Drake - Nothing Was The Same

Drake changed rap. He reshaped the landscape and forever altered the things that we expect from big rap stars. Before Drake, sensitive souls like Andre 3000 and Kanye West made a point of showing what rap stardom could look like if you dropped all the tough-guy stuff, but none of them came across quite so ferociously, defiantly wimpy as Drake. A suburban Canadian half-Jewish child star who simply cannot stop rapping about his feelings, Drake seems like exactly the sort of guy who, say, N.W.A would’ve happily robbed once upon a time. But through craft and charisma and canny decision-making, he’s pushed himself into a position as one of rap’s dominant figures and prime influencers. On a song like A$AP Rocky’s “Fuckin’ Problems,” Rocky and Kendrick Lamar sound like really good rappers, but Drake sounds like a star — a star whose top-dog status has helped create a climate where former Drake opening acts like fashionista Rocky and twitchy Kendrick can come close to stardom themselves. At this point, he’s redrawn the battle lines enough that you have to take him seriously, even if you don’t want to. And now, with Nothing Was The Same, Drake has made an album of defiantly simpy sad-bastard new-wave R&B, and it’s one of the most anticipated and satisfying rap albums of the year.

Nothing Was The Same isn’t Take Care, and it only gets to exist because Take Care came first. On Thank Me Later, Drake’s first official album, he was still struggling to get over on traditional rap-star terms, and he succeeded only because of his hooks and his beats and his guest appearances. His persona was rancid — complaining about fame on his first album — and his rapping was clumsy as fuck, but he had a team around him that wasn’t going to let him fuck up his momentum. It reminded me of the Game’s The Documentary — a great album from a mediocre rapper who was only allowed to taste greatness because everyone around him was doing incredible work. On Take Care, Drake threw out the blueprint, going for a sad soul-music style that fit his chiffon grunt beautifully, getting Jamie xx to make clouded-up club music for him and Rihanna and introducing the Weeknd to the VIP room behind the other VIP room. It was a bold, stark, expressive album — one that’s really only improved in the two years since Drake released it, in part because its influence has trickled out to completely suffuse whatever’s left of rap’s mainstream. Nothing Was The Same doesn’t really push musically beyond that; it’s the first Drake album to luxuriate in the sonic environment that Drake’s already created for itself. But what an environment!

Much of the credit for Nothing Was The Same will probably go to Noah “40″ Shebib, Drake’s producer, and lord knows he deserves all of it. The actual music on Nothing Was The Same is an architectural marvel, a work of idiosyncratic widescreen pop-music largesse that plays like an interior monologue. The six-minute intro track “Tuscan Leather” doesn’t need a chorus because it has 40 flipping the same Whitney Houston sample a bunch of different ways, Drake breaking from the big talk long enough to muse that “40 is on Martin Scorsese” — not a bad comparison, in terms of vivid and detailed and mythic world-building. Ghosts of Houston rap dance through “Connect,” a faraway flicker of a Trae sample coexisting with Hudson Mohawke’s smeared dabs of expensive synths and a Phil Collins-esque heartbeat-kickdrum that doesn’t kick in until the song is half-over. “The Language” is a mocking echo of a DJ Khaled banger, always holding the cathartic anthemic boom just out of reach. A horror-movie music box chimes underneath all of the bonus posse-cut “All Me,” lending some uncanny dread to its great 2 Chainz verse. And musically, the single “Hold On, We’re Going Home” is prime nu-new wave; it could practically be a Chairlift instrumental.

Over tracks like this, Drake doesn’t really need to rap, and so he doesn’t, not really. More often, he sings in that plainspoken tenor coo, sounding like he’s confessing even when he’s bragging. The only song where he really gets that stadium sneer revved up is “Started From The Bottom,” a song that’s built on an obvious and transparent lie — Drake absolutely did not start from the bottom — and one that feels like a years-old nugget from a past life at this point. “The Language” is pure bravado, lyrically, but he sings it all softly. And on “Worst Behavior,” his simplistic emotive yelling almost sounds like a parody of the Chief Keef grunt-style. He steals one Mase verse wholesale — and not an obscure one, either — and then spends the rest of the song bellowing “worst behavior!” and “motherfucker never loved us!” over and over, successfully gambling on the idea that he can get that feeling across without translating it into actual bars.

But Drake can rap, when he wants. He’s enormously improved in that respect. And yet he does it selectively, just pulling out his sharpest lines where they’ll matter the most. Consider, for example, “Pound Cake / Paris Morton Music 2.” Beyond R&B impressionists like Jhené Aiko and Sampha, there’s only one big guest on the whole album, and it’s Jay-Z on that song. And Jay sounds like trash. That part where he just says “cake” over and over? Jesus. Whoof. Now, even at this late date, a Jay-Z guest verse still means something to people. It’s a status symbol, and Drake uses it as one. But he also takes the opportunity to show how effortlessly he can outrap a rap god. On Thank Me Later, Jay showed up to offer Drake life advice in rap form. Here, he’s just the guy talking before Drake flashes back on romantic regrets and trying to get Lil Wayne to notice him. Even on Take Care, Drake enlisted a ton of famous rappers for guest verses. Here, he mostly can’t be bothered. He’s created his own context.

