Nothing Was the Same
OVO Sound, Republic Records, September 24 2013
Reviewed by Ben Simpson
There is a large collection of artists that don’t think Aubrey Drake Graham deserves the recognition he has received. Common referred to him as “soft”. DMX, Li’l Kim, and Chris Brown had much more explicit ways to describe the 26-year-old Canadian rapper. But despite the hate, Drake finds himself right back at the top after his latest release Nothing Was the Same. “This is nothing for the radio, but they’ll still play it though/Cause it’s that new Drizzy Drake, that’s just the way it go.” Just like the words above, taken off of the opening track “Tuscan Leather“, Drake can make an album virtually without any sing-along hooks and still somehow find his way into millions of homes, cars, and smartphones. In a year where Kanye’s Yeezus weirded us out, and Jay-Z’s Magna Carta… Holy Grail talked down to us, Drake once again squeezed his way to the top of the heap with his most marketable asset: relating to his audience. Coming from a middle-class television-star life, his background is nothing like Jay-Z’s drug-slinging street years, yet Drake shares the issues of the majority. He wants to be successful (clearly he has achieved that with the millions of record sales), he works hard (Drake famously hates vacations), and he just wants to be loved (as evident by the bazillion songs about women). Parents aren’t scared off by him, heck even Ellen has had him on her show plenty of times. “Degenerates, but even Ellen loves our s***” as “Tuscan Leather” puts it. But there is a dark side to Drake, and it seems to come out in this album. 2011’s Take Care was the type of album you would party to, his debut album Thank Me Later in 2010 was a typical self-hyping introduction album, but Nothing Was the Same is something else entirely.
Drake, accompanied by the fantastic production of 40, his best friend and producer, weaves together upbeat, firy tracks with his signature sing/rap slower mood songs. The first two, “Tuscan Leather” and “Furthest Thing“, are virtually perfect, with the latter divided almost into two separate tracks and sounds. Then, after the previously-released single “Started From the Bottom“, Drake hits a mood that separates him from the hip-hop of late. What makes Drake great is not the fact that he can sing, something even crazy Kanye does from time to time, but that he makes you think. This is not music you bump in the car with your friends on the way to a party, these are tracks you absorb with your hoodie on and headphones snug. “Own It“, “From Time“, and “Connect” all fall into this category. They all just make you want to get into your car at 2 AM and just drive. The rest of the album fills out nicely, including a fun cameo by Jay-Z on Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music. But besides the 2 Chainz and Big Sean feature on the final track “All Me“, the rest of album is exactly that: All Drake.
No real hooks, few feature artists, and yet this album works. It’s not Jay-Z, it’s not Kendrick, it’s definitely not Kanye, it’s uniquely and utterly Drake. For some that may be a bad thing, but for many it will be just the album that gives a jolt to the game. I am hesitant to describe this album as perfect because it’s not. The whining is there, the self-pimping is there, all the usual crutches of a hip-hop icon. But all in all this is a fantastic piece of work, the best of Drake’s to this point. In an era where some of the icons will slowly disappear, including Jay-Z, Kanye, and Eminem, Drake could easily take the crown once it’s all said and done. Nothing Was the Same shows the evolution of a hip-hop artist just starting to hit his stride.
Recommended Tracks: “Tuscan Leather”, “Hold On, We’re Going Home”, “Started from the Bottom”