Album: Nothing Was The Same
Label: Cash Money Records
Release Date: September 24, 2013
It’s lonely at the top.
“No new friends.” “Versace, Versace”. “Y.O.L.O.” Over the past six months, Drake’s music has been nonstop fuel for memes and Instagram hashtags, so it makes sense that he’d rather spend some time by himself than participate in a culture he’s largely contributed to. After all, you don’t sh*t where you eat.
The production on Drake’s third studio album, Nothing Was The Same reflects that seclusion, stripped down and simplified, with Noah “40” Shebib (OVO’s Professor Charles Xavier) contributing his dark, ethereal sound to eight of the album’s thirteen tracks. Unlike Take Care, the beats don’t smack you in the face on the first listen. Instead, Drake and 40 carefully crafted a project that is significantly deeper and more fibrous, forcing the listener to take numerous listens to properly digest.
Drake isn’t doing any more rapping on this album than we’re accustomed to, but when he does decide to rap, it’s with a purpose. No syllables are wasted and the corn cake punchlines are kept to an absolute minimum.
Confident and focused, the Toronto emcee sticks out his chest and wastes no time flexing his newfound lyrical prowess on “Tuscan Leather,” the album’s intro. There’s six minutes of Drake rapping over a Whitney Houston sample, chopped and chipmunked three different ways, with no hook.
“Prince Akeem, they throw flowers at my feet, n*gga/ I could go a hour on this beat, n*gga/ I’m just as famous as my mentor/ But that’s still the boss, don’t get sent for/ Get hype on tracks and jump in front of a bullet you wasn’t meant for/ Cause you don’t really wanna hear me vent more.”
The tearful moisture that has long-permeated Drake’s records and defined his artistry has somewhat evaporated on Nothing Was The Same, replaced by masculine sweat and warm saliva trajected at his competition. In doses at least.
“The Language” is already being interpreted by the masses as “The Kendrick Lamar Response,” even though in reality, it’s just another case of Aubrey firing off rounds of ambiguous warning shots to anyone who wants to step to him:
“I’ve got to kill off the weak sh*t that’s got all you n*ggas excited/ I can’t even listen, you wylin’, I’d much rather sit here in silence.”
“Pound Cake,” part one of the album’s closer, inspires one to do better in life so, if nothing else, at least they can stunt at their ten-year high school reunion.
Here we see Drake flipping through his yearbook and throwing shade at his ex-classmates while spitting pari passu with Jay Z. Jay sounds three times more interested in being a professional rapper on “Pound Cake” than he was on ninety-percent of Magna Carta, floating over the airy Boi-1da production with two beautifully boastful verses which, per usual, force you to question your existence and fully comprehend that your peon lifestyle sucks. He also ironically utilizes his feature on a Drake album to to take a shot at Beanie Sigel for “being in his feelings” and does this really cool and random lip-smack thing in between verses. Never change, Hov.
While most of the album seems to dabble in the dark and ornery, the standout cut on Nothing Was The Same is the one you’re most likely to hear in a pharmacy, sans treble or bass.
“Hold On We’re Going Home” is a record defined by its simplicity: synths, hard-hitting 80s drums and Drake asking for “hot love and emotion endlessly.” It’s unapologetic pop crooning with no verses, just a bridge, hook and interlude from Torontonian-duo Majid Jordan. Think a more refined, focused version of “Find Your Love.” Or a Phil Collins mixtape cut.
When all is said and done, twenty years down the road when we attempt to indoctrinate our own teenage children on the career of Drake (and that it’s okay to be an overly-emotional simp), “Hold On We’re Going Home,” will be the first track that we AirDrop to them from one room over. The three minute and fifty-second radio single has a very real chance of going down as the number one track in the Toronto emcee’s already impressive catalogue of hits. Simply put, the record is teeming with timeless sensibility.
The standard issue of Nothing Was The Same clocks in at just under one hour (59:26), the shortest of Drake’s three studio albums. It’s a relatively quick listen, but there’s never a dull moment, each of the fourteen tracks bringing its own unique character. They don’t really blend together to give the album a singular, cohesive sound, but at the same time, they do. It’s a unique paradox, best exemplified by Kanye’s Graduation LP.
“Don’t talk to me like I’m famous/ And don’t assume cause I don’t respect assumptions babe/ I’m just tryna connect with somethin’ babe,” Drake laments on the Hudson Mohawke-produced “Connect.” So is the price of fame and transcending a genre.
Who can Drake really relate to anymore? He’s an introspective cat sitting on top of the rap game, with sparse competition. Nothing Was The Same exhibits that inner power-struggle between balancing “the old Drake” and moving further away from what he knows to seize the rap game by the throat. Sonically, lyrically, and emotionally.
Favorite music from a longtime underdog.