And that context is a funny thing. Beyond the few braggy tracks here, the lyrics on Nothing Was The Same practically belong on a ’70s singer-songwriter record. “Don’t assume cuz I don’t respect assumptions, babe / I’m just trying to connect to something, babe”: That could practically be a James Taylor line, right down to the condescending babes. There’s going to be a lot of talk about Drake’s treatment of women on Nothing Was The Same, and it will all be justified. Drake does sound like an asshole most of the time. But I also submit that he knows he sounds like he’s an asshole, that he’s putting that side of him out there on purpose. On one “From Time” verse, he drunkenly flips through a mental list of past relationships and realizes how he fucked up and lost each one. “The one that I needed was Courtney from Hooters on Peachtree / I’ve always been feeling like she was the piece to complete me / Now she engaged to be married; what’s the rush on commitment? / Know we were going through some shit; name a couple that isn’t” — can it be that Drake is here, in public, wrestling with the idea that you can blow it with someone you like, when you don’t offer that person what she needs? Is it just occurring to him as he sings it? Or is he putting his selfish shortsightedness on display because it makes him look bad? That one comes a couple of tracks after “Own It,” where he murmurs about being drawn to a toxic relationship, unable to disentangle himself from it, sounding helpless and just hoping he can figure out how to make it work. Lyrically, this is Fiona Apple territory — not rendered as eloquently, maybe, but still fucking revolutionary when it comes as part of an A-list rap album. In the middle of that song, where he erupts into tough-guy talk — “Niggas talk more than bitches these days” — it’s transparent, and it doesn’t last long.

So here we have a gorgeously wounded piece of work, intricately arranged to flow, about how the guy who made it is a hopeless and confused emotional oaf who can’t find happiness even though he knows he has everything going for him. That’s a complicated idea to get across, but Nothing Was The Same does it with slick panache. It’s a deeply pretty album about deeply ugly ideas. And even if it’s only barely a rap album, rap is more interesting with an album like this around.

Nothing Was The Same is out 9/24 on Young Money.

Comments (107)
  1. Started from the upper middle class, now he’s here.

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      • No North American could ever claim to be anywhere near the bottom? Spend some time in Compton or Detroit and then get back to me on that, you collegiate, lame-brained, overprivileged wimp. Jesus Christ, how fucking devoid of actual life experience do you have to be to say something like that, much less believe it? What an arrogant, know-nothing dweeb.

        • Calm down.

        • excuse me sir, i am from detroit. are you? probably not. just like any other city in north america, there is really great stuff happening here everyday.

        • Wow that escalated quickly. Apologies, I didn’t mean to offend, and of course there is terrible poverty in the US and Canada, I did not mean to belittle that at all. But residents of Detroit and Compton, no matter how bad off, still have comparably decent access to modern medicine, still have pretty great life expectancy/infant mortality rates, etc. My point was merely that “the bottom” is a slum in Mexico City or Rio or Mumbai or any of the truly awful areas of the world, and just because Drake wasn’t as poor as other rappers is no reason to dismiss his “started from the bottom” claim, particularly as he is referring to more than just class…

        • “wimp” “dweeb” “preppy” – relax Slater

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        • You’re right, sorry about that. I just meant to include Canada and the US together, but that was sloppy. My bad.

          • Don’t you apologize, walkstag. You just haven’t put the time into it that these two dedicated, passionate, rational, and EUTHYMIC individuals have.

            You see, David Sobalvarro and lieutenant wine split their time largely between the mean streets of Compton and Detroit. Detroit in the summers, for that Motor City breeze and that sehnsucht that is difficult to capture anywhere else (Motown, never forget). Winters? Compton, of course. When that breeze from the dirty W (WINDSOR WHAT. WINDSOR WHAT.) starts to turn a bit too chilly, it’s time to hit the bricks to Compton, CA. Where else?

            Because when you spend your time truly (OBJECTIVELY) understanding the relative bottoms from whence we (or anyone) came, and honing your geographic prowess when discussing said bottoms, you have to address the clear, and obviously extremely offensive, comments of others. It’s just the right thing to do (“First they came…” and whatnot).

            Shame on you (and everybody’s).

