On one of the first tracks on Nothing Was the Same, Drake says he’s “somewhere between psychotic and iconic.” This track is “Furthest Thing”, coming directly after the stunning six-minute opener “Tuscan Leather”. This one line describes what you’re in for with the hip-hop legend’s newest album. It’s probably Drake’s darkest work yet, and as you hear him lament his family issues and the newfound problems that come with the money and fame, you can feel his sense of loneliness. While many probably think of Drake as a radio-friendly rapper that can make some of the catchiest songs you may ever hear (look to “Started from the Bottom” if you don’t believe me), but what most don’t know is that the Canadian rapper actually has a lot to say. And man does he say a lot on Nothing Was the Same.
So let’s get the stuff that everybody knows about out of the way. Yeah, Drake is probably one of the most prevalent forces in hip-hop on the radio, and there will of course be glimmers of that person on his albums. This time around these tracks come in the forms of “Started from the Bottom”, “All Me”, and “Hold On, We’re Going Home”. While the former two are good songs that the masses will enjoy, “Hold On, We’re Going Home” is one of the best tracks on the album, and one of the best R&B efforts the young artist has released. The Arctic Monkeys have even covered it, and it’s so good that you shouldn’t be surprised when many more artists begin to cover it.
But for those who are truly Drake fans, you want to know about the dense material on the album, the tracks that actually prove that he is more than just a cash-in for good hooks and catchy beats. Album opener “Tuscan Leather” is proof enough that Drake can rap with the best of them, a six-minute opener that shocks you before the album even begins. “Wu-Tang Forever” is another great track, showing the starts of his changed perspectives towards his new life with lines like, “Things change in that life and this life started lackin’ synergy/ And fuckin’ with me mentally, I think it’s meant to be/ Paranoid, always rollin’ with my motherfuckin’ boys.”
Nothing Was the Same is also almost completely Drake, only featuring background singers like Jhene Aiko until the latter half of the album when Jay Z, 2 Chainz and Big Sean make appearances. This allows for Drake to make this his most personal album yet, and it really comes out when he’s rapping about his family. When performing “Too Much” live on Jimmy Fallon, the rapper actually apologized to his family before performing the song. And the apology was definitely deserved after spitting, “Money got my whole family going backwards/ No dinners, no holidays, no nothing/ There’s issues at hand that we’re not discussing/ I did not sign up for this.” He goes on to call out his uncle and mother on their own issues and you can see how his family’s issues might just reflect onto his own loneliness.
The production on Nothing Was the Same is ambitious, but very Drake. A lot of Noah “40” Shebib’s production sounds like his previous collaborations with Drake, but not in a bad way. Drake doesn’t need the never-ending bass and swagger of, say Machbach’s production, but needs just enough snare and clap to own the song. 40’s muted production is perfect for him, because you want to hear the stories he has to tell, and none of the beats interfere with his verses, instead perfectly complementing them.
Nothing Was the Same is a polarizing album that reveals what’s inside Drake’s head more than anything else he’s produced. The album isn’t perfect; there are a few duds that are entirely forgettable, but Nothing Was the Same is largely a success. Longtime fans will love investing all of their time getting to know more of what’s running through the artist’s mind, and newcomers (at least to his non-radio music) will be thoroughly impressed with his skilled flow and writing talent. Drake may seem encompassed by his own loneliness, but if that’s what drives the rapper to make great music like this latest album, I have no complaints.