10 Toronto Contributors to Drake's 'Take Care'

by Aaron Zorgel

November 21, 2011






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“Let me begin by thanking Toronto. I was lucky to be given the time to create an album in the city that shaped me.”

That’s how the “thank-yous” in the liner notes for Drake’s Take Care begin. If there was ever any doubt about whether or not Drake is sincere about representing his hometown on a global scale, Toronto’s top slot on the “thank you” list should assuage the notion. He continues: “I haven’t spent this much time here since 40 and I were recording So Far Gone at 15 Fort York and I was living in the blue basement on Coulson Avenue. I began to remember the way certain places and people made me feel, and it became so apparent what the content of this album needed to be. I tried my best to make the soundtrack to our lives in this city…I hope I made you all proud.”

For Toronto, Take Care really is something to be proud of. If not for the hometown hero’s rising star, it’s an opportunity to find pride in (and shine a light on) the abundance of young talent that is nourished in the diverse neighbourhoods of Toronto. Drake has done just that, and utilized burgeoning local talent in defiance of the fact that his budgets could afford the top talent south of the border. Take Care is expected to sell over 700,000 copies in its first week, and if you comb through the extensive liner notes, much of the enlisted personnel is Toronto born and bred. Don’t get me wrong — Toronto has always been a hub for creativity and talent in Canada. But thanks to Drake, the Hip-Hop community at large is noticing. And perhaps most importantly, they’re noticing that the talent is viable worldwide.

In an interview with Complex Magazine, Drake and his manager Oliver (also Toronto born) allude to a movement they’re trying to build in Toronto. Call it OVO, call it OVOXO, call it YMCMBOVOXO if you want to be really thorough, but whatever acronym you attribute to it, Drake is using his influence and reach to establish Toronto as a force in the Hip-Hop and Pop Music spectrum. Much of the record was recorded at a Sterling Road Studios, a small, inconspicuous building near Bloor & Lansdowne. While the album was being recorded, Rick Ross’ Maybach was reportedly parked outside the studio for weeks at a time.

So, let’s profile the Top 10 Toronto-based contributors to Take Care. First and foremost, there’s Drake himself. But we’ve read enough about Drake recently, so maybe this would be a good time to skip directly to the T.O. talent behind the scenes, all of which have contributed to making Take Care 2011’s 3rd best-selling album in its first week (trailing only behind Tha Carter IV, and Born This Way). Without further hesitation, let’s take a closer look at some of the key Toronto personnel featured in the making of Take Care.

The OVO Team:

Noah “40” Shebib
Born 1983
Credits: A&R, additional production, bass, drum programming, engineer, executive producer, keyboards, mixing, mixing assistant, musician, producer.

40 is one of Drake’s oldest friends, and he’s a pivotal founding member of October’s Very Own. He’s Drake’s longtime producer, and is known for his minimal ambient sonic style. He has also worked with Lil Wayne and Alicia Keys, but it’s safe to say he saves his best material for Drake.

Drake says: “To my brother 40, every single time we embark on these journeys together in the back of my mind I wonder if one of us will run out of ideas forcing us to just call it a day and say “hey man great run”… that never happens. You are the most talented, hard working, creative individual I have ever met. Go spend 2 weeks on an island or something… and send Teddy somewhere too. You deserve it.”

“To 40, I’ve said it all but I will say it again you are the true leader of this whole thing…without you there is no Drake at all.”

Oliver El-Khatib
Born: 1986
Credits: A&R, executive producer.

Manager, Creative Director, and overseer of all things OVO. Oliver doesn’t contribute to Drake’s career sonically, but he functions as a brand manager. He posts to the OVO Blog frequently, and handles the business side of things for Drake and his crew. He’s Drake’s guru of style, and he’s also spearheading upcoming OVO Clothing line initiatives.

Drake says: “To my brother Oliver, I am so proud of what we have done together. It’s amazing to watch you evolve, and it’s an honour to now have you as one of my managers.”

The Producers:

Matthew “Boi-1da” Samuels
Born: 1986
Credits: musician, producer.

Born in Jamaica and raised in Scarborough and Ajax, Boi-1da is one of the biggest rap producers in the game right now. Early in his career, he worked with Canadian rap legends Saukrates and Kardinal Offishall, and he went on to produce beats for Eminem, G-Unit, Rick Ross, and Big Boi. It all started when Boi-1da produced a couple of tracks on Drake’s first mixtape “Room For Improvement.”

Drake says: “To Boi-1da, I am very glad that we still always find a way. I could never have a project pass without having my brother bless it. Thank you for your contributions.”

Tyler “T-Minus” Williams
Born: 1988
Credits: musician, producer.

Also from Ajax, T-Minus is Boi-1da’s protege, and you can almost hear the connection in their hi-hat patterns. T-Minus also produced “Moment 4 Life” from Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday, and his most recent credit is the title track to Wale’s Ambition.

Drake says: “To T-Minus, I am so proud to have see you achieve what you have in the past year. They have no idea what’s in store. Thank you for your consistency and your work ethic.”

The XO Team:

Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye
Born: 1990
Credits: background vocals, musician, producer.

What can you say about The Weeknd? After Drake scooped him up under his wing, his debut mixtape became the first ever free digital-only release to be shortlisted for the Polaris Prize.

Drake says: “To Abel, meeting you changed my life and whether you realize it or not you are responsible for how hard I went to make this album one to remember. You are a gifted soul and you have given the world something extremely special. I am looking forward to the future with you and I am honored to call you a brother.”

Martin “Doc” McKinney & Carlo “Illangelo” Montagnese

Born: 1971, Unknown

Credits: engineers, producers.

The Weeknd’s Toronto-based producers lent their skills to a “Crew Love” and “The Ride” on Take Care. Though he wasn’t born in Toronto, McKinney was once half of Canadian alt-pop group Esthero, before it became a solo project. Illangelo co-produced the much-hyped Weeknd Lady Gaga remix for “Marry The Night.”

Drake says: “To the whole XO gang you awlready know we are a family…OVOXO.”

The Visual Team:

Hyghly Alleyne & Lamar Taylor
Born: 1989
Credits: photography.

Also a part of the XO Weeknd crew, Alleyne & Taylor are the two photographers credited on the layout of Take Care. They’re also responsible for the videos for “Marvin’s Room” and “Headlines.” Alleyne & Taylor cast the city of Toronto as the star in the “Headlines” video, showcasing a ride up the CN Tower, a time-lapse the Skydome (yes, I still call it the Skydome) closing, and an abandoned building in the industrial area of Bloor & Lansdowne. They’re also responsible for the Weeknd’s mixtape artwork.

The Canadian contributions don’t stop there. If you can believe it, Winnipeg native Chantal Kreviazuk co-wrote and co-produced the opening track on the record, “Over My Dead Body.” Montreal-born Chilly Gonzales lent his skills on the Fender Rhodes, piano, and synthesizer. Canadian R&B singer Divine Brown even lent her voice to the making of Take Care.

By giving the nod to Toronto-based producers and photographers instead of opting for Americans who already dominate the industry, Drake has effectively put Toronto in the spotlight. Take Care is legitimizing Toronto in a way that few records have done before, and he’s giving opportunities to young artists who otherwise might have had to go south for the same exposure.

Click here for an extensive look at Drake’s liner notes.

Tags: Music, News, Chantal Kreviazuk, Chilly Gonzales, Drake, The Weeknd






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