Drake - Nothing Was the Same | Album Review | By Volume

I'm afraid of heaven because I can't stand the height. I'm afraid of you because I can't be left behind. St. Vincent - Regret
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Drake

Nothing Was the Same

The story is all here — the words are just beyond jumbled.

Comments (0)
Author: on October 4, 2013
5.5
OVO Sound / Young Money
September 24, 2013

I really want to like Drake, seriously I do. Or, no, Aubrey, let’s start this over, this isn’t correct. So, Drake, I really like you, a lot actually, but you constantly piss me off. I don’t mind the pillowy-softness (lest we forget, showing any emotion besides anger and violent hate makes you weak), nor does the misogyny really bother me, at least when you’re concerned. In the grand scheme of things, you aren’t particularly guilty, and even as you may only find your solace within the arms and legs of super-fine bad bitches, this admiration of yours is more closely rooted in your own ignorance and lack of self-esteem. Topics you openly touch on constantly within your music – yet another reason I have to adore you as a person. You aren’t afraid of self-expression and beyond that, use your pulpit, cushioned with dollars from your platinum sales and sold-out area tours, to push the boundaries of what is allowed to be Pop Music. This grants you an ability to sashay past most of your blatant drawbacks and captivate so many as you do.

It doesn’t hurt that in person you seem like a genuinely intelligent, motivated and kind person – for the most part. And granted this experience of mine is garnered through various interviews, on video and in print, live performances, and your music – never a personal connection — though what you do so well is allow your fans a legitimate link to you through your art. That is amazing Drake and you deserve to be praised for this, as I’m sure you are on the daily. To be fair, you entered the game with a historic splash (world-wide success for a mixtape) and frequently remind us of your G.O.A.T. status at such a young age, but I can’t help but wonder a few things Drake. Firstly – if Nothing Was the Same is an in depth look into your story – why does it feel so distant at times?  Are you bored after making a serious run for the rap crown with Take Care? And lastly – after pushing Top40 boundaries again, as you have: do you feel where you’ve reached is where you should be?

I’m really not convinced that you do. Sure, you smile wide and bright while on camera, pushing through a major LP’s press circuit. You even begin Nothing Was the Same by reminding us: “Comin’ off the last record / I’m gettin’ twenty million off the record / Just to off these records / nigga that’s a record,” and then proceed to continue rehashing this fact constantly through the next hour. “Tuscan Leather” isn’t a bad song and I’ve no intention to imply this, but that above line highlights a good portion of what is so disappointing about Nothing Was the Same; while the beat is instantly inspiring and Drake is essentially flowing like he could do nothing better – he still can’t help but drop some half-assed, run-of-the-mill line. Like, he’s so fucking rich, so fucking timeless – why even try? 40’s beat is shit-hot right? No need to bore those avid listeners with thought-provoking lyricism or vivid storytelling – just find some casual hook, rinse and repeat (see “Started From the Bottom” in specific). Which is sad considering how electric Drake’s hooks have been in the past, for the most part it’s the spaces in between that shine brightest on this LP. And even then, his lyricism has taken a decided step back, something that was honed to a deadly sharpness in the last few years, seems to have dulled recently.

So why then, if there is such ample depth to Drake and more importantly, his music, am I sitting here imploring anyone interested to approach this record with a guarded heart? Because while on paper, Nothing Was the Same can read like an absolute banger of a record – the kind of album that passes by rarely in any given year – in practice, it is actually kind of yawn-inducing. That window dressing sure is mighty fine; direct in its placement, pretty in its design and thought-provoking in its essence – but it doesn’t distract from Drake’s penchant to say little of any consequence.  “I still been drinkin’ on the low / mobbin’ on the low / fuckin’ on the low / smokin’ on the low / I still been plottin’ on the low / schemin’ on the low”, he reminds us en masse during “Furthest Thing”, attempting to illustrate a world where , as usual, he’s fucked up any connection to his good girl, and is essentially pleading for compassion.  This isn’t a new realm for Drake, hell it is basically the situation a good chunk of his tunes revolve around. Thing is, this is the first time the whole exercise has felt like a retread. A simple look back to the likes of a “Under Ground Kings” or even further back to “November 18th” illuminates just how big a regression his storytelling has taken since the release of Take Care.

Maybe Drake still felt he had to make a rush for the crown, with the Yeezys and Jay Zs of the world plotting supreme  returns to the spotlight within the same year – it is difficult to concoct what exactly was going through Drake’s mind while writing and recording Nothing Was the Same. But that album title in and of itself is extremely fitting. Drake has always been the type to buy into his own ego and sees his album release as serious drops, events a la his mentors – So Far Gone, Thank Me Later, Take Care – these titles all possess great significance to the image Drake is trying to portray with each of his releases. Nothing Was the Same sees him eyeing rap’s highest honors, leveling them in between his crosshairs. Sad thing is, Drake’s already got himself a throne – now it seems like he’s just taking pot-shots at the rest of us for the hell of it. Nothing Was the Same is not a bad record – that’s for damn sure – but beyond its exceptional send off (“Too Much” followed by “Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2”), not really very memorable. In fairness these two songs are exceptional, “Too Much” in particular, may be Drake’s finest moment to date. Eviscerated and desperate he lashes out at his family and friends, yet his cries are that of a justifiably exhausted son: “All my family from the M-Town / that I’ve been ’round / started treating me like I’m “him” now / like we don’t know each other / we ain’t grow together / we just friends now / shit got me feeling pinned down / pick the pen up or put the pen down /writing to you from a distance like a pen pal / but we’ve been down” he concludes, with a poignant abruptness.

If nothing else the record leaves your palate like a saccharine vodka, the initial punch is jarring, so much so you may simply just want more. But after some time, a few more drinks, and now you’re bloated, sugar-charged and there’s nothing left to do but crash down hard. Drake may seem the devilishly clever and surprisingly kind type to lead you into your slumbers gently – this is hardly true, but Aubrey’s ability to hide his wild side is one of his most redeeming qualities.  Thankfully Nothing Was the Same allows us some reprieve from our stumbling by ending on such a high note – it is just unfortunate you need to keep swallowing all that strawberry Tang, sugary shit to reach it.

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