Easily the year’s most anticipated rap release, Nothing Was The Same is Drake’s middle finger to the critics. Acting as an opportunity to prove he deserves the title of future legend, naysayers and haters alike will be paying attention to this one with extremely attentive ears. With two albums already under his belt, one of which (Take Care) won a Grammy this year for Best Rap Album, numerous mixtapes, sold out tours, and co-signs from already established rap greats such as Jay Z, Lil’ Wayne, and Eminem, young Aubrey Graham hasn’t done too badly for a kid from Toronto who started out as a teenage shooting victim confined to a wheelchair on the Canadian sitcom Degrassi: The Next Generation.
Often criticised for his sensitivity on record - something considered a taboo in rap and is frequently discouraged by Hip Hop purists - Drake has managed to tap in to an audience who like a bit or rough with their smooth. One minute making reflective drunk booty calls and asking whether or not the girl in question’s new man can do it like he did on tracks like 'Marvin’s Room', the next he’s puffing his chest out and spouting off at the mouth about being a rap heavyweight who is always ahead of the competition ('Stay Schemin'').
Whilst it’s undeniable that Drizzy is technically gifted, his love affair with R&B and confessions of the heart forces him to be placed in to a category supported more by adolescent females than middle-aged men [who were once a fan of rap’s golden era]. Often looked at as a guilty pleasure, there really is no need. Hip Hop is about self-expression and the right to be who you want to be. It was ok for LL Cool J to be caught up in romance on “I Need Love” back in the 80s when rap was so street that the only place you would hear it was on the street, yet it’s now not ok for Drake to embrace his inner simp in 2013. What’s up with that?
Able to hop from one side of the fence to the other very well, Nothing Was The Same plays like a game of chess between arrogance and sensitivity. With both sides making great moves it’s hard to choose a victor. Breaking the album down track by track, we take a look at Drake’s highly anticipated third album and decide whether it’s a romantic wreck or a braggadocios bravo moment.
Listen to the album in full below, and continue reading for our track by track review of Nothing Was The Same...
There’s always got to be a track that opens an album. Required to set the tone, it can make or break a record. For Drake, when it comes to album openers, his track record is thought provokingly flawless. 'Tuscan Leather' hears Drake ask, “How much time is this nigga spending on the intro?” With that said, it’s obvious he has a lot to say. Still talking about his successes and how the sky is the limit, he takes a leaf out of the Justin Timberlake book of extended track times. Opening like a Heatmakerz-produced track circa 2001, the three key beat changes keeps listeners plugged in to the transparent mood Drake finds himself in. The occasional reading between the lines might be needed, especially when there may be a clue in to his current feelings on his YMCMB situation and friendship with Nicki Minaj, and upon further inspection there might also be a subliminal shot fired in the direction of J. Cole.
Sounding like rotating helicopter blades melted in between pianos playing in reverse, until the instrumental switches up like its predecessor, 'Furthest Thing' acts as the album’s inspirational centerpiece. Hearing the lyrics, “You might feel nothing was the same,” early on you’re privy to what it is Drake is trying to accomplish with the album. Claiming that he’s still doing much of what he did before the fame, Drake’s lyrical output is an attempt at convincing a former flame that while the furthest thing from perfect, he’s still the same guy that once upon a time took a misstep when exploring the boundaries of human emotion. Endearing in a women-love-honest-men type of way, the track helps make sense of the album’s subject matter.
'Started From The Bottom'
Already a worldwide smash, on 'Started From The Bottom' Drake turns his attention from the ladies to his crew. Rolling deep wherever he goes, Drake has always made it clear that he’s all about his friends. Like a 'Crew Love' 2.0, minus a breezy chorus from The Weeknd, the song has an addictive hook, and thanks to the swagtastic Mike Zombie production, it has a celebratory feel to it. Having always been the king of simplistic potency when on the mic - “Just as a reminder to myself/ I wear every single chain even when I’m in the house” - messages of camaraderie and loyalty are easily deciphered by listeners.
