Nothing Was The Same Review
By Michael Clark
Like many, my first introduction to Aubrey Graham was his breakout mixtape So Far Gone. It was a fairly good collection of music that highlighted the rapper’s ability to cover a multitude of musical styles. Up until I heard this LP, it was my favorite Drake project. Since then, Graham has released two successful albums – both commercially and critically. While Thank Me Later is bloated with features and is forgettable at best, Take Care was a triumph of emotional vision. Each of these efforts served as major stepping-stones for the Toronto native, but Nothing Was The Same is his best work to date, proving him to be one of the most versatile rappers alive – and maybe of all-time. This album also proves that Noah “40” Shebib deserves way, way more credit than he is being given.
First and foremost, “Tuscan Leather” is the intro to beat this year. The angelically flipped sample leads to Drake laying into the production with a lyrical force that he thankfully maintains throughout the course of the album. The unforgettable piano loop on “Started From The Bottom” still holds up, months after its February release. It also doesn’t hurt that I heard the song 500 times over the course of the summer. “Hold On, Were Going Home” boasts a fantastically smooth melody as well as another gem of a hook and it’s probably the closest we’ll see Drake come to sounding like Michael Jackson.
Now, I’ll of course sound like a broken record when I say this but my biggest issue with any rap album will always be the length and whether there’s too much unnecessary music. And despite my best efforts to enjoy every song on this album, I didn’t. Oddly enough on “Furthest Thing”, Drake raps “No filler, you’ll feel it now if you ain’t feel it before”. I mean, I feel it now, but there are definitely some things that could have been cut. For example, Birdman’s outro on “The Language” is pretty boring. “From Time” is a candy coated melodrama and should have been cut altogether. At the very minimum, it could have been a bonus track. “Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2” should’ve ended after Jay’s verse, although I could’ve listened to him spit on that beat for another five minutes.
The point is – if I pay for an expensive piece of meat at a restaurant, I don’t want to spend time cutting around the fat. The same principle applies to albums.
However, there are some perfect moments on the record. The utilization of the “Swang” sample on “Connect” is perfect. The Sampha* feature on “Too Much” is perfect. The looping of his vocals is a stroke of genius. Furthermore, it’s my favorite song on the record. As a matter of fact, the features on this album all work well, never feeling out of place. Well, you know, apart from Birdman. And in a world where a good deal of the rap albums put out are feature-laden pieces of shit – *cough* Excuse My French – it’s refreshing to hear a rapper own every song. What’s more is Drake’s uncanny ability to formulate outstanding hooks has never been better. Which is another reason the short features list works well.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how Drake’s longtime producing partner, Noah “40” Shebib, is the true unsung hero of this album. He’s credited with co-writing 8 of the 13 tracks as well production credits on 8. The argument could be made that he’s one of the more underrated producers in hip-hop today. Drake definitely would not have achieved similar success without Shebib by his side.
Nothing Was The Same is Drake sprinting for the hip-hop throne. We don’t hear an overly emotive sounding artist anymore. He’s adopted a more aggressive sound as a direct result of his dissatisfaction with not being recognized as the one of the best. Sure, he has a ways to go before reaching the top. But if he keeps one-upping himself, I can’t imagine that taking too long.
Best Songs: Tuscan Leather // Wu-Tang Forever // Own It // Worst Behavior // Hold On, We’re Going Home // Connect // The Language // Too Much
Album Grade: B
* If you liked “Too Much” I highly recommend checking out Sampha’s Dual EP, which you can find and purchase on iTunes. Or you can download it illegally somewhere. I don’t care. But it’s fantastic.
Written By: Mike Clark
Follow Him: @clxrk