Drake — Nothing Was The Same Album Review by Jay Fingers

Drake — Nothing Was The Same Album Review by Jay FingersTitle: Nothing Was The Same
Artist: Drake
Label: OVO Sound, Young Money, Cash Money, Republic
Genre(s): Hip Hop, Pop, R&B
Released: September 17, 2013
Social:  Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

All year, we’ve been making fun of Drake.

And it must be acknowledged: the jokes were funny (“Drake’s the type of dude to change his relationship status to ‘single’ when his girl goes to the bathroom”) and the memes hilarious (just peep any one of innumerable Photoshop masterpieces featuring the now famous image of Drake dancing while wearing an old-school Dada outfit).

Despite all that, however, Drake’s third LP, Nothing Was The Same, was the year’s most anticipated album. After the success of Thank Me Later and the stellar Take Care, many wondered if the man born Aubrey Graham could pull off a hat track and follow up with an album on equal footing as his earlier efforts. Well, wonder no more. Nothing Was The Same is a spectacular piece of work, one that again balances hip-hop and R&B with touches of ambient, dubstep, EDM, and pop influences.


Album opener “Tuscan Leather” (which is named for designer Tom Ford’s signature men’s cologne) features a chipmunk soul sample of Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing,” and affords Drizzy a platform to talk cash shit for six minutes. It’s an intro that Drake clearly spent quite a bit of time on, and is reminiscent of his notable freestyles “5am in Toronto” and “9am in Dallas.”

The bizarrely titled “Wu-Tang Forever” is not a tribute to the Shoalin rap crew, but rather a nostalgic recounting of romance from Drake’s past. It makes good use of samples from the Clan’s ’97 classic “It’s Yourz,” and the production has a vaguely RZA-esque quality to it. At one point, Drake employs a flow borrowed from Raekwon and Ghostface’s coke-fueled Cuban Linx days. It’s immediately followed by a sequel-of-sorts, “Own It,” which is not as dreamy as it’s predecessor. “Own It” is straightforward in its message: “Next time we fuck, I don’t wanna fuck/I wanna make love.” On the song’s latter half, he lambastes the chick who was supposed to be down but ended up proving disloyal.

Of course, we have the groovy smash “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” a late-summer slice of breezy pop R&B that would have been an MTV darling had it been released in the Eighties. And let’s not deny this: “Started From the Bottom” is still the hip-hop SOTY, with its inescapable hook, ominous piano loop, rich bassline, and drums that carry the impact of a Mike Tyson punch. It’s at once different and familiar, and finds Drake boasting about his rise from, well, the bottom to the highest heights of stardom.

And that’s what’s refreshing about Nothing Was The Same. No longer is Drake solely wallowing in self-pity, doubt, and uncertainty about his fame. He’s now comfortable with being the leader of hip-hop’s current generation, and he has no qualms about letting us know how he feels. Sure, he’s still emo, but he’s also more confrontational. He’s feeling himself in a way we hadn’t seen before. Call it “brolic sensitivity.”

There are very few guest appearances on Nothing Was The Same. Homies 2 Chainz and Big Sean show up on the bonus track “All Me.” Chainz almost—almost—steals the song before Drake comes in and snatches it back. Big Sean, however, disappoints as expected, with a rambling verse that thankfully comes at the songs end, making it easy to avoid altogether with the press of the “next” button.

Producer, keyboardist, and vocalist Sampha appears on the affecting, heartfelt “Too Much.” The lovely Jhené Aiko makes a welcome return on the sweet confessional “From Time.” And elder statesman Jay Z continues to make the rest of us feel poor with his boasts about wealth (and references his Roc Nation princess Rihanna) on the Ellie Goulding-sampling swag “Pound Cake / Paris Morton Music 2.”

Production was handled mostly by longtime collaborator Noah “40” Shebib, with assists from Mike Zombie, Boi-1da, Jake One, Detail, Chilly Gonzales, Nineteen85, Majid Jordan, and Hudson Mohawke. Drake still traffics in ethereal synths, innovative samples, and muted drums—it’s a moody minimalism that perfectly compliments his misty tales of ill-fated love affairs.

We all laughed at Drake, poking fun at his perceived lack of masculinity, at how he flouts the norms of hip-hop, and at the ridiculousness of that damned Dada outfit (which, to be fair, he wore for a music video). But with Nothing Was The Same, he’s given us a great album, one that establishes Drake as an intriguing and unstoppable force.

Yeah, we all laughed. But it looks like the joke is on us.

Grade: A-

Best Tracks:

“Started From The Bottom”

“Hold On, We’re Going Home” (featuring Majid Jordan)

“Wu-Tang Forever”

“From Time” (featuring Jhené Aiko)

Get Nothing Was The Same Bonus Edition

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