Hip-Hop megastar Drake has unveiled his highly-anticipated junior album, Nothing Was the Same.
The follow-up to 2011's double platinum-certified Take Care, the project features 13 original records from the Toronto representative, plus two bonus tracks. Included are Booth-approved singles "Started From the Bottom," "All Me" and "Hold on We're Going Home." Throughout the set, Drake is joined by a wide variety of noteworthy collaborators, among them 2 Chainz, Big Sean, Detail, Jay Z, Jhené Aiko and Majid Jordan. Beats come courtesy of Detail, Key Wane, Mike Zombie, Nineteen85 and Noah "40" Shebib.
Nothing Was the Same Album Review
But Drake? Drake’s more like a cheeseburger. The only reason people don’t like cheeseburgers is because of principle. Offer anyone else melted cheese on a beef patty between two buns and sure, yeah, why not, I’ll take one. Fast food burgers so greasy they melt through the bag, burgers with chili aoli sauce and blue cheese from upscale pubs, birthday barbecue burgers cooked by your uncle, we’ve all had so many burgers in our lifetimes you’d think we’d be sick of them…but…we’re just not. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why. Cheeseburgers are just delicious because, well, they just are. It’s no one thing. They’re not the sweetest food, or the most savory, or the most luxurious, or the cheapest. They’re just…the right amount of each.
Drake’s not the most lyrical rapper alive, although he’s got better bars than some give him credit for. He’s not the greatest singer, although I’m sure his slow jams have made a few babies. He’s rich but not the richest, charismatic but not the most charismatic, dope but not the dopest. He delivers songs for the ladies so sweet they practically melt into your ears, but raps well enough that even hip-hop heads are forced to reckon with them. It’s no one thing that’s made him a superstar, he’s just got more of everything than anyone else. And with his new album Nothing Was The Same, he once again proves he’s hip-hop’s most well rounded rapper.
At this point in his career there are really three, and only three, types of Drake songs, and Nothing Was the Same doesn’t really offer any exceptions. Good thing too, because it makes this review particularly easy to organize.
Aubrey Graham’s penchant for romantic crooning, usually of the heartbroken variety, is what makes him the target of so many jokes, but it’s also what his fans find the most relatable. They may not also be sitting on $25 million, but chances are there’s an ex they can’t stop thinking about too. The NWTS standout here is Hold On We’re Going Home, a more uptempo yet relaxed slow jam that leans heavily on a ‘90s R&B vibe, a sound and era Drizzy comes back to throughout the album, most notably on the the 2013 version of Jodeci, Come Thru. But Drake’s signature sound is still that kind of hazy, hypnotic slow jam showcased on songs like Own It and Connect, although Heartbreak Drake is really at this best paired with the stellar Jhene Aiko on the more traditional ballad From Time. These songs don’t break new ground any more than Burger King did when it threw some barbecue sauce on their Whopper and called it a Rodeo Burger, but it’s also hard to complain about barbecue sauce. And then, of course, there’s Wu-Tang Forever, the slow jam with hints of Wu aggression that leads perfectly to…
All that tearful crooning leads some to call Drake, for example, say, The Kitten Whisperer, so he’s always careful to flex some lyrical muscle on his albums. It’s no coincidence that he chose to kick off the album with Tuscan Leather, a six minute opportunity to fire back at the critics, apparently via an Ellen Degeneres pun. And if he starts off the album just rapping, he’s going to close off the album just rapping on Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music, and he’s going to bring on Jay Z for good measure, although neither emcee is really at their best here. Once an album Drake likes to serve up a true banger, a track designed to be played at 11. On Take Care it was Lord Knows and on Nothing Was the Same it’s Worst Behavior, a cut with a hypnotic beat but vocally doesn't amount to much more than Drake quoting Mase and saying “mother**ker” as many times as possible; swearing seems to be the extent of his bad behavior. I get why Drizzy makes tracks like this, he clearly cares enough about his reputation as an emcee to defend it, but it’s also when he’s at his least convincing. He just doesn't have intimidation raps, he’s much better served doing…
He’s going to murder you, but he’s going to do it while singing. Halfway between singing and rapping, outright boasting and personal vulnerabilities, rap and R&B, sits songs like Started From the Bottom. Easily the most cheeseburger-y cut on the album, you've got to actively try to not enjoy Started From the Bottom; it’s got just enough quotables, hits just hard enough, has a catchy enough melody, it’s no wonder it really became the song of the summer. I’d also throw The Language and 305 To My City into this group; they just put you in that Drake zone, and of course the excellent Too Much. (You could also include Wu-Tang Forever here, depending on your mood.) These are the songs that don’t initially blow you away, but you find yourself coming back to months later. Drake might just be hip-hop’s greatest mood music rapper of all-time. (Side note, Drake's constant production partner Noah "40" Shebib is the bun in the Drake cheeseburger. Constantly overlooked, but an essential ingredient.)
I realize that this review will disappoint a lot of people, in particular the hardcore fan who began calling Nothing Was the Same a classic the second Started From the Bottom dropped, and the just plain hardcore rap head who believes Drake is the rap end of times. But the truth is that Drake is successful precisely because he continues to make very good albums that take just enough chances to be earn respect, but not so many chances there’s any true innovation (cut to Kanye nodding). Drake’s been feeding us audio cheeseburgers for about four years now, and I’ll be damned if I don’t end up eating them every time.
DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins