Nothing Was The Same
OVO Sound/Young Money Entertainment/Cash Money Records
Released Sept. 24, 2013
“Comin’ off the last record, I’m gettin’ 20 million off the record.”
This is how Drake chose to begin his third album Nothing Was The Same, a marked difference from his first words on Take Care, “I think I killed everybody in the game last year.” The comparison captures the relative insecurity present in the earlier album. Take Care was a story of transition, and while it certainly had its high points, the overall feeling was somewhat melancholic.
However, on Nothing Was The Same, Drake sounds a lot more self-confident and much more comfortable in his position as not only a major figure in hip-hop, but also as a player in the music industry as a whole. The album was meant to be a sort of victory lap for him, and it is just that. While it may not do much to broaden his appeal, if you like Drake, meet the album that will be in constant rotation for the foreseeable future.
Drake returns to his tried and true formula of the half-singing, half-rapping song structure, allowing him to produce tracks that feel like a continuous conversation with his two sides. While he may not have advanced much lyrically, he has perfected his art of bouncing from ignorant topics to introspective analysis, almost as if Drake the rapper and Aubrey Drake Graham, the person, were trading bars. His versatility is what makes his party songs popular and his ballads relatable. “Who else makin’ rap albums doing numbers like it’s pop?” Drake asks on “Worst Behavior,” a question to which nobody really has an answer.
Album themes include money, girls, and family, which happen to also describe Take Care perfectly. However, where before Drake’s approach seemed somewhat hesitant, as if he were almost embarrassed to be such a personal rapper, he now comes across in a substantially different way. This time around he’s here, he knows it, he knows exactly what works, and he’ll let you know all of the above. “These are usually just some thoughts that I would share with myself / But I thought ‘F**k it / It’s worth it to share ‘em with someone else’…” he reveals on the album’s closing track, “Pound Cake / Paris Morton Music 2,” which surprisingly has an inspired Jay-Z feature. But it’s true — he routinely addresses personal family problems only previously alluded to in previous albums. “I’ve been dealing with my dad, speakin’ of lack of patience / Just me and my old man gettin’ back to basics / We’ve been talkin’ ‘bout the future and time that we wasted / When he put the bottle down, girl that n***a’s amazing” he discloses on “From Time,” an album standout. The general subject matter is far from groundbreaking, but he goes further this time around. He breaks down the barriers between his famous life and his previous life, not afraid to address anything and everything in between with complete honesty.
Sonically, Drake makes some interesting choices. Dark synths reign supreme, carefully chosen to accompany his bounce of a flow. The beats are a noticeable departure from those of the radio-friendly Thank Me Later, or the contemplative Take Care, but help create an almost ghostly vibe. It works well, but the album really shines when it tries something different — the entire intro “Tuscan Leather,” the soul outro in “Furthest Thing” and the retro “Hold On We’re Going Home.” These parts are attention-catching because they sound so different, and Drake makes sure to deliver lyrically when he knows he has your attention. It’s clear not only that he knows what he’s doing, but that he knows that he knows what he’s doing.
Drake may not have expanded, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t advanced. His confidence allows him to take risks, and while the title of Nothing Was The Same is clearly an exaggeration, a fair amount is different. Drake confided in us way back on “Crew Love” on Take Care, “I think I like who I’m becoming,” but updates us with “I guess that’s just who I became dog / Nothing was the same dog” on “Pound Cake / Paris Morton Music 2.” Drake is no longer hesitant, and it shows. Although “started from the bottom now we here” isn’t entirely true given his Degrassi roots, it’s hard to argue he isn’t at the top right now — and he knows it.