Drizzy Drake returns after the excellent Take Care with the highly anticipated Nothing Was the Same, and for fans of the former it certainly won’t disappoint. In spite of the nostalgic, emphatic artwork, this isn’t Ready to Die or Illmatic, but it is a return to the moody, emotional sound that made us fall in love with the Canadian who seems – more than ever – to be perfectly content with being, well…discontent.
Once again Noah ‘40’ Shebib returns to produce the record, with the result being a hazy, emotionally expansive soundscape and a cohesive body of work. In that vein, ‘Furthest Thing’ is an early standout, the woozy loop fusing with a driving beat to create a developed and layered sound, before it all finally breaks out into Late Registration-era braggadocio and triumphant pitch-shifted gospel vocals.
Drake’s technique has continued to improve on this release, on the latter track his flow is impeccably smooth and perfectly paced, whilst on ‘Worst Behaviour’ it’s the polar opposite yet just as comfortable, as he manages to keep his flow at a furious pace, remaining clean and on point throughout, illustrating that he can rhyme the best of them.
Lyrically, Nothing Was the Same covers familiar ground with Drake oscillating between reflecting on his flaws and insecurities, and then proclaiming his talents as emcee, businessmen and general idol-at-large. Though ambitiously declaring “I want to take it deeper than money, pussy, vacation/And influence a generation that’s lackin’ in patience”, his love for boasting about his wealth and extraordinary rise to the top remains ever-present; “bank account statements just look like I’m ready for early retirement” he declares with stereotypically casual arrogance. This is of course nothing new for hip-hop, let alone [“oh man I’m out of glasses… better use the Grammy”] Drake, but it comes off as repetitive and a tad lazy at times, especially compared to some of the more thoughtful lyrical content on the album. ‘Started from the Bottom’ for example, is unimaginative, and tarnishes what is an otherwise excellent opening to the album. The hook: “Started from the bottom now we’re here/started from the bottom now my whole team fuckin’ here” yelled with half-hearted aggression over an incessant snare snap borders on irritating, and left me shaking my head a little given his well-documented cushy upbringing.
With that being said, Drake’s ability to evoke his sullen dissatisfaction and painfully damaging insecurities is better than ever. Moreover, we see him opening up more about his family more than ever before, a welcome alternative to the typical subject matter of love interests. The excellent ‘From Time’ explores his relationship with his father as finger snaps, deep bass and a soothing, lonesome piano sets the tone. On ‘Too Much’ we’re exposed to the resentment he holds towards his mother and her debilitating mental state; “Hate the fact my mom cooped up in her apartment, telling herself/That she’s too sick to get dressed up and go do shit, like that’s true shit”. ‘Connect’ sees Drake move deeper into his prime emotional element, his effortless introspection seeing him admit that he likes the idea of chasing and getting a girl more than the reality of being with her; a conflicted state that sees him “swangin” vainly in the hope that he can connect with someone, anyone. He finishes the second verse, which is one of the best on the record, with the wish that his lover would “…learn to love people and use things/And not the other way round”, though the sense of futility about these remarks is all pervasive. Drake excels more than ever during these honest, semi-philosophical moments and it’s this standout aspect of Nothing Was the Same that will have Drizzy’s fans watering at the mouth, though such salivation mirrors Pavlov’s dogs, steadily conditioned and only fully appreciated with multiple, invested revolutions.
Nothing was the Same firmly solidifies Drake’s position as one of the most formidable and accessible hip-hop artists around. While rap purists may find themselves sneering once more at Drake’s damaged lover-boy persona, the Canadian is back on form doing what he does best, and doing it with even more honesty and audacity than before.