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Drake’s third album Nothing Was The Same is a portrait of the musician at the top of his game: an artist who, along with the help of his longtime producer Noah “40” Shebib, created a style defined by a seamless blend of rap, R&B and pop.
As evident in the hook filled, catchy single “Started From the Bottom,” Drake had his own struggles and personal journey, even if he lived in a suburb rather than the urban communities where rap was established and popularized. Like Lil’ Wayne and Kanye West, Drake cannot rap about the gang-filled streets of Hollygrove or the South Side of Chicago, but he fights back against critics who say this makes his craft illegitimate.
In the introductory six-minute track “Tuscan Leather,” Drake comes out strong in three verses without a hook. “This is nothing for the radio/ But they’ll still play it though/ Cuz it’s the new Drizzy Drake, that’s just the way it go.” Drake’s braggadocio, in contrast to the reflective melancholy of other tracks, shows that he is at an artistic level where he wants to put out music that he is passionate about rather than worrying about critical reception.
Drake acknowledges the allure of fame and how money has changed him in one of the edgier, more intense tracks, “Worst Behavior.” He directs the song to his mother, “This ain’t the son you raised who used to take the Acura/ 5 a.m. then go and shoot Degrassi up on Morningside.” Drake’s music is his personal therapy in which he talks to himself, often in circles. “From Time” is a poignant standout track featuring a simple piano melody and the ethereal voice of Jhene Aiko. Drake laments, “I want to get back to that kid I was in the basement.”
He goes on to detail his anxiety about reaching his goal of being the best rapper in the game. Then he talks about his complex relationship with his father and his mother’s plaguing unhappiness, showing that his past and family are never far from his mind. In “Too Much” Drake reveals how fame has changed his relationship with his family: “All my family from the M-Town that I’ve been ‘round, started treating me like ‘him’ now / Like we don’t know each other, we ain’t grow together, we just friends now.”
Drake’s last two albums feature several collaborations with fellow rappers, such as Lil’ Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Kendrick Lamar and Rick Ross. In addition to his collaboration with Jhene Aiko, Jay-Z is the only other artist featured on this album. Compared to “Light Up,” their collaboration on Drake’s first album Thank Me Later, “Pound Cake/ Paris Morton Music 2” pales in comparison. Jay Z’s first line is, “I had Benzes ‘fore you had braces,” and he goes on to use “cake” as a rhyme seven lines in a row. By the end of his verse, the listener will think the oft-mentioned cake has gotten stale. While the audience can relate to Drake’s songs from this album, Jay-Z separates and dates himself in his uncharacteristically lackluster feature.
Nothing Was The Same proves that Drake’s artistry and influence in rap and music as a whole continues to rise with no sign of faltering. Drake is a tortured soul who writes introspective, emotional songs about loneliness, troubled relationships and the dizzying heights and pitfalls of fame. It is an exhilarating change for the genre in that it has crossover appeal and, like some of the best music, the audience can see themselves in his songs.