On his critically acclaimed sophomore album, Take Care, Drake proved his signature blend of rap and R&B as a formula for success and his work on the project resulted in numerous accolades — including a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album.
The Grammy was not only a symbol of how far Drake had come from his days a child star on the set of Degrassi, but it also showed a shift in the overall hip-hop landscape. Someone who conveyed superior rapping and singing abilities coupled with honest lyricism grounded in stories about his own life was able to break boundaries in the genre, far removed from content about the hardships of growing up in ghetto America.
It’s been nearly two years since Take Care and Drake has since become hip-hop’s brightest star, surpassing the current success of icons like Jay-Z, Kanye West and even his mentor Lil Wayne.
His latest album, Nothing Was the Same, is a view from the penthouse, an ode to having finally made it and a statement that he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Needless to say, the new album is also a musical departure from Take Care as the slick R&B flavoured samples of Jon B. and Playa are largely dropped in favour of grittier Wu-Tang Clan beats that play an important role influencing the ‘90s hip-hop sound on certain tracks.
Nothing Was the Same opens with a six-minute pseudo-intro on “Tuscan Leather” which Drake uses to update listeners on the state of his life and career since breaking out on Take Care. Spitting with complete confidence and just a hint of arrogance, he 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.”
On “Wu-Tang Forever,” Drake cleverly blends a sample from the Wu-Tang track “It’s Yourz” into a song that recalls old friends from his Degrassi days and life in Toronto before his worldwide fame. The track transitions into the next song seamlessly and “Own It” serves as the second part of “Wu-Tang Forever” with a slower and more atmospheric beat and additional vocals by Drake’s latest protégé PARTYNEXTDOOR.
“Worst Behavior” is the most out-of-character track Drake has possibly ever created, but it almost seems necessary as a form of release for the 26-year-old rapper. He takes open shots at his haters and even channels Mase’s verse on “Mo Money Mo Problems” over a heavy-hitting beat that plays like citywide alert for everyone to move out the way as Drake comes through.
Equipped with a perfectly placed feature from Jhene Aiko, “From Time” floats in on a smooth jazzy beat with sleek piano harmonies courtesy of Chilly Gonzales. The track is a pleasant return to more familiar Drake content where Aiko takes on the role of a girl from his past and reminds him “Darling you, you can give but you cannot take love.”
Producer Boi-1da returns to top form on “The Language,” another track where Drake flexes on his haters and boasts about his view from the top. The song also utilizes a slightly altered version of Drake’s rap style that first surfaced when he appeared on the remix to “Versace” by Migos earlier this year. This style also appears on the Detail-assisted track “305 to My City” that follows right after “The Language.”
“Too Much” is the standout track of the album, both lyrically and sonically. Perhaps the Nothing Was the Same version of “Look What You’ve Done” on Take Care, British singer-songwriter Sampha provides a raw, emotional hook while Drake raps about his fear of failure and family issues while being at the peak of his musical career. It’s brutally honest and exactly the kind of record Drake shines over.
Nothing Was the Same is not Take Care, and it’s not supposed to be. Conceptually, Drake is on a different level with the content on his latest outing and even though it lacks some of the deeply personal moments prevalent on his last album — Nothing Was the Same is still better than a great majority of modern hip-hop.
Get at me on Twitter @PatCwiklinski.