By Rob Markman, with reporting by Steven Roberts
Drake pulled out all the stops for his 2010 debut album Thank Me Later with production Kanye West and Swizz Beatz and features from Jay-Z, Alicia Keys and T.I., but for his sophomore LP, Take Care, Drizzy scaled things back in order to make a bigger impact. Instead of pooling together his resources and using his hitmaking influence, Drake went back to basics, choosing to record the entire album in Toronto with friend and engineer/producer Noah "40" Shebib, the studio wiz who helped Drake cook up his 2009 breakout tape, So Far Gone.
"I can't sit there and tell you that anybody made any conscious decisions to the extent of, 'Oh, we're gonna make this feel of an album,' " 40 told MTV News in December from Take Care studios in Toronto. "We really just make records and cut music until someone says, 'That's it: You can't make any more music; you gotta stop.' "
The result was a cohesive and emotional 18-track ride, with two bonus tracks for iTunes. The MC revealed to MTV News that the narrative that drives his latest LP was inspired by "Houstatlantavegas," a So Far Gone track produced by 40. "I really didn't start working with Drake production-wise until So Far Gone," Shebib said. "As far as Drake and music and the people around him, he really controls that, and he picks all those records, and my goal is to facilitate that."
And facilitate he did. 40 either produced or co-produced 15 of the 20 total Take Care tracks. One song in particular, the Lil Wayne- and Andre 3000-assisted "The Real Her," started with a reverse piano loop that the beatsmith had given to Drake a year before they began working on the album. It might have seemed insignificant at the time, but Drake eventually came back with a song idea off of that one sample.
"What ends up happening a lot of times with our records is that, because I can do a lot of things in the studio, whether it be play instruments or produce or edit or run Pro Tools or edit vocals, whatever the case may be, I help him get out his ideas," 40 said. "I think that's the goal of any good producer, is to make sure the artist is delivering what they want."
With Cash Money/ Young Money's track record of success, Drake's label trusted in the rapper and producer's abilities, allowing them to create without looking over their shoulder. Safe to say, it all paid off when Take Care debuted at #1 on the Billboard albums chart, pushing over 631,000 copies in its first week after it was released November 15. The album is now well-past platinum, on its way to 2 million records sold in just under three months.
"We get to do what we want: We don't have to clear it with the A&Rs or anybody. We are our own A&Rs," Shebib explained. "And that's the greatest freedom you can possibly have in this business."