecdotes.
Care Package takes all of these Drake moments and smashes them together, some fitting better than others, and creates what feels like the best division of Drake’s sides that even Scorpion couldn’t reach. It’s 17 tracks of Drake over the years, alternating between clunky punchline rap and honest and vulnerable pleading at the snap of a finger, then switching back without a moment to spare. The nostalgia, of course, sweetens the music, but even without it, Care Package is Drake at his strongest: vulnerable, adorable, and most importantly, hungry. Some of the R&B may bleed together on occasion, but that doesn’t stop Care Package from refining the blueprint without even trying.