Drake is living that Lebron James life. No matter how many hits he has, no matter what he does, the hate is strong. His latest offering, Nothing Was The Same is a model of hard-hitting efficiency. Where Take Care was layered and nuanced, Nothing Was The Same is minimalist, with Drake flaunting the confidence of a rapper in his prime. The result is an album that says much with little and allows Drake to carry the weight, rather than lean on production.
Each song in the album bleeds into the next so smoothly that at times, as with the case of Wu-Tang Forever and Own It, you’re not sure if the latter was an extension of the former. Many songs feature stark momentum shifts mid song, keeping the music dynamic and keeping the listener off balance. Thankfully, Drake stayed true to his art and didn’t change his style up to appease detractors.
Tuscan Leather finds Drake in early millennium Jay-Z mode switching beats twice during the track, oscillating between arrogance, vulnerability and revelation a la the Dynasty intro. Furthest Thing features that aforementioned momentum shift from a slow plodding introspective tract to a College Dropout Era Kanye production rife with tasteful excess.
Song of the year, Started From The Bottom, with its infectious, repetitive hook and spare-but-potent production speaks for itself, but the next song, Wu-Tang Forever is where you begin to feel Drake’s songwriting improvement and construction separate itself from everything that’s out there. Over a somber, blue piano and a snare, Drake shouts everyone from his city on the second verse before defiantly declaring himself the first to blow up Toronto right. Switching from a melodic delivery to a broken stanza scheme, to a flat out explosion Drizzy rhymes:
I just gave the city life; it ain’t about who did it first it’s ‘bout who did it right, niggas looking like, “Preach!”
Open cases on me for a half a million each, I find peace knowing that it’s harder in the streets
I know, luckily I didn’t have to grow there, I would only go there cause there’s niggas that I know there
I don’t know what’s getting into me, I just like the rush when you see your enemy
Somewhere in the club and you realize he just not in a position to reciprocate your energy
You ain’t never worried cause he’s not who he pretend to be…
In one verse he put his own imperfections on front street while taunting his impotent haters and keeping it all the way real. A true triple-double virtuoso performance.
Worst Behavior, probably the most complex musical composition on the album, features a huskier Drake on the chorus who gets you used to leaning on his repetitive, infectious refrain and then switches direction and takes it straight to the rim for a dunk following a Ma$e interpolation that is reworked spectacularly. “Bar Mitzva money like my last name was Mordehiii fuckyoubitch, I’m more than high…my momma prolly hear that and be mortified…” In one line he switches between cultures, employs a triple homonym shrinks and expands his delivery and then opens up his familylife, then subtly returns to the original scheme. Brilliant.
Other highlights include the Jay-Z collaboration, Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2, which features a Jay-Z closer to his traditional mean but still pushed to his wit’s end by a younger, hungrier host much closer to his own prime. Big Sean and 2 Chainz featured track, All Me features stellar, balanced performances from everyone involved. The far from Hip-Hop but still funky Hold On, We’re Going Home is the kind of song that only Drake can pull off.
The album can do without the plodding Connect and the drunken haze of 305 To My City which slow the album down to a crawl. Together in the midst of an occasionally emotion heavy album can be a downer.
Drake stakes his claim as the best rapper in his generation with nothing more than multiple flows, rhyme schemes and song constructions that only he can do. There are rappers who may rebound better or play better defense, but Drake doesn’t bother. He knows that his total game is better than his contemporaries. Nothing Was The Same is his claim to 2013’s mainstream MVP. Strong production, brilliant song construction and real rhymes that avoid macho posturing but assert his superiority have put Drake in that rare air. They may not appreciate him now, but in a few years, they’ll thank him later.
Out of 5
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