          • I was having a bad day it’s OK

  2. Surprised there’s no mention of how seriously awful 305 To My City is. Holy shit its bad.

  3. Where’s the Yeezus reference?

  4. I still don’t fully understand why I’m supposed to care about Drake.

  5. Hmmm. Can’t say this is in Take Care’s league in my opinion, it’s missing something that album had.
    But with that said Drake albums are good for one song that brings me to my knees. Too Much is just about as emotionally crippling as Look What You’ve Done.

  6. “Lord Knows” on Take Care is still one of the most polarizing, incredible hip hop tracks I’ve heard in years and maybe ever.

    But good lord, to this day I still can’t make it through an entire Drake album in one listen. It’s just incessant whining that I can only handle in very small doses. Incredible production and a great artist overall but man can he sound like nails on a chalkboard after awhile.

  7. Started from the Bottom is so eerie.

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  9. Jay Z, for the love of god, please retire.

  10. My god, that first one was terrible!

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  12. Nice review. I don’t like coming off as an old fart so much, but rap didn’t always have the ridiculous macho alpha dog swagger-or-don’t-succeed thing. There were plenty of “sensitive” rappers like PM Dawn, Arrested Development, and others. While Drake isn’t revolutionary, I’m glad it looks like he’s RE-introducing some vulnerability back into rap.

    • True. Why don’t people recognize the sensitivity of Ton Loc, either? Everybody know that Funky Cold Medina is a metaphor for his feelings, man.

  13. I would like more attention to be brought to the flak Drake endures for pursuing a less masculine take on rap. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an artist criticized for being soft or feminine as much as Drake has ever. Is this because singing is perceived as something feminine? Surely part of it has to do with the over-saturation of masculinity in the popular rap landscape.

    I understand he became a television star at a young age and didn’t grow up in the hood, but he’s surely not the first rapper to work his way up from the middle class. I’ve seen dozens of unaccomplished white middle-class college graduates scraping for money criticizing Drake for being soft. It’s almost as if rappers are discriminated against for being born into modest living situations – really the opposite of what the rest of the world experiences. Whatever happened to the search for inherent talent?

    I’m willing to bet that the criticism he’s receiving isn’t unrelated to the history that rap music has had with intolerance with homosexuality. Clearly he’s not gay, but the criticism he receives would surely deter any gay prospective rappers in the future. I mean, just scroll the criticizing comments on this page (or if you really feel adventurous, the youtube comments). Would any other genre with a male singer involve this level of scrutiny for “softness?”

    Will fans of the hip-hop genre always remain confined to the narrow-minded template of hypermasculinity? If you want to criticize the music for something substantial then lets have that conversation, but unfortunately it seems that some people can’t feel comfortable listening to something that’s not “hard.”

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    • Hip-hop fans can be pretty intolerant, even if unintentionally, because they set up their standards of “authenticity” on 80′s and 90′s hip-hop. They think the over masculine aspect is a foundation of the genre, not a consequence of context of the time where it became prominent. It also hurts the fact we don’t have many female MC’s right now (at least not many that can match the popularity of even underground rappers) and that “alternative” rap seems to have shied away from truly being an counterpoint to mainstream rap for the most part this past few years. It’s kinda sad how queer rap isn’t taken seriously even among indie rappers. And remember how crass (to put it mildly) a lot of that audience was about Frank Ocean’s coming out?

      Basically, I agree that the bias against Drake has its origins in hyper-masculine expectations of the genre, but I also feel that Drake, as different as he is from most rappers, isn’t really offering a counterpoint like I mentioned. Which is why he exists in this middle ground that leads to criticism from all sides. I don’t think he deserves all of it, but unfortunately is to be expected this kind of reaction. I do think the perception around not only him, but new, more emotional and/or less overtly masculine hip-hop is changing, but it’s still gonna take a while before people start respecting him more.

      Also, I just want to say how silly the talk of cred in hip-hop has become. It has reached 90′s alt-rock-talk-of-authenticity levels of annoying. I feel it actually takes the focus away on the music to discuss tangents that aren’t essential (or at least shouldn’t be).

      • Drake painted a picture each album with his experiences of his life which also resonate alike like ours. Take Care’s gold painting and Nothing Was The Same’s artwork by Kadir Nelson. He has carved a lane for himself in the game. Drake is in his own lane period. Tenor monotone flows and hooks mixed with a few lyrical gymnastics is proven to be his persona. The man has taken octave classes to try and perfect his voice. Justin Timberlake was the same as his voice wasn’t the regular voice and an octave coach made it amazing. Obviously I am a fan of the hiphop world more than the other genres. I’m only speaking in terms of the hip hop, rap, graffiti world here. Kanye West revolutionize the hip hop industry and if you have been following hip you would how complete and well thought of this album is. The arrangement of the songs and what it contains. The evolution of the 70′s 80′s 90′s and the emotions growing up. If you just listen to his previous albums its a step by step story of what we all go through. Peace.

