Album Review: Drake – Nothing Was the Same

Jung Kim, Staff Writer

The title says it all: On “Nothing Was the Same,” Drake recounts his struggles to embrace the changes stemming from fame and success. The result is the Toronto MC’s most thematically cohesive album that is greater than the sum of its parts.

As Drake’s third major studio effort, all 13 tracks of the album explore the varying impacts of his success on his career and relationships with family, friends, and romantic interests. Most notable effect of these changes, however, is on the artist himself as he adopts, for the first time, an overtly aggressive attitude on a few tracks. “They used to never want to hear us, remember?” Drake barks on “Worst Behavior,” “I should let you know ahead I’m comin’ back on my worst behavior.” Still, the track, along with the radio singles “Hold On, We’re Going Home” and “Started from the Bottom,” remain faithful to the overall theme of deviating from the norm.

Further highlighting the unstable nature of change is Drake’s use of multiple perspectives in his narrative, essentially creating a dialogue of inner bout between self-doubt and faith. The intro track, “Tuscan Leather” provides a prime example of this as the verses focus on his relationships with his colleagues, his tone shifting between pride and regret from verse to verse. On “Furthest Thing,” “From Time” and “305 to My City,” the theme extends to his past romantic interests while “Too Much” and “Wu-Tang Forever” details his troubled relationships with his family and the rap game, respectively.

Musically, the rapper-singer retains his hybrid style from his previous album, “Take Care,” and expands upon it. Produced mostly by Drake’s longtime collaborator and friend, Noah “40” Shebib, the instrumentals are usually genre-defying, an amalgamation of classic R&B, synth pads and unique samplings that create a hazy, minimalistic ambiance. This allows the seamless transition between the tracks, providing an even tighter sense of cohesion. Paired with Drake’s verses, the soundstage created through the often expansive and ambivalent tone of the instrumentals provides a fitting canvas for the album. Even more striking are the breaks and interludes within “Furthest Thing” and “Pound Cakes/Paris Morton Music 2” that completely alter the tone and the melody of the tracks.

Still, this is a hip-hop album and should be evaluated as such. In terms of technicality (rhyme schemes, rhetorical devices, cadence, delivery, etc.), the album scores just above average; clever and witty usage of word plays, multisyllabic and internal rhymes are only strewn throughout the album (note: clever and witty). Drake’s delivery (including singing), however, remains as catchy as ever. Finally, although the album as a whole flows smoothly from start to finish, in terms of individual merits, the tracks lose some of the magic when taken out of the album’s thematic context.

Overall, however, “Nothing Was the Same” is a solid effort by an artist who consistently attempts to establish his own niche in an increasingly overcrowded game.

4 out of 5