If you have tuned into mainstream rap over the last couple years then one name you would of heard numerous times is Drake’s and for a good reason. He has made a massive transition from awkward teen actor to renowned world superstar. Drake is one of the only mainstream rappers who still has a sense of ‘realness’ we can all relate to whether it’s through the emotional declaration of his feelings or delivering his new found confidence through braggadocio rhymes . Coming off the success of the 2010 ‘Thank Me Later’ and 2011 ‘Take Care’, Drake had some big shoes to fill which he has done seemingly with ‘Nothing Was The Same’. Drake now has the upmost confidence in himself and childhood friend/go-to producer Noah “40” Shebib who co-produced the majority of the album. They have mastered their sound together on ‘Nothing Was The Same’ as each song divulges into a story of its own about Drake’s journey as a person, who he once was and who he is becoming.
The album kicks off with the 6 minute intro song ‘Tuscan Leather’ where Drake has no problem letting listeners know his greatness right from the jump. The braggadocio lyrics are in full force as Drake raps “This is nothin’ for the radio, but they’ll still play it though. Cause it’s that new Drizzy Drake, that’s just the way it go… I reached heights that Dwight Howard couldn’t reach, nigga.
Prince Akeem, they throw flowers at my feet, nigga. I could go a hour on this beat, nigga”. On the very soulful and melodic instrumental co-produced by Jake One, in ‘Furthest Thing’ Drakes sensitive side comes out (as it does many times on the album). Drake has no shame in talking of mistakes made in the past and ruminating over break ups with ex-girlfriends. He may not be the only rapper who wields his heart on a sleeve but the style in which he does it so unique it separates him from the pack.
Drakes refreshing style of soulful storytelling comes to a halt with his first single of the album, ‘Started from the Bottom’. Drizzy brings us one of the catchier hooks and well known club bangers of the year. This song was released to please many of Drakes hardcore fans and was even able to spawn a large range of freestyles from other rappers. His story from rags to riches is one that many people mock but don’t fully appreciate. Drake raps “Say I wasn’t hungry, never struggled, yeah I doubt it nigga” which is a message to haters who think just because he didn’t grow up on the corner slanging rocks in the hood doesn’t make his story any less of a struggle. The following track ‘Wu-tang Forever’ uses a grimy sample from the legendary Wu-Tang Clans ‘Its Yourz’. The slow beat and moody hook is right up Drakes alley and more than compliments his rapping. The song is revolved around lust and jealousy while a piano tinkles softly in the background. “Paranoid, always rollin with my motherfuckin boys. But you gotta understand when it’s yours, they don’t leave your ass with a mothefuckin choice”. ‘Own It’ is the perfect companion song to trail along after ‘Wu-Tang Forever’ as the two blend together with ease.
Drakes bravado comes out again in ‘Worst Behaviour’. With a heavy bassline instrumental provided by DJ Dahl, Drakes vicious tempo in his lyrics match the intensity of the beat itself. He even borrows a few lines from Ma$es verse on ‘Mo Money, Mo Problems’. “Tell me who rock, who sell out in stores. You tell me who flop, who copped the new drop. Whose jewels got rocks, Who else making rap albums doing numbers like its pop”. On ‘From Time’ Drakes borrows the angelic voice of Jhene Aiko to sing a melodic and gentle hook as Drakes raps about past relationships that never succeeded and personal issues that need addressing. “I want to get back to when I was that kid in the basement, I want to take it deeper than money, pussy, vacation And influence a generation that’s lacking in patience. I’ve been dealing with my dad, speaking a lack of patience, Just me and my old man getting back to basics. We’ve been talking ’bout the future and time that we wasted, When he put that bottle down, girl that nigga’s amazing. Well, fuck it, we had a couple Coronas”. Jhene Aiko nearly steals the limelight in this song but Drake brings it back with his down to earth and personal rhymes.
The next track we move onto is Drakes second single ‘Hold on we’re going home’ which serves as the emotional climax on the album. There is no need for rapping on the song as Drakes miraculous singing voice carries all the emotion we need. This is some of the best singing I have personally heard from Drake and whilst watching the video to go along with it you almost feel as much a part of the action. Along with the soothing voice of Majid Jordan this RNB banger is easily one of the standout tracks on the album as we see the truly emotional side of Drake as he pours his heart out.
‘Connect’ which is the next track has a very hard act to follow and this track can almost be over looked. As Drake tries to get back into the rap mind-set we are wondering what else he has in store for us on the remainder of the album. The Boi-1da produced ‘The Language’ is a very simplistic beat but allows Drake to spit some bars and stamp his authority in the rap game. This is where the boastful side of Drake comes out that we all love to hear. He arrogantly raps “I don’t know why they been lying but yo shit is not that inspiring. Bank account statements just look like I’m ready for early retirement. Fuck any nigga that’s talkin’ that shit just to get a reaction, Fuck going platinum, I looked at my wrist and it’s already platinum. I am the kid with the motor mouth, I am the one that you should worry about”.
In the Detail featured ‘305 to My City’ , Drake raps over the slow tempo beat about a stripper on her grind. This is another one the very few missable tracks on the album. With the RNB singer Sampha singing majestically in the background Drake gets really personal on ‘Too Much’. He raps of the troubles money can cause and how it has affected his family. His mom even responded to the song saying how it had emotionally affected her. “Someone go tell Noel to get the Backwoods, Money got my whole family goin’ backwards. No dinners, no holidays, no nothin’, There’s issues at hand that we’re not discussin… Hate the fact my mom cooped up in her apartment, tellin’ herself That she’s too sick to get dressed up and go do shit, like that’s true shit”. Drake consistently shares his most personal thoughts with fans on NWTS in a way that makes us feel part of the emotion too. That is another gift Drake really has to stand out from the rest of the pack.
Drake nabs a feature from none other than Jay Z for the closing track ‘Pound Cake/ Paris Morton Music 2’. The last time these two collaborated was on Thank Me Later’s ‘Light It Up’ song. If you’re going to have only one rap feature on the whole entire album then Hov is a great choice except instead of using the great instrumental to spit some true shit he brags once again about how rich he is. Jay Z rhymes cake about 8 times in a row then proceeds to brag “I had Benzes ‘fore you had braces… I’m just gettin’ started, oh yeah we got it bitch ,I’ve done made more millionaires than the lotto did”. Drake couldn’t let Hov have the last word as he almost mirrors Hov’s cockiness by rapping “Like I didn’t study the game to the letter And understand that I’m not doin’ it the same, man, I’m doin’ it better. Like I didn’t make that clearer this year, Like I should feel, I don’t know, guilty for saying that”.
NWTS is by far one of the most stand out albums of 2013 and Drake has improved since his previous two efforts. Drakes got a gift for storytelling in the album whether it’s bragging about going from riches to rags or singing of long lost loves that he will never forget. Drake has a very unique sound and when he works with his partner in crime Noah “40” Shebib he can adapt to any beat like a chameleon. Drakes music is somewhat a public diary as most people keep their most personal thoughts bottled up, Drake however has no problem sharing them with each and every person who is willing to listen. Drakes RNB/Hip Hop endeavours seem to be paying off as he is reaching larger audiences than most rappers could ever dream of and as they continue to pay off expect to hear a lot more of the braggadocious yet highly sensitive artist in the future.
REVIEWED BY JACK WHELAN