#2 Album Of The Year: Drake- Nothing Was The Same

Posted: January 2, 2014 by ericbernsen in Album Reviews, Music
Tags: , , ,

Not too long ago, Aubrey Graham was an artist who had one critically acclaimed mixtape to his name, (“So Far So Gone”), but a massive potential to accomplish more due to his rap/R$B/pop crossover appeal. Here we are four years later and now Drake is a Grammy award-winning artist with a top spot among rap’s elite. At least in my eyes, Take Care was a classic album that perfected the combination of Drake’s rapping and singing skillset, with his producer 40 providing the appropriate canvas for one emotionally charged track after the other. Here we have Drake moving on from the Take Care era to his third studio album aptly titled Nothing Was The Same. As Drake’s position in hip-hop is now solidified, it seems like his confidence has been boosted, and Nothing Was The Same is what we receive from a man who is constantly trying to improve upon himself as an artist.

Right from the get go we hear Drake triumphantly rap over a 6 minute intro track “Tuscan Leather”, with 40 flipping the same Whitney Houston sample three times throughout the epic opener. The braggadocio and strong lyrical boasts to kick things off make it clear that Drake is a skilled rapper, and those who still chastise his past as an actor on Degrassi are just living in the past. And while many question Drake’s middle-class background, “Started From The Bottom” was no question the rap anthem of the year and showcase Drake on his self-created pedestal. Drake’s ascent to stardom is highlighted by these tracks and he seems comfortable as ever on “Worst Behavior”, a song filled with synths and percussion that have the Toronto emcee paying homage to his second home Memphis as he continuously proclaims “Muhfuckas never loved us”. At the end of the track Drake does his best Ma$e “Mo Money Mo Problems” impression and with his infectious flow it is executed naturally. Truth and honesty have always been an essential aspect of Drake’s lyrics, but this time around a well-deserved level of arrogance is present. Over a thumping beat provided by Boi-1da, “The Language” has Drake spitting with a sharp delivery (and a flow borrowed from Migos that he implements better than them) and rhymes that are straight to the point…he thinks he is the best out and you should to.

While the atmospheric ballads of Take Care are mostly gone, don’t think the introspective side of Drake has disappeared. He places these tracks strategically throughout the project and sonically they manage to fit in with the harder hitting anthems quite well. “Furthest Thing” has Drake back to reflecting on past relationships with women in his life and the song joyfully ends with a soul-sampled beat provided by Jake One. A personal favorite of mine that lyrically falls along the same lines is “Connect”, but the two most powerful personal records on the album would have to be “From Time” and “Too Much”. The former has Drake questioning his past with his once estranged father over a simply beautiful piano beat played by Chilly Gonzales. Instead of falling victim to prior events, Drake is now learning to move on from regrettable actions and things out of his control, which is making his songwriting even stronger as the angelic Jhene Aiko sings on the song’s hook. “Too Much” may be one of the most personal and powerful songs Drake has ever recorded. The track features Drake detailing with his inability to stay in touch with his closest family members and the slight Southern accent in some of his rhymes represents his dad’s Memphis connection. Sampha offers his outstanding vocals throughout and it is a special record that many people who don’t have Drake’s social status can relate to…which is one of his greatest strengths as an artist.

The fact that I can go this long in the review without mentioning radio smash “Hold On We’re Going Home” is just another testament to the depth of Nothing Was The Same. Throughout the whole project, Drake is able to get insert meaningful messages with few words. The song has R&B and slow motion house influences and features perhaps Drake’s best singing performance of his career. And per usual, Drake enlists fellow Toronto artists Majid Jordan to help with the bridge and production of the hit record.

As we approach the end of the project, we are treated with the most high profile feature as Drake and Jay Z trade wealth-filled bars on the first half of “Pound Cake/Paris Morton 2”. The eerie production on “Pound Cake” is carried by a smartly placed Ellie Goulding vocal sample and also enlists Timbaland to interpolate Wu Tang’s famous “C.R.E.A.M” on the scratched hook. The unexpected Wu Tang influence extends beyond this song on Nothing Was The Same as “Wu Tang Forever” and “Own It” both use the RZA’s “It’s Yourz” as a metaphor for Drake’s stronghold on women and the rap game (nowadays the two can be synonymous).

By the end of the album it is clear Drake is a new legend in hip-hop if we didn’t come to the realization previously. While Drake mostly sticks to a repetitive subject matter, rapping about his imperfections with girls, money, and fame has always been his forte. Nevertheless, on Nothing Was the Same Drake has become more comfortable with the aspects of his music that are responsible for his success. His improved rhyming skillset reflects a newly found cockiness and when he is making millions off his album singles and highly sought after guest verses, it only makes sense. Drake and 40 have become the modern day John Stockton and Karl Malone of the rap game as 40 knows the sonic realms and sounds that best fit Drake, which makes sure every project involving the two meets and even exceeds its potential.

After winning a Grammy for Take Care, Drake set the bar high for himself. But in a year in which some of the most popular rappers in hip-hop released albums, the kid from Toronto created a focused body of work that is once again relatable and arguably the best project from arguably the best hip-hop artist out there. With that in mind, Nothing Was The Same is definitely worthy of the silver medal for 2013 album of the year.

Listen to Nothing Was The Same below and let us know what you think of the review/rating!

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