After an arduous wait, punctuated by repeated Soundcloud streaming of particular songs that Drake and his entourage carefully decided could be bestowed upon us, Drake’s third studio album has been released. In-depth reviews have already been published online by various reliable, and not-so-reliable musical sources, so we decided to approach the first listen with a track-by-track account of our first impressions instead. You won’t have to wait too long to develop your own opinions, as the album is now available to stream in its entirety below.
Drake starts as he means to with a six-minute long, self-indulgent, chorus-less introduction. Produced by his childhood friend Noah “40” Shebib, who samples Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” to smart effect, he provides the right kind of platform for Drake to prove his lyrical prowess on, with lines like, “This is nothing for the radio / But they’ll still play it though / Cause it’s the new Drizzy Drake, that’s just the way it go,” hammering his point home. His line about the lack of communication between him and Nicki Minaj just breaks my heart though. Drake, in your first album you said you two were going to get married?
“I’ve just been drinking on the low, mobbin’ on the low, fucking on the low, smoking on the low,” the first proper anthemic track from the album, and a chorus that makes up for the absence of one in the opening song. It feels like it deserves the kind of video that shows a montage of Drake performing live, cut between shots of him and his entourage backstage, and the crowd singing along. And it seems like the kind of thing Drake would do.
“Started From The Bottom”
The first single officially released from the album, it’s a struggle to appreciate a song within the context of an album when that loop has been on repeat in my head non-stop since February. Two songs after the chorus-less introduction and it feels like we’re in a song made up solely from choruses. Regardless, it will be and already has been that dance floor filler because people love the kind of song that makes them and their crew feel like they’ve made it – even if it’s Drake that has, not them.
The soft, winding piano gives way to rapid-fire drums and a Wu-Tang Clan faded sample of RZA screaming the track’s title, “It’s Yourz.” Despite a not-so-positive response from Wu-Tang’s very own Inspectah Deck, the understated production reflects much of the self-reflective tone of the album. The song then melts seamlessly into the next track, “Own It,” which ratifies the album as a whole, instead of skipping through tracks we’ve repeatedly streamed from their premature release as part of the drip-feed hype of today’s music industry.
Acting more like the extended outro of “Wu-Tang Forever,” this track seems like a weak link in Nothing Was The Same. Sometimes Drake’s tendency to splice his rapping with his warbling let’s him down. We know he can do both but committing to one or the other is when he excels.
Heeeere’s Drake! This track comes with his own self-proclaimed warning that he’s, “on my worst behavior,” making no amends for the person he’s become over his past two albums. His growing self-confidence has definitely resulted in a stronger lyrical game. Looking back, his approach to rapping on Thank Me Later seems almost tentative in comparison.
“From Time” feat. Jhene Aiko
Featuring vocals from Jhene Aiko whose dreamy voice carries the song along a piano, Drake’s rapping is heart-wrenchingly sincere with tales of his family life. His candidness is taken to another level when he talks about “Courtney from Hooters on Peach Street / I’ve always felt like she was the piece to complete me,” a reference that resulted in Courtney from Hooters having to lock down all of her social media outlets. Good one, Drake.
“Hold On, We’re Going Home” feat. Majid Jordan
It’s a panty-dropper for sure, but Drake’s only singing-only track off the album is a seriously brilliant pop hit. I’ve probably listened to it at least once a day since it was made available to stream and there’s no signs of that habit stopping anytime soon. Featuring Toronto singer Majid Jordan and co-produced by OVO’s Nineteen85 there’s something magic about this combination and it’s in line for one of the best pop tracks of the year I reckon, proving Drake as the double-threat rapper-singer that he is.
The production on “Connect” is tight, which no doubt can be attributed to the skills of Hudson Mohawke whose credits feature on Kanye West’s latest album and Pusha T’s upcoming one. After an opening boasting of his conquests – musically or otherwise, “Don’t talk to me like I’m famous / And don’t assume cause I don’t respect assumptions babe,” suggests for him his fame is still a double-edged sword.
Drake has lifted the same flow from his cameo on Migos’ “Versace” and toned it down for “The Language,” but it’s still got that same undulating energy propelling it along. Which is kind of a better deal, because I JUST CAN’T AFFORD VERSACE, ALRIGHT?
“305 To My City”
This low bass, these rapid-fire drums we’ve heard before, Drake’s high pitched screeching, every album has its weak point and I think we’ve hit it. I also think I might have hit my limit with Drake’s monetary discussions. Down payment on a Jaguar? Drake, mate, are you running out of subject matter? You’re just telling us about your banal, everyday activities now.
“Too Much” feat. Sampha
British producer and singer-songwriter Sampha is a talent to be reckoned with. He lends all of the above skills in his collaborative effort with Drake. The opening piano and Sampha’s beautiful vocals result in a magically bittersweet formula in combination with the raw honesty of Drake’s content: “Money got my whole family going backwards / No dinners, no holidays, no nothing / There’s issues at hand we’re not discussing.” His tales of loves lost starts to get kind of tedious, but with Sampha on the pipes I can forgive Drake for anything on this track.
“Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2″ feat. Jay Z
This track comes as a premature outro to the album, with a guest verse from Jay Z that hears him ranting about fellow prolific artists including Biggy, The Game and Justin Timberlake. The shivery, echoing beat courtesy of producers Boi-1da and Jordan Evans gives the track depth but I’m starting to feel like I’m getting bored of Drake’s shallow introspection. The second part picks up the pace and a bit more of my attention, but I think I’m ready to move on now. With lines like, “They should put a couple more mirrors in here / So I can stare at myself,” it’s starting to feel like the album’s unifying theme of self-involvement is simultaneously it’s downfall, and by now Drake’s just whining. Why so sad, Drake?
As one of his oldest friends, Noah “40” Shebib knows the kind of beats to bring out some of the best in Drake. “Come Thru” feels more like the Take Care Drake we know – a kind of sleazy, grinding, slow jam. And that’s fine by me, although it’s going to be hard to find something that ever beats “Best I Ever Had,” from his third mixtape, So Far Gone. Bring back that Drake. The younger, more excitable, way less jaded Drake.
Available as a bonus track, you’re missing out if you don’t get hold of the deluxe edition. The ominous choral opening is enough to know the rapping that follows is going to be on point, especially with verses from Big Sean and 2 Chainz on the way, the latter of whom kills it with the line, “From the A to Toronto we let the metal go off / And my dick so hard it make the metal detector go off.” Can’t help wondering what 2 Chainz is doing with an erection at the airport, though.
My overriding first impression of Nothing Was The Same is that it’s great. And this is a first impressions review. The album successfully demonstrates Drake’s development in style both in terms of the production and his rapping, but his relentless self-assurance becomes tedious when it starts to be at the cost of a lack of experimentation. He can sing well, he can rap well, and the best songs on NWTS are when he goes in hard on either one of them. You only have to listen to “Hold On, We’re Going Home” or “All Me” to realize this. As a complete work it doesn’t disappoint and narcissism is the fuel to Drake’s fire that we’ve always enjoyed. However, I want to hear the variety I came to expect from Take Care, where every other track brings something different to the LP. Nothing Was The Same, as a followup album to Take Care, it seems nothing was as good.