Drake is sad yet introspective these days. This is not a wild accusation of the popular artist’s feelings, rather a remarkably accurate reflection of his latest full-length effort. His debut, Thank Me Later, found him trying to remark on his fame’s ascent while continuing to speak to his base (which is obviously women). Take Care had Drizzy try to play the role of the protector in several relationships (“Make Me Proud”, “Take Care”) as well as trying to kind of let loose on tracks like “HYFR”. Aubrey Graham finds his personal lamentations at an all-time high on Nothing Was the Same.
NWTS is debuting in quite a busy year for rap, alongside notable albums like Kanye West’s electronic music experiment Yeezus, Jay-Z’s marketing promo Magna Carta Holy Grail, and other discs like Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP 2 and J. Cole’s Born Sinner. Drake is clearly trying to align himself with the likes of Kanye and Jay-z, someone who can continue to sell no matter which direction they take their music. Three albums in, it’s clear the Canadian export has found a distinct sound.
Often sparse beats and a lack of guests find Drake talking to an intimate audience, and it all seems to follow a failed relationship. Despite the opening bravado of “Tuscan Leather”, NWTS really finds its mood on “Furthest Thing.”
Drizzy repeats that he’s “the furthest thing from perfect”, admitting his infidelities to this woman, whoever she is, hoping for some sort of an apology. He doesn’t find it here, but the track does make an abrupt change. Why? Drake still needs to boast about among other things, his work ethic: “I just chill and record”.
His relationship woes continue on the newer single “Wu-Tang Forever” and “Own It”. It’s another signature Drake this-that-you-see-here-is-all-yours anthem. I’m not as interested in the words here (though the refrain of “Own It” does get caught in my head). Graham’s longtime collaborator, Noah “40” Shebib, does a great job of seamlessly transitioning “Wu-Tang Forever” into “Own It”. By doing so, he makes an 8-minute song, which is ambitious for most rap or r&b albums.
NWTS tries to sandwich Drake’s failed relationship songs with a good dose of his brag raps. The “Wu-Tang” suite, for instance, is book-ended by first single “Started from the Bottom” and “Worst Behaviour”. It’s in “Behaviour” that Drake does his best to actually, well, rap. He paraphrases Ma$e’s verse from “Mo’ Money, Mo Problems”, says he has “Bar mitzvah money like my last name is Mordecai” and mentions his days growing up and shooting the Canadian TV series Degrassi. Drake does this all with an us-against-the world attitude, which kind of makes it more hilarious.
The second half of the album really digs into Drake’s introspective side. Not only does he go on with this unnamed relationship, he digs into his relationship with his mother and father. “From Time” finds him reflecting on the time before he got super-famous and, in one of the album’s more honest moments, how he thought a Hooters waitress (Courtney from Peach Street) was his “final piece”. It might me the moment with the most humility in his career. Drizzy doesn’t focus on this, again going upbeat, with “Hold On, We’re Going Home”.
“Hold On” reminds me a lot of “Take Care”, a song where Drake wants to act as the confidant for his partner in a relationship. He also refrains from trying to rap, and sticks to singing. It works, and is probably a good reason why it’s had some popularity on radio.
“Connect”, “The Language”, “305 to my City”, and “Too Much” make for an interesting end. “Connect” is another one of those songs where Drake just can’t figure out his problems with his relationship, dang it. It kind of drags on, though the personal details (“$20 on tank whatever, I don’t have enough to fill it”) prove that he has a knack for trying to fill in the details on a story. A song about communication is followed, by “The Language”. What’s the Language? It’s money of course.
Nothing Was the Same‘s next two tracks feel a bit more ominous. The first is “305 to My City”, which really details how much of a pain in the ass customs is, especially for a woman you found in Miami. It’s a bit too “North American International Brag Story”, in its faults. “Too Much”, the latest single, is another Aubrey Graham introspection piece. He wonders how he got this way, why did it happen, how is it affecting his family? The answer is from SBTRKT’s Sampha: Don’t think about it, too much, too much.
Drake couldn’t finish his album without one super-star appearance, could he? In steps Jay-Z, who made a really boring album made to sell Samsung phones this summer. Over a sample of Wu-Tang’s “C.R.E.A.M.”, Drake gets introspective and braggy talking about how he might go back to his high school reunion because of how his classmates treated him on “Pound Cake”. Hov comes in, and did you know he is worth a lot of money? Like he made a lot of money. A lot! He gave you a whole album of and why are you… Drake gets the final say on “Paris Morton Music 2” a small verse about him, bragging over some light piano.
Nothing Was The Same is most likely this fall’s most anticipated album. It found its way on to the Internet and was met with an abundant fervor on Twitter and the rest of the web. Fans of Drake will most likely enjoy this full-length, while perhaps being a bit disappointed with the lack of singles (“The Motion” being a Best Buy exclusive was a bad idea). On its own, NWTS is Drake trying to find some sort of light amongst the backdrop of a late night. Drizzy wants to tell you about how he made it and how he’s doing and of course that he’s sorry, but he’ll make it up to you the best he can. If you don’t fall for the words, at least the music sounds nice.