What’s in a name? Everything according to the majority of the Hip Hop community who chose to totally disregard 'Wu-Tang Forever'. Leaked a week or so before the release of Nothing Was The Same, there appeared to be a lot of backlash from rap fans. Salty, they let it be known that they were unhappy with Drake’s new track. Named after the Wu’s 1996 sophomore album, paying homage doesn’t need to be an entire track gushing over the chosen inspiration. Listening to the track you immediately understand that Drake is a fan of Hip Hop. Always someone who admits he’s heavily influenced by others, for example, on Take Care he sampled Jon B’s 'Calling On You' for his track “Cameras”, another reason for the song title is down to Drake sampling the Wu’s 'It’s Yourz'. Over a key sprinkled backdrop and non-stop metronome-esque drum loop, the jazzy soundscape gives Drake something to announce his [bedroom-only] availability on. Rumour has it that there is a Wu-Tang Clan remix on the way featuring U-God and Method Man, as well as a few other members of the group.
Carrying the 'It’s Yourz' theme over to 'Own It', Drizzy’s simping hits an all time high. Singing, “Next time we fuck, I don’t wanna fuck, I wanna make love/ Next time we talk, I don’t just wanna talk, I wanna trust,” it’s obvious this is a moment strictly for the women in his life. Slow and a little lethargic to begin with, once Drake exchanges the slow singing for a few bars over the screwed up backdrop, things get a little better.
Screaming about people always being haters - “Mother fuckers never loved us” - Drake justifies being on his worst behaviour. With production from DJ Dahi, the instrumental atmosphere sounds similar to something Kanye West might have done post My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. With repetition the spice of life on this one, the production carries the track, although the few Ma$e lines taken from 'Mo Money, Mo Problems' proves a nice touch.
Featuring new R&B 'it girl' Jhene Aiko, 'From Time' is by far the best joint on Nothing Was The Same, and that’s saying something considering it’s jam packed with mountains of quality. Instrumentally steered by nothing but a piano and a slow-tempo dotted drum loop, but driven by yet more relationship reflection, the setting and artist chemistry is perfect. Talking about real-life situations and speaking about them from a love drunk viewpoint, Drake admits to loving the fact that money changes things, but he hates when it changes relationships, as well as expressing his desire for a Hooters waitress he once had a connection with. Simply put; it’s the perfect reminiscent record.
'Hold On, We’re Going Home'
Channeling both Tracy Chapman and Terence Trent D’Arby, Drake, instead of playing double dutch between genres like he usually does, jumps head first in to R&B on “Hold On, We’re Going Home”. Having sung on many of his previous records, none of them have sounded this good. With a catchy feel-good soundscape, courtesy of his longtime collaborator Noah “40” Shebib, as well as Nineteen85 and Majid Jordan, it’s a good old fashioned love song with sing-a-long qualities that shows Aubrey has been getting those singing lessons in where he can.
Returning to the same type of vibe heard on 'November 18th', taken from Drake’s So Far Gone mixtape, producer Hudson Mowhawke adopts a few elements from Hip Hop’s Chopped & Screwed sub-genre and applies them to the backdrop of “Connect”. While lyrically Drake discusses communication within a relationship, or lack thereof, he compares the arguing back and forth of a relationship to swangin’ - the art of switching lanes by swerving your car side to side whilst listening to Chopped & Screwed music. Kudos to Drake for the quirky line, “I remember when my schedule was as flexible as she is.”
Hopping on Migo’s “Versace” and making it one of the summer’s biggest records, 'The Language' hears Drake copy his own stuttering flow to attempt an anthem of the same calibre. While it might not be quite as catchy, it’s definitely got the ingredients to become a club anthem. Picture bottles of champagne being held in the air, with sparklers of course, and club goers getting hyped as lyrics build slowly to the addictive harmony-absorbed hook - “Now you’re talking my language, now you’re talking my language.” Put it this way, if you liked “Versace”, you’ll like “The Language”. The slight dialogue from the king of stuntin’ himself, Baby (aka) Birdman, is a nice addition too.
'305 To My City'
There always seems to be one Drake track on each of his album’s that shouldn’t have been included. They seem to stand out like a spider the bathtub, and ruin the rest of the album’s flow. On Thank Me Later it was “Shut It Down” and on Take Care it was “Practice”. On Nothing Was The Same it’s “305 To My City”. While Drake is from the area code 416, he wanted to put on for the city of Miami - Drake has two condos in Biscanye Boulevard. Not really saying a lot, apart from an interesting verse about getting strippers from Houston across the border to Toronto by using his customs contacts - “281 to my city, heard you had trouble at customs” - the repetitive nature on this one is a little too much.