      • Interesting points by lobster and Renaton. I always loved the masculinity in rap and I think it goes hand in hand with the genre. A lot of what rap is – creating a persona and staking out your territory – is founded in masculinity. And the whole “fuck the world/authority” attitude (which foundational bands like Public Enemy and N.W.A. used) is a masculine one. Over the top masculinity definitely IS a foundation for the genre.

        Thuggish imagery is inexorable from the “sound” of rap. You might think sucks if you’re a person of conscience, but you might be able to indulge in the sounds of unbridled ego while maintaining a bit of emotional distance. I will say, though, that living a hectic life surrounded by people who don’t give a shit will make you relate to rap lyrics. Rap is about cutting above societal bullshit and providing for yourself. It’s about creating your own moral universe when you realize the real universe is immoral.

        Hardcore/mainstream rap may have taken it a bit too far in the 90′s-00′s, with Cash Money/Ruff Riders. But the fact is, menacing beats sound best with menacing lyrical content over it. That vacuous era was responsible up with one of rap’s first perfect formulas.

        I loved that formula – catchy ass Cajun or Brassy beats, clean verse/hook structure, and tales of depravity told with precision, relish, and moral detachment. Maybe it’s because of that formula I sometimes still diss even remotely vulnerable rap. The guys carrying the mainstream, formulaic approach like Rick Ross and Waka Flocka do it so well they had me hatin on Kendrick. They’re so punishing and violent it’s hard to then listen to what a sensitive gent has to say.

        But did going in an aggro direction prevent me from getting into more self aware rappers like
        Outkast, Cannibal Ox, MF Doom, and L4if/Leif (who has some crazy queer machismo btw), and eventually listening to Kendrick’s album? No, because those rappers exist in a separate space than the mainstream stuff. They might be making music at the same time, within the same genre, as the guys rapping about strippers and guns. But that’s about where their similarities stop.

        Like man jazz, I like jazz that puts me in a mellow place. Does that mean frantic jazz sucks? No, but it does for my purposes.

        It’s sometime hard to stomach these more vanilla and introspective guys, a Comedian/Rapper, a kid who “NaaNaaNaaas” though his mixtape. But they’re still taking really creative approaches to rap, and they’re probably doing rap a service by diversifying it and amassing such wide audiences. And I will say begrudgingly that “Favorite Song” is a high quality summer banger.

        Drake would’ve been so much easier to take if he wasn’t Jimmy first, but I still gotta support what he’s doing. Mainstream rap has always been great for one reason, underground rap for an entirely different one. I welcome sensitivity to mainstream, might be nice to have some intermingling in rap’s separate worlds.

        • Interesting take and I agree, I listen to rap for the same reasons. Do you think its going to remain a boy’s only club or that female rappers will ever catch on?
          I think about it all the time, and I find that most female rappers seem to be in an awkward position with their material. Do they play into traditional models and essentially rap about being a whore and finding a guy with lots of money? Can it be cool to listen to a female rapper actually preaching feminist ideals? Clearly anything too preachy is going to be dismissed right off the bat, but is it possible for there to be some sort of respectful fem-swag?

          • Hell yeah, I think there will always be some cool chicks in the game. But rap will prob always be a boy’s club. I think it will be less and less about sexuality and more about general confidence for female rappers. But there will always be a sexual element, just like there is for most guy rappers. The dudes are just talkin about using different body parts.

            There have always been cool chick rappers, some exaggeratedly sexualized ones (Lil Kim, Foxy Brown) and some who were a little less feminine and overtly sexualized, like Eve. If you look at Nikki Banks and Azaelia Banks you see the same polarity in their images, tho Azelia still definitely sells her sex appeal.

            As far as what they rap about, I wouldn’t mind or be surprised if female rappers kept rapping about getting guys and makin other women jealous. It’s all about finding new, interesting, and fun ways to do it. Like Danny Brown, even if he didn’t have the hood wiseman side to him, he would entertain the shit outta me just by the outlandish way he talks about fucking and getting fucked up.

            And a chick rapping about feminist ideals could easily be accepted someday. If an adolescent, baby-talking rapper (Chance), a bisexual weirdo (Frank), and a morally unsure, sober rapper (Kendrick) captured a huge chunk of rap’s audience’s imagination the past couple years, who knows what’s next.

    • there’s a difference between showing emotion when appropriate and making drab navel-gazing music

    • I don’t know why people insist on calling Drake a rapper. I’m still waiting for him to rap.

      • Last time I checked, Started From the Bottom wasn’t him crooning. Weak troll attempt.

        • Does he even contribute a single verse in Started From the Bottom? It’s pretty much him half-singing the hook for four minutes. I’m sure there’s gotta be a Drake song out there you could have referenced other than that one to make me look ignorant. Drake sucks, he can’t sing, he can’t rap. The bought beats are his only saving grace.

