Album Review: "Nothing Was the Same"
Released: September 24th, 2013
Producer(s): Noah “40” Shebib, Jake One, Mike Zombie, Detail, DJ Dahi, Chilly Gonzales, Nineteen85, Majid Jordan, Hudson Mohawke, Allen Ritter, Boi-1da, Vinylz, Sampha, Jordan Evans, Key Wane
Features: Jhené Aiko, Majid Jordan, Detail, JAY Z, 2 Chainz, Big Sean
After spawning multiple hits on 2011’s Take Care, Toronto’s (and October’s) very own [lame OVO pun], Drake, established himself as a hip-hop juggernaut and pop culture force. On September 24th, 2013, Drake released his third commercial album, Nothing Was The Same. Unlike his previous effort, NWTS was light on singles. However, the singles that he did drop, Started from the Bottom and Hold On, We’re Going Home were smash hits. Expectations were high leading into NWTS, and Aubrey came out swinging.
The album continues with his usual themes of relationships and fame, but with a change in his sound. The album, much like Take Care, features the atmospheric, nocturnal sound that we’re used to from Drake, but is much more spacey and ethereal.
The bulk of production is once again handled by Drake’s longtime producer and musical companion, Noah “40” Shebib, along with some of OVO’s other affiliate producers and several guests. With Drake’s team backing him, he goes in to paint a picture of his life with a beautiful backdrop.
The album starts off strong. The 40-produced track Tuscan Leather is not only a sample of Drake’s sharpened lyricism, but also a display of 40’s production skills. Drake flows over three different beats based around pitched up, Kanye West-style Whitney Houston samples. Each section of the instrumental carries its own vibe, the third of which is very reminiscent of Kanye’s Graduation album. Drake covers many topics, and the song is a flat out rap-off. To sum it all up, this is a song that “isn’t for the radio, but they’ll still play it though.”
NWTS slows down for the next track, Furthest Thing. The instrumental is the first truly “40” type beat of the album, featuring cold, beautiful keys and high, swelling tones. Drake puts his singing voice on display for the first time, which has improved greatly since Take Care. On this track, he talks about how things have changed, but how he is mostly still the same. The song sounds somewhat like a statement to a past girlfriend. Toward the track’s end, the beat changes to another pitched sample beat, which reminds me more of J. Cole than Kanye, where Drake raps more about his success.
The album then goes on to a string of pretty middle of the road to boring songs. Started from the Bottom is catchy, but lyrically lacking, though I love the instrumental. Wu-Tang Forever and Own It slow the album to a crawl. Their instrumentals are of high quality, but they are slow and uninteresting, especially to go with each track, which both seem to follow the same sentiment of devotion to a lover. Worst Behavior then follows. The hook and premise is hashtag-worthy but the song is too long for its own good and way too repetitive.
Everything returns to form for From Time, featuring the beautiful Jhené Aiko. The track starts off solely piano based with Jhené crooning, presumably from the point of view of Drake’s girlfriend. She asks him what he’s “so afraid of,” and Drake then responds with two lengthy verses about past relationships and family issues. The beat is stylistically similar to Furthest Thing and the song goes over very nicely. Jhené and Drake have strong chemistry.
After From Time, we’re met by the earworm Hold On, We’re Going Home with Majid Jordan. This is followed by the slower Connect, which I give props to for its vivid imagery in the third verse. However, this is another song, and premise, that is a little too long for its own good, but unlike Worst Behavior, is not a fun listen.
The Language picks up the slack with its braggadocios rhymes over a trappy beat that complements Drake’s singsong flow. Birdman delivers another one of his redundant blurbs at the end, but other than that, it’s a fun listen with a catchy hook.
305 to My City featuring The Detail follows. It’s another ode to a woman Drake admires with an atmospheric instrumental. There’s nothing too notable here.
The album once again picks up the slack with Too Much, an introspective track with Drake rapping a couple of technically proficient verses about fame, family and you guessed it, relationships. Sampha delivers a pleasant, impassioned hook with his very distinguished voice. The track is a pleasant listen.
Finally we reach Pound Cake / Paris Morton 2 featuring JAY Z . This track is the last on the standard edition. The beat is atmospheric and smooth, featuring subtle keys and a pitched up soul sample. It creates the murky, nocturnal atmosphere that is reflected by the opening lines of Drake’s verse.
A sample-like rendition of the chorus from Wu-Tang’s C.R.E.A.M. (recurring Wu-Tang references?) performed by Timbaland serves as the hook before Drake dives into the aforementioned verse, featuring mostly themes around success again. This one stands out to me as he drops some gems about a high school reunion and other game-themed (sports, card games, etc.) wordplay. JAY Z comes in next with a pretty forgettable couple of brag rap verses where he says the word cake a lot. Drake and the producers really make this song. The second part, Paris Morton Music 2 is more of the same, about Drake’s come up over a classy, keys driven instrumental.
The standard edition comes through next with a couple of decent tracks in the catchy Come Through, which is more upbeat than most of NWTS. Next, All Me, featuring 2 Chainz and Big Sean finished off the bonus tracks. Its beat is hard and matches the styles of all three MCs well. Drake has the best verse in my opinion. Both songs are enjoyable, worthy bonus tracks.
My final verdict of Nothing Was the Same is that Drake put together and executed his third commercial full length effort well. Although there were some bumps in the road, Drake’s introspective bars accompanied by improved singing come together with the beautiful production to create a well-rounded project. NWTS contains lyricism, slow jams, personal songs, poppy choruses and bangers, so what more could you ask for? All in all, Drake gets the thumbs up.
Favourite Songs (In order of appearance): Tuscan Leather, Furthest Thing, From Time (feat. Jhené Aiko), Pound Cake / Paris Morton Music 2 (feat. JAY Z)
Least Favourite Song: Connect