Doing what he does best, on “Too Much” Drake gets deeper than an abyss. Featuring the vocal talents of the UK’s very own Sampha, the Toronto rapper discusses his struggles of sustaining a normal life now that he is a certified star. Unable to connect with many of his friends and also the girls of his past the way he used to, his in-depth descriptions and honest delivery make for one hell of a record. Production-wise, finger snaps and a piano are all that’s needed because Drake’s lyrical content steers it to the winners podium. Talking about everything from his mother’s battle living a life outside of her own four walls to making jokes about not making music anymore, similar to the outro on So Far Gone, this is a track with definite rewind value.
'Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2'
The sheer fact Jay Z features on this one already sets the expectation at a higher level. With an opening intro that samples jazz musician Jimmy Smith discussing the way recordings used to be made, the underlining theme of nothing being the same continues. Sampling the Wu-Tang Clan once again, this time with a distorted version of the hook on “C.R.E.A.M.”, Drake steps his rap game up. Proving to the haters he can really do this when he wants to, he breaks down his meteoric rise and what he might do if he attended a high school reunion - “Make everybody have to go through security clearance.” His sincere bars of minor rage sound at home over the Ellie Goulding sample coos created by the genius that is Boi 1da. With Jay Z being called out as of late for lazy bars and for his non-ability to be able to do it like he used to, his two verses storm the gates and take over the throne hushing the haters along the way. Even finding time to take a jab at Beanie Sigel - “Beans’ll tell you if he wasn’t in his feelings” - he shows the world why he’s regarded one of the best. Breaking in to “Paris Morton Music 2” midway through the track, while nowhere near as good as the first part of “Paris Morton Music”, which was an extension of Rick Ross’ “Aston Martin Music”, it still touches upon a few intimate thoughts and feelings that fans of the personally exposed Drake will love.
'Come Thru' (Deluxe Edition)
Standing out as an album favourite, “Come Thru” is a class in Drake chat up lines designed to re-attract an ex-flame. While not everyone will be able to pull them off - “Baby I heat the stove, you do the dishes ya know?” - the feel good factor might serve as a good pre-date warm up soundtrack for any guy perfecting his look before heading out. Again the beat switches up halfway through, and even though the tempo slows down, it works.
'All Me' (Deluxe Edition)
Bragging at its finest, Drizzy teams up with 2 Chainz and Big Sean to put together a club anthem for those who love the bottle popping lifestyle that Drake apparently lives on the daily. Women, money, and being real are all that’s on the table. 2 Chainz is his usual catchy ridiculous self - “And my dick so hard it make the metal detector go off” - and Big Sean continues his reign as one of the better punchline spitters. Drake however seals the deal with one line - “I’m the light skinned Keith Sweat, I’mma make it last forever.” While more about making his career last forever, he further provides his haters with ammunition to call him out for being soft, being that Keith Sweat is an R&B crooner. But that’s the thing, he’s clever with it. It’s like Eminem in 8 Mile. If you lay everything out people could use against you, what more have they got? Great thinking, great record.
'The Motion' (iTunes Edition)
Given away free months ago, those who haven’t heard the record only need to know that it features Sampha and his individual-sounding vocals, over an electronically atmospheric backdrop that acts as the new manifestation of YOLO (You Only Love Once) - “I don’t have a fuck to give, I’ve been moving state to state.”
Drake has put together an album that touches all walks of life. Instrumentally it’s near-perfect thanks to 40 overseeing the project. While Drake’s subject matters haven’t really moved on from his previous efforts, they work for him. He is a sucker for love. So what? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it right? He proves he’s human with the misstep that is the boorishly plain '305 To My City', but then he also shines by showing he likes to colour outside of the lines of the Hip Hop blueprint by expressing his inner most feelings on epic joints such as 'Too Much' and 'From Time'. Drake is a Hip Hop mainstay. He makes neither the generic type of rap most get-rich-quick rappers do today or the authentic style of rap that helped moved the genre and culture in to the spotlight. He’s somewhere in between in his own lane. There are many copycats these days, but you have no idea who they are because none of them do it quite like Drizzy. Moving up the ladder of success more and more each day, perhaps Drake’s next album will be called It Will Never Be The Same.