Drake’s rise has been nothing short of phenomenal. He has single-handedly changed the hip-hop landscape by creating his own sound and forcing the culture to play by his rules. When “Started From The Bottom” came out, people asked if this was the start of his demise and fall? Yet the single went from being received negatively to being one of the biggest hits of the year. Nothing Was The Same doesn’t fall short of expectations and is one of the best albums to come out in 2013 transcending the hip-hop genre and appealing to anyone with a ear for good music; what with its universal themes of failed romances, complicated relationships with family and inner conflicts and turmoils that are innate to humanity.
The soft self-introspective side of him still remains but Drake just sounds sure of himself on this album, building on and refining the themes that were prevalent on Take Care. In terms of the opening tracks, “Tuscan Leather” is the embodiment of the state of mind Drake is in right now. He’s so far gone from the wimpy 23-year-old on “Fireworks” and is even more victorious-sounding than the Drake on “Over My Dead Body”. People tend to not like it when Drake displays the type of braggadocio in his music that is usually identified with the likes of Jay-Z and Kanye West but even if you don’t like Drake, at least be reasonable enough to accept that at this point in his career he deserves the right to boast.
None of the singles released such as “Started From The Bottom” and “Hold On We’re Going Home” were a good indicator of what the album would sound like as a whole; a testament to the complex multifaceted character that is Drake Aubrey Graham. He can go from almost menacing on “The Language” to a sad softie over-sharing the personal on “Too Much” and “From Time” without sounding forced or fake. He can go from an eviscerating self-reflective brooder on “Connect” who has the awareness to see that he keeps falling for this girl but never learns his lesson to a chaotic rowdy bravado-filled egoist on “Worst Behaviour”. The album is a varied project that shows the many sides of Drake, yet they all string together in a cohesive unison that feel true and distinct to who he is, which is probably why Drake and the music he makes is so successful.
Sonically, Noah 40 uses moody synths and sparse beats to create a foggy cloudy ambiance that is prevalent throughout the whole album. The transitions bleed into each other flawlessly like on the hard-edged love song “Wu-Tang Forever” into the woozy “Own It” and “The Language” into the girls-anthem “305 To My City” making it seem as if they are all one song. The beats match the self-aware, self-examining and sometimes self-deprecating Drake that we have all come to know and love. His sensitivity and likeability draw the listener to empathise with him and the universal subject matter he raps about. Yet on this album, Drake takes it a little too far with his over-sharing, using real names of the girls that he’s been with such as Courtney from Hooters on Peachtree. Drake walks a very fine line between wounded-ex-boyfriend and a mean and vindictive guy airing out his grievances to the world without respecting his exes privacy. Also, there are some cringe-worthy lines on the album like “girl don’t treat me like a stranger, girl you know I seen ya naked.” Really Drake? Urgh.
What with the debilitating tendency of artists having millions of features on their solo albums these days, Nothing Was The Same is refreshing in that it only has one guest appearance in Jay-Z and only Sampha and Jhene Aiko on the hooks. Drake has made this album all about him and he’s taken the opportunity to show off his growth lyrically and vocally. His rapping style sounds more sophisticated and it sounds like his singing lessons are finally paying off.
Drake has established his place in the pantheon of rap legends because of his consistent innovation and he knows it too. He says on “Paris Morton Music 2” – “I’m the big homie, they still be tryna lil bro me dawg/ Like I should fall in line/ Like I should alert niggas when I’m ‘bout to drop something crazy and not say I’m the greatest of my generation” highlighting his defiance at maintaining the hip-hop status quo. Drake continues to grow and improve in his craft and artistry and just like Thank Me Later and Take Care were touted as Drake’s best albums yet, so it is with Nothing Was The Same.
Written by Nomusa Mthethwa (@NomusaMT)