Originally written for Redbrick: http://www.redbrick.me/2013/10/album-review-drake-nothing-was-the-same/
‘My life’s a completed checklist’ brags Drake on ‘Tuscan Leather’, the opening track from his troubled and triumphant third album Nothing Was The Same; Drake sounds like his usual self-aggrandising/self-loathing self on this number, but with a new sense of urgency. With the album becoming a more important concept to the modern rap game (Kanye’s controversial Yeezus and Danny Brown’s recent Old stand as a testament to this), Drake has staked his claim to hang in the major leagues. Even if Drake’s subject matter and nasal flow will still prove divisive, the lush production and depth of Nothing Was The Same should ring universally.
‘Started From The Bottom’ is a case-in-point as it drapes an eerie piano figure over a simple, propulsive 808 beat and infectious hook. ‘Wear every chain even when I’m in the house’ intones Drake, chronicling his rise in the song’s hook: ‘now the whole team’s here’. Despite the triumphant refrain, paranoia still lurks as ‘fake friend’s still show up in the lyric sheet. ‘Started From The Bottom’ is indicative of Drake’s mindset as a whole: despite images of packed stadiums, Drake’s bravado is always a few steps away from breaking down into paranoia and loneliness and it’s this fine line that’s made him such a unique and divisive name on the scene. He’s fully aware of his reputation as he tells us how he’s been told to be ‘less aggressive and pessimistic’ over the album’s most buoyant rhythms on ‘Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music’, though this time around he totally owns his negativity throughout. The album is meant to flow as a whole – the whispered sample from the ‘Wu-Tang Forever’ creeps into ‘Own It’, which flows from a clicking, sparse beat into luscious r n’ b, for instance – and riches will be found for those willing to stick around.
Drake’s ego may be huge but he’s exploring all parts of it. ‘Lobster and shrimp’ and wealth show Drake’s wallet as fulfilled, but as ex-girlfriends – ‘Courtney from Hooters’ is directly named on the slow-burning ‘From Time’-, Father issues, and funerals fill the lyrical concerns, Drake’s still having a hard time figuring out who best to share his success with. Mortality also rears its sobering head on the sombre, beautiful ‘Too Much’ as Drake’s mother is ‘too sick to get dressed up’ and his friend considers giving up on his bucket list over a wonderful vocal contribution from Sampa. These concerns make Nothing Was The Same a deep, sprawling and rewarding listen and is sure to win over some of the nay-Sayers who still haven’t forgiven Drizzy for birthing ‘YOLO’.