  14. Thank Me Later = I got a girl.
    Take Care = Broke up still crying.
    Nothing Was The Same = Finally moved on.

    This is definitely Drake’s best album.
    The most complete album with a story from 1 thru 15.
    I could listen to this on repeat all day.
    This is more of a MC hiphop album than RandB but the subtle tones have improved.
    Should be nominated for Grammy!

  15. i liked him better on degrassi

  16. I really like the album, and I like that Drake allows himself to admit how self-centered and kind of an asshole he is. But I repeat what i said a few days ago: while Drake is good, the music around him is even better. He always make sure to surround himself with talented people that not only compliment his personality, but help steer it in the right direction. His album is one that achieves cohesion with collaboration, which doesn’t take the merit of personality grounding it. But is also why, just like in his past albums, I feel the strongest moments are the ones he gets someone else to highlight the sadness even further (although his has great individual moments here, like Wu-Tang Forever).

    I think Sampha’s work with Too Much is just great. His cadence and tone really fit the mood of Drake albums, and he has really shown to be a great songwriter this year with work here and his EP and someone to pay closer attention to in the future. From Time is one of Drake’s strongest lyrics, but the song becomes more emotionally potent because Jhene Aiko packs a lot in. And Hold On, We’re Going Home is of course the best thing Drake has ever done, and Majid Jordan has a lot to do with why it does so well (I also think it’s one of the best songs of the year, and I can stop listening to it ever since it came out).

    Maybe that’s why I can’t feel very excited about new stuff from Drake, even when it’s this good. But I do think he has been evolving and playing to his strengths. I don’t mind for example that this album is bordeline r&b, because if anything, it probably helped me like it more than his other two. Drake is very, very suited to r&b, especially given his sensibility is similar to the recent artists to come along in the past few years, like Frank Ocean and The Weeknd. And even though I still come out liking the rest better than him, I find him more interesting than ever now. Best album yet.

  17. Oh, also, embarrassing low for Jay Z when not only he has to resort to repeating “cake” over and over again in one of his weakest features of the past few years, but he can’t even do it better than Rihanna (who also has a song where she repeats the word CAKE, as you know). You’re Jay Z man, get it together! I love the guy, but he has never been as lazy as this year, even in his more lackluster work in the past. Hell, his verse in Monster (which I really didn’t like at all) is better than this.

  18. I’ve been thinking about the use of the n word in rap recently. Does saying nigga during the hook from started from the bottom really make it any better? Maybe that’s one that could be left off.

    • I always felt that word, along with motherfucker and other expletives, have consistently been used as a lazy way to fill out a bar.

    • I’m not a Drake fan, one of the reasons being I take issue with a guy constantly using nigga when totally raised white in Forest Hill of all places. I’m not even sure he met his dad more times you could count on a hand. It’d be nice to get some more hiphop acts that could eradicate such language.

      That being said ‘Hold On, We’re Going Home’ is very good. Love the Arctic Monkeys cover.

      • Thank you! This is exactly how I feel about drake. I always say to people, “the guy just uses the n-word way too much”-not just for a guy who has little or no street cred but even just for ANYONE. In general, I think hip hop has got to get rid of this word. This is also why I don’t buy the argument that Drake gets so much hate because he’s “soft” or “sensitive”. For me, it’s quite the opposite, I hate how he plays the tough guy (i.e. his “bitch fight” with fellow douchebag chris brown) and one of the ways he does this is by dropping the n-word too much. In terms of being soft, there are plenty of people who have done it and done it better in my opinion (i.e. kanye on 808s and frank ocean on pretty much everything).

        Here’s my whole take on drake. First of all, I find pretty much everything he talks about to come off as disingenuous (particularly his love for Toronto). Secondly, I just find him BORING. Every time he puts out an album, I get incessantly hit over the head by EVERYONE (particularly critics) that it’s genius. And every time I give it a try and I just can’t get passed how irritating he sounds when he is rapping. I do enjoy some of his stuff when he is singing (e.g. hold on, we’re coming home is a true and rare moment of brilliance). I just don’t get the critical acclaim; it always leaves me feeling like i am crazy. I feel pretty much the same way about JT who, like drake, is a such a pop culture darling that he can do no wrong (i.e. the constant praise of his acting skills-really?).

        Anyway I’ll stop here before I am told I just don’t know about hip hop music by someone who considers themselves an authority because they like chance the rapper, pusha t and kendrick lamar.

        • oh and i don’t see how drake “changed rap”. To me, this goes along with drake’s own ludicrous claim that he is the first person to really sing and rap successfully. I think the equally douchey kanye west changed rap-drake more or less just jumped on that bandwagon.

