Wednesday 25 September 2013

Drake - Nothing Was The Same

“This is nothing for the radio”, claims Drake on the opening track of ‘Nothing Was The Same’.  However, his recent success with single Hold On,We’re Going Home would suggest otherwise.  Since receiving mainstream airplay on radio it’s risen up the charts, giving the rapper the most exposure since his featured rap on Rihanna’s What’s My Name.  Yet this single sticks out as a pure R&B track with crooning, soulful vocals in an otherwise predominantly rap-based album that’s likely to be his biggest yet. 

‘Nothing Was The Same’ isn’t quite the revolution that ‘Take Care’ presented, but it does continue Drake’s specific brand of emotional-rap.  Having mostly moved on from the heartbreak of ‘Take Care’, much of the album sees the Canadian justifying himself and his success over dark production and cold, metallic beats.  Bravado is nothing new in hip-hop – just look at Kanye – but there’s certainly an influence of West in some of the production, in particular the earlier tracks (the pitch-shifted sample of Whitney’s I Have Nothing in Tuscan Leather for example, or the soulful piano sample in the second half of Furthest Thing).

The major difference between the two, though, is humility.  Where Kanye struggles with his own god complex, Drake’s lyrics are full of self-awareness that makes his confidence more palatable – “how much time is this nigga spending on the intro” he jokes on lengthy opener Tuscan Leather.  And as we’ve come to expect from Drake, ‘Nothing Was The Same’ is an incredibly personal and emotional listen.  Started From The Bottom details his rise to fame above crystalline production, whilst on From Time he discusses his relationship with his father (“just me and my old man getting back to basics”) and Sampha provides a beautifully emotive chorus hook on Too Much.  As he jokes on Own It, “niggas talk more than bitches these days” – Drake has a hell of a lot of dirty laundry to air, adding a more personal spin on the usual themes of “drinking on the low, mobbing on the low, fucking on the low, smoking on the low” (Furthest Thing). 

What makes Drake stand out above the competition is his rapping style, full of clarity and musicality.  Rap is, ultimately, about storytelling – something Drake has a firm grip on.  So when featured rappers are included, the tracks nosedive.  Jay-Z’s guest rap on Pound Cake proves (alongside his own ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail’) that Mr Carter is passed it, whilst the grotesque raps of 2 Chainz and Big Sean on All Me are at odds with the tone of the album.  Drake is big enough to go it alone without the need for extras.

In a year that’s already seen some huge rap releases (namely Kanye’s confrontational ‘Yeezus’ and Jay-Z’s disappointing ‘Magna Carta HolyGrail’, let alone the success of Kendrick Lamar’s debut from 2012 looming over the rap community), Drake still manages to rise above his peers.  It might not be a huge leap from his previous work, but if you listen to one rap album this year make it this one.


Gizzle's Choice:
* Started From The Bottom
* Hold On, We're Going Home
* Too Much

Listen: 'Nothing Was The Same' is available now.