Love him or hate him, it can’t be denied that Drake has changed the rap game.
In the past few years, he has become one of the biggest rappers, not by claiming to be a gangster or bragging about how much crack he used to sell, but by consistently opening up about his feelings and insecurities. Sure, most of us don’t have to deal with making millions of dollars or going out with models, but who can’t understand the shame that comes from over-sharing or rehashing old demons with an ex from time to time? On his third album, Nothing Was The Same, he follows up 2011’s massively successful Take Care with his most insular, emotional and polarizing record yet.
Fans of the slow and reflective second half of Take Care will find much to love here from the confessional “Too Much” to the relationship-obsessed “Wu-Tang Forever.” Drake responds to allegations of being “soft” by making one of his softest cuts yet on the incredibly catchy “Hold On We’re Going Home,” the perfect summer tune that is essentially an update of many light R&B hits from the '70s.
Drake still brings up his swagger and bravado on cuts like the single “Started From the Bottom” or the endearingly repetitive trap song “Worst Behavior,” but those prove to be more the exception than the rule. The true gems are ones such as “Furthest Thing,” where Drake sings about his struggles with fame over a deliriously smooth and soulful beat.
Much of the credit for this album can be attributed to executive producer and longtime Drake collaborator Noah “40” Shebib. 40 delivers on high points from the simple repetition of “Started From The Bottom” to the twisted Whitney Houston sample on opener “Tuscan Leather,” which prompts Drake to accurately compare 40 to Martin Scorsese.
In terms of guest stars, there are very few compared to his last album. Rhythm and blues up-and-comers Jhene Aiko and Sampha provide beautiful choruses on two of the album’s strongest tracks. Besides that, the only noticeable guest is Jay-Z, whose purpose is to deliver a subpar verse on the album closer as Drake lyrically runs laps around his mentor.
True to his nature, Drake is endlessly quotable here, spewing plenty of lines that will undoubtedly be quoted on social media by everyone. This album seems crafted specifically for the generation that spends most of their time on Twitter talking about their emotions. He doesn’t make many concessions on this record, and he is not really trying to win over any skeptics at this point.
Apart from a few awkward lines that stick out and a couple slightly underwhelming tracks on the back half, Drake creates a great record that fully subverts the idea of what a mainstream rap album should sound like. Time will tell of its legacy, but for now, Drake has succeeded on his “mission to try and switch up the culture” with one of the most engrossing rap albums of the year. Maybe nothing will be the same after this.