          • There’s nothing disingenuous about it. I don’t know if you live in Toronto….which I can only assume isn’t the case, but Drake is always seen around the city at different events and shows (he even showed up for a SBTRKT concert once for a guest appearance, which was surprising to some). Not to mention his OVOFest concerts every August, which have become legendary in this city, despite being around for only three years.

            One thing Drake has done consistently is show his love for Toronto, and his support of the local music scene and culture.

          • Nice try but I am from toronto. And just because he’s around and he puts on ovo doesn’t mean he loves the city. To me it’s all just show-boating. I have never once had any urge to go to OVO (alleged legendary status aside)-mainly because I dislike drake. People always talk about how he reps for the city-that’s funny cause calling out the city’s name and mentioning driving on 401 isn’t repping MY city. Sounding like a kanye/lil wayne clone isn’t repping for Toronto. Kardi repped for Toronto because he sounded like he was from Toronto-same goes for K’Naan and any number of other original artists from Toronto. 4 am in Toronto was a joke that didn’t represent anything about the city i’m from. My whole point is that his lack of Toronto-ism shines through in his music-it’s too “American”/too commercial. That’s why I say it’s disingenuous. Finally, I also always hear the argument that he is bringing up Toronto/Canadian artists-like whom? The Weeknd? Anyone else. Not so much. Who is he touring with lately? Miguel-oh yeah, he’s from Toronto? But i’m not because I am not drinking the drake flavoured kool-aid like everyone else in Toronto (because YAY, someone put us on the map and we have a reason to no longer feel inferior). Maybe next time, don’t make assumptions based on someone’s personal opinions.

          • That really makes no sense. How is Drake’s sound, which is actually pretty unique in comparison to most other rap artists evidence that his love for the city is disingenuous?

            And sorry about my assumption that you aren’t form Toronto. I just fail to understand how his showing love for the city is fake by any means.

          • I think you’re really missing the impact that Drake has had on Toronto in a pop culture and even sports level. Despite what you might believe, Drake’s music is giving Toronto a ton of exposure that it normally wouldn’t be getting.

          • Fair enough…I feel like I was pretty douchy in my response. I hate drake-call me a “hater” that’s fine-for whatever he brings this out in me. Look it’s a matter of opinion-I think the yankee swagger/excessive use of the n-word and general style/content of his music is no different from American hip hop thus my feeling that he is decidely UN-Canadian and thus UN-Torontonian. That’s my perspective and it may be wrong. In terms of my belief that he appears disingenuous, I probably mixed that up with my feeling that he is UN-Canadian (in my opinion). I guess what I really mean is that it’s like a “me thinks the lady doth protest too much” sort of thing; it feels excessive and superficial like “Look I really love my city-you can tell because I got a 416 tat etc”. Ultimately, I hate drake and because I think he is a douchebag, I don’t want Toronto associated with that. Whether I am being impartial or not may be questionable, I’ll admit. But as someone who loves this city, I really have given him a try but just don’t get-I really want to like the guy but I just don’t.

          • I’m not from Toronto, but I’ve always felt like his albums have bled with love for Toronto, he films most of his music videos around the city, and mentions it very often. As an American I feel a sense for Toronto through is music – fake or not – thats actually given me a higher appreciation for the city. I know he also still lives in Toronto, most big name artists would’ve moved to L.A., N.Y.C. or Miami by now if he didn’t actually like it.

            It seems apparent Tom that you’ve just made up your mind to just hate Drake which is fine, but don’t tell me that you willingly ignore OVO fest and are oblivious to what he’s doing internationally for Toronto, then claim he doesn’t care about it. That’s just you imposing your own opinions on what you think someones beliefs are.

  19. Outside of “Hold On, We’re Going Home” this album is total garbage. This guy cannot flow, doesn’t have an interesting persona/sound like Kanye to make up for it, doesn’t have a good voice for rap, and raps/sings over the slightest beats. Hopefully if this sells it’s a 50 Cent “Massacre” type situation where his fanbase diminishes after cuz the critical love/success he has is way out of proportion with the music he’s made

  20. Rap game Coldplay? I work in a wood shop with two other people. I will play almost anything at work, for myself and my coworkers. Outkast, Dirty Projectors, Death Grips, Otis Redding, Flockavelli, D’Angelo, Johnny Cash, etc. but the only time I will play Drake (usually Take Care) is when I find myself at work, alone for a while. I’m not a huge Coldplay or Drake fan, but I do enjoy them both. And I also feel slightly embarrassed to play either of them. Both very competent. Both very influential. Both good and sometimes very good. And there’s just something about both of them that makes admitting you like them a bit hard.
    “When my album drop, bitches’ll buy it for the picture /
    And niggas will buy it too and claim they got it for they sister”

    • The difference is Coldplay will have one really great song for every one that drags

      with Drake the ratio’s way lower

      • Considering Drake’s latest and Coldplay’s latest, I’m think the odds are starting to pend on Drake’s favor actually. I also think Drake’s peaks are slightly higher than Coldplay’s. Hold On, We’re Going Home is probably my favorite song between both acts.

