Exclaim!'s Best of 2013: Top 10 Hip-Hop Albums



3. Drake
Nothing Was the Same
(Universal)

If there's one benefit to being one of the biggest selling acts in rap music — beyond the obvious millions of dollars — it's that you earn the right to experiment. You can make as weird an album as you want, and no one at the label gets to say anything. Kanye made 808s and Heartbreak, Lil Wayne made that atrocious rock album, and Drake made Nothing Was the Same, the most interesting album of his career.

It's 73 minutes long and has no obvious singles save for "Hold On, We're Going Home," a song that sounds like it could have come out on Motown in the mid-1980s; first song "Tuscan Leather" is six minutes long and has no chorus; "Started from the Bottom" and the beautiful, chilling "From Time" are experiments in musical minimalism. The whole thing is injected with a level of emotional honesty that, even in an age where we're used to hearing rappers talk about feelings, is a little overwhelming.

This album shouldn't work, but it does. It's so wonderfully strange that you can't help wondering where it's going next. Drake's emotional torment is oddly relatable, not to mention clever and intricate. Even months after hearing it for the first time, you'll keep hearing new things on Nothing Was the Same. (Chris Dart)