Nothing Was the Same

BY Aaron MatthewsPublished Sep 20, 2013

The title of Nothing Was The Same, Drake's third album, is a touch misleading. Fans of the Toronto, ON rap golden boy will find the content familiar: solipsism and chest-thumping, as well as laments of the romantic- and fame-related variety, delivered over lush, immersive beats. Compared to Take Care, Drake has turned his focus outwards to celebrate success, reconcile with Pops and dramatically step up his rapping: intro "Tuscan Leather" is six minutes of braggadocio over elegantly warped Whitney Houston loops. Nothing Was The Same finds Drake digging deeper into his influences ('90s R&B, Houston screw, Cash Money Records) to refine his sound. Led by Noah "40" Shebib, his production team channel trap-rap's frantic snares and James Blake and SBTRKT's bass music to tweak Drake's signature moody sound. Against these backdrops, Drake's monotone flow and thin singing have never sounded better; he handily outshines turns from 2 Chainz, Big Sean, Birdman and a geriatric Jay-Z, while "Hold On, We're Going Home" is radiant new-wave R&B. From the Ready To Die-recalling cover to the Ma$e and Mobb Deep quotes, Nothing Was The Same aligns itself with rap's rich history of mythmaking. Drake folds Staten Isle box-cutter music into a slow jam ("Wu-Tang Forever"), pens a Cliff Notes autobiography ("Started From The Bottom") and channels Waka Flocka Flame on the angry, triumphant "Worst Behaviour." "From Time" boasts the strongest writing; playing a former flame on the hook, Jhene Aiko deflates Drake's ego while he meditates on selfishness, immaturity and arrogance in past relationships over sumptuous keys. Regardless of one's opinion of Drake, he's brought the goods. Nothing Was The Same is a challenging, uncompromised major label rap album with a handful of impeccable songs, weighed down slightly by the rapper's increasingly solipsistic viewpoint.
(Universal Republic)

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