        Thank you, and this was a guy comparing which is better: Drake or Coldplay.

        • I thought Mylo Xyloto was Coldplay’s most consistent tbh, their other couple albums I like it’s a 50/50 deal. realize that’s probably a minority opinion though

          I don’t need Drake’s beats to “knock” (a good amount of his music isn’t designed for that) I’d just prefer that they had more of an anchor and weren’t just these fluttery, meandering productions. Applies more to “Take Care” but this album’s pretty dull too, just in a slightly different way

  21. Also – Lord Knows is ridiculously good. Best Just Blaze beat in years.

  22. If my favorite part of this album is 2 Chainz’s verse on All Me, am I bad rap fan?

  23. Tried commenting yesterday. Didn’t work so trying again (my apologies if this posts twice at some later date).

    First, Tom: I really enjoyed reading your thoughts. A lot of writers seem (straw man alert!) to approach Drake’s music with either: (A) A self-serving, “Look how into REAL hip hop I am” mentality; or (B) A fuck ton of snide. To your immense credit, you did neither, which makes this one of the best Drake-related things I’ve read in the last couple of days. But seriously, I agree with most of what you wrote, on everything from Drake’s influence to his career arc to NWTS.

    Second, my thoughts on the album: I’ve listened to it a bunch in the last few days. Aside from the one obvious misfire, “305 To My City,” I thing this is a huge step-up in terms of Drake’s progression as an artist. It features much improved rapping, but as you noted, a willingness and an impressive restraint to let 40′s production speak for itself. And good God, could we talk about 40′s production? The way he plays with his samples? The progression? The mid-song stylistic change-ups? All perfect. I seriously get goosebumps just thinking about the transition from Sampha’s hook to Drake’s verses on “Too Much” (one of Drake’s absolute best songs by the way).

    My early take is that this makes for a better album than “Take Care,” but that “Take Care” will have songs I revisit much more often (although “Wu-Tang Forever,” “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” “The Language,” “Too Much,” “Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2,” and “Come Thru” — to make no mention of the incredible singles he released in the run-up to his album — are all going to earn consistent play).

    • Also, just wanted to write a brief response to Mitch Park (original comment: “I still don’t fully understand why I should care about Drake.”). Not because I have huge insight, but hey, Internet!

      (1) I think the most obvious one is that he makes good music (and has a tremendous ear for good production), but I’m going to assume that you’ve listened and don’t agree. I still think that there are other reasons for caring:

      (2) Dude is a tremendous mensch. In a world where very few artists have genuine star-making ability*, Drake does, and more importantly, he uses that power for good. Although people around here probably knew The Weeknd when he dropped “What You Need,” Drake really launched Abel’s career by featuring him on “Take Care.” Similarly, despite the fact that Drake’s label didn’t want “Buried Alive” on “Take Care,” Drake fought back and said, “No, we’re giving the Kendrick his chance.” Truly fucking dope.

      (3) He has an interesting voice, a really cool combination of confidence and self-reliance, coupled with the anxiety and self-doubt that comes from living your entire life in the public sphere. In this regard, he’s done a lot to move hip hop forward.

      • Whoop, totally forgot what the * was going to be:

        *See: Kanye’s attempts to turn Pusha-T into a thing (and I’m a huge Pusha fan! Listen to Nosetalgia!), or Rick Ross’s attempts to turn basically anyone on MMG into a thing.

        • I think that’s the fascinating thing about Lil Wayne! Everyone kind of agrees he is super irresponsible, kind of crazy, etc., but he is one of the few major rapper who signed and developed multiple future stars in Drake and Nicki Minaj.

          I mean obviously someone like Dr. Dre discovered a bunch of talent over the years, but he seems much more involved in everything, and he’s a producer, so that makes sense. I just don’t know how Wayne does it.

    • Outside of his flow on “Too Much” I’m not hearing how his rapping’s improved at all, he still leans too hard into syllables/strains his voice too much. there’s no looseness.

      Jay actually has a nice verse on this, his best since “Clique,” think Breihan was just reaching/fixating on one part trying to make a point

      • I think “Too Much” is his high-water mark for sure, but I think his verse on “Paris Morton Music 2″ shows some real growth, too. I dig the flow he uses on “The Language” (same one he debuted in “Versace”) but I suppose your mileage there might vary. I would throw in “5 AM in Toronto,” too, since come on: Who’s not throwing all of Drake’s non-NWTS singles onto a playlist? He’s had an incredibly productive year.

        Then again, I’m definitely not trying to pretend that Drake is a GOAT-level rapping talent. Off the immediate top of my head, Danny Brown, J. Cole, Kendrick, Pusha-T, Earl and Ab-Soul are all rappers I think are far more technically gifted. However, Drake’s draw has always been about more than rapping. “Drake featuring Drake,” if you will. Charisma + Rapping + Attention to detail. On the charisma point, a lot of his lines wouldn’t work if anybody else rapped/sang them: “I want your hot love and emotion, endlessly”? I mean… Terrible. Just terribly corny.

        But Drake’s delivery turns that into a gigantic radio single.

        I’m clearly a Drake fan-boy, though, so it’s entirely possible that I may be looking for growth when it doesn’t actually exist (I saw him early in his career and before the show saw how he involved he was with every little aspect of the production. I came away ridiculously impressed and have liked him ever since; artists who have met him and worked with him tend to relay similar experiences).

        • I’m not a rap purist about this, I remember when people dismissed Kanye early on cuz “he doesn’t have BARS” and I disagreed with it. Something about Drake’s flow/delivery just irks me though — the straining into every rhyme thing I mentioned — and I dunno, for me there just isn’t anything else there to draw me in. He’s certainly a unique personality but it’s not one I find all that appealing. Even something like “Thank Me Now” from his first one where I dig the beat the rapping doesn’t do it for me.

          The thing is that I’ve liked every previous rapper in the last decade+ where there’s been popular/critical convergence — Jay, Kanye, Wayne, still like ‘Ye, Wayne (Dedication 5 is the best thing he’s done in a minute) and Jay very occasionally when he recaptures some of his old ability. Whenever a rapper’s both successful and acclaimed I tend to think they’re doing something right and try to see the value in it. Was hoping this’d be the one that’d win me over since I dig “Hold On” and was disappointed

          • I definitely feel you on all of your points. The Kanye comparison, in particular, is a very apt one: You have two guys who are basically average rapping talents, talking about things that other hip hop artists usually dismiss; however, through sheer force of will each turns himself into a hip hop success story.

            As an unrelated aside, that’s why I don’t mind “Started From The Bottom” all that much. I know people like to criticize Drake’s origin story for being antithetical to the genre, but in a way it really was starting from the bottom. He didn’t have the “luxury” of 50′s fully-formed back story. He’s almost had to bully people into taking him seriously, and in many cases they still don’t. For a similar reason, I also don’t think it’s a surprise that he went from name-checking local phenoms like Mac Dre on “Take Care” to setting his sights on Wu-Tang’s colossal place in hip hop history in “NWTS.” A lot of people hated the fact that he would be so bold as to attempt the latter, but I thin it’s great. A bunch of guys name-checking their legends (See: Cole, J. on “Let Nas Down” or any of his hundred Hov references) feels way too limiting.

            Anyway, back to the discussion at hand:

            I especially feel you on the point about critical/popular convergence in hip hop, and feeling as though you’re missing out. I had a similar experience with Lil Wayne during his now legendary mix tape run, until finally he clicked for me. (Not suggesting a similar thing would happen if you pressed on with Drake, but hey, it might).

            For what it’s worth, I think you have a perfectly valid for not liking Drake. Based on what we’ve discussed, I imagine that when you hear a line like, “‘Cause myself just told myself/I’m the mothafuckin’ man I don’t need no help,” you hear a doing-too-much inflection, whereas I hear a funny, albeit corny tone.

            Luckily, there’s a lot more going on in hip hop right now than Drake! (Kendrick went platinum I think?)

      • I’m missing where Jay had a good verse. You could probably could accuse every rapper of spitting the same shit on every track but Jay takes that to a whole new level and does it in such a lazy fashion. He’s turned into 2 Chainz sans the enthusiasm.

  24. just another dmx ripoff….

  25. I can’t put my finger on it, but there is just something about Drake’s music that makes me want to press play over and over again. Its never outright catchy, but theres some factor that makes me just want to keep listening to it. Happened with Take Care, and looks like its happening with this too. I just want to keep listening to it over and over again. Does anyone feel me on this? In this respect, he kind of reminds me of The National. The songs just embed themselves in your brain. They become part of you.

  26. Anyone else think Kendrick Lamar would’ve been perfect to have on “Pound Cake”?

  27. Drake is an actor.

    That comment registers two different ways, depending on the reader/listener.


  28. Two of this year’s best rap albuns are only barely rap albuns and I’m pretty cool with that too. Thought you were going to mention all the Wu-Tang references Drake makes sure to put out on NWTS but I’m pretty sure I’ll read about it elsewhere.

  29. Guys his album has leaked and even ovosounds confirmed it drizzynothingwasthesame.blogspot.com

  30. This is a beautiful review! Excellent wordage good sir :)

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