I think for this review we should actually do a track-by-track review. This is tainting the review in some way, but I have to say I think this is one of the most progressive rap albums for people our age. This is what people our age needed. Kanye West came out in 2003/2004 and I was able to buy his music. I wasn’t able to enjoy it or critically think about. Drake really blew up in 2009 with “Best I Ever Had.” I was aware enough at 19 to know he was no Talib Kweli and that his previous mixtapes were not anything crucial in rap. I was also aware enough to know I didn’t like how radio forward his art was. Drake has grown up on this album, just how I have grown since his first release. He’s rapping about being alone, what it feels like to posture, and the chance that money doesn’t set you free. I’m able to relate. Let’s review it track by track and see what’s up with rap’s only wheelchair actor.
David J. Wood
I was initially taken back by all of the bravado at the beginning of this song in the first verse. He’s bragging how much money he gets, but then it takes a turn and becomes so aware of rap and his celebrity. “This is nothin’ for the radio, but they’ll still play it though/ cause it’s that new Drizzy Drake, that’s just the way it go.” He brags about what he makes, and thinks it’s funny that he is so hyped.
The second verse takes on the same tone of bravado, but it’s almost that money is secondary to the work he does. He legitimately likes making rap even though it’s changing his personal grounding such as him and Nikki Minaj being further apart.
The third verse starts a wet dream for ‘90s kids. Wu-Tang references, Family Matters, and Fresh Prince. He’s made it to the point that he is the Fresh Prince and finally where he wants to be with no shame.
The production on this track is actually my favorite part. Its three parts seem disgruntled with each other, but they are actually in line. I wondered listening to it why I thought it didn’t sound weird with how different the parts are and then realized he just samples the same song in three different ways on this track.
I’m also a sucker for any meta type thinking in songs so when he mentioned how he’s conscience about the intro being so long I enjoyed that. He knows what we expect of him and flips it all for himself.
Drake is the master of the humble brag. Who cares? He nails this track as he confronts all of our expectations and basically throws up a big middle finger to the listener, the critics and other rappers. It’s a great framing track — but I think it might just set the album up for failure. Like the intro song, I think Drake has a tendency to go long on albums and tire listeners.
It may set the album up for failure but I don’t think he cares. If it fails, we still listened and talked about it. That’s what I think Drake has realized finally.
So all of the meta qualities that I enjoyed in “Tuscan Leather” are lost here. Drake toes this line between “feel sorry for me” and “celebrate my life with me” and this track sides on the former. It’s just not that clever and different from past things that he’s done. The outro is great though. I love that sample.
I realize this song is nothing special. However, I think the chorus is very well done and organized. I think he wants us to feel sorry for him here, hopefully. I actually do. He raps that “the furthest thing from perfect just like everyone I know”. Then the verses aside from the last one are essentially about how nothing about him has changed. The last one is about how he is perfect though, donating money, etc. He doesn’t get that making it inevitably changes your substance, especially when you’re defined by your objects in rap culture. He smokes weed on the low cause he is doing coke, he neglects to mention that life change. Yea he’s still not perfect, but he’s not perfect on a different level now.
“Started From The Bottom”
This song features an R & B beat with a relaxed piano line. It reminds me one of those beats you’d hear in a ten minute depressing rap like “Dance With The Devil” by Immortal Technique. Unfortunately, Drake isn’t being introspective on this made it track. If you made it, why you so sad Drake? His introspect stops at “Livin’ at my momma’s house we’d argue every month.” Come on, do Drake stuff and air your grievances about specific personal relationships so this song makes some more sense.
I agree, there’s nothing revelatory about this track. It’s a great beat and has been playing relentlessly on the radio since it was released. It’s everything Drake could want for a single but he sacrifices lyrical depth.
This song is clever in that it is a metaphor for Drake’s history with the rap game: “What made me think about the game, girl / And how I switched it up with a new thing / Young nigga came through on his Wu-Tang / And nowadays when I ask about who got it, they say it’s yours.” He admits that he is struggling right now and was promised a lot in his early years.
I think this song is almost about survivors’ guilt. He talks about going to the hood as choice and flexing in clubs almost as if he wanted to become poor to get credit. I think this song’s instrumentation is really pleasant; he includes the Wu-Tang sample as part of the music instead of the lyrics. I appreciated that. I also like he how links songs together on the album using the mellow piano lines. He transitions using the Wu-Tang song in this one to go the next song, which is great considering how the topic switches.
This song is really misleading if you don’t listen to the lyrics. The sample is flipping meaning saying that he wants to be had and the “own it” repetition can seem almost sexist if you don’t pick up on this. While he conflates material and emotional support with the singing in the beginning, it’s still a pretty song. He’s blowing through girls but at least he thinks he can still give it away.
It’s nice how he remixes the “own it” lyric in a few different ways to act as a chorus. That’s a simple effect, but he has a knack for making lyrics function as instrumentation and do a lot more than just lyrics.
The “own it” sample is catchy and the verses get personal later on. I seriously doubt that Drake has been called onto Maury though with women claiming it’s his. We’re slipping into Drake’s fantasy/storyline but I don’t think I’m immersed.
I think this song has the best flow. The beat is chaotic and the refrain is repetitive. The song is basically about one verse long though, and I’d like to see that beat explored more. It’s a story though, and he drops lines about Degrassi and his bah mitzvah. The flow though is a perfect example of him using the lyrics of the lines for instrumentation.
I like the beat of the song, but this seems so un Drake and un this album. It’s too abrasive for him and is better suited for someone like Jay-Z. Although, some of the lines are pretty good, “But your shit is like the police asking us questions
Nigga we don’t know shit” and the Bar Mitzvah line is funny too.
I love the continued piano use in this song and the very beginning is errie for me. I love Jhene Aiko’s voice. I also think this song is one of the best story songs in a while. It’s great how he uses his reconnection with his father to talk about the girls he’s been with. This is one of my favorite songs on the album. The subtle sound differences between the verses that kind of signal the move to talking about girls is a nice touch.
At this point, I think a lot of the songs on the album have the same thesis: Drake was underestimated and here he is. It also has the same metaphor: compare his struggle with rap to the struggles of a relationship.
“Hold On, We’re Going Home”
Alright, so we’ve hit the slow part of the DJ’s set. But actually, I think this is a really interesting move for Drake. A lot of other pop acts are cashing in on the 80s sound. Tight drums, not a lot of bass — disco-ish. I like the sound and think that this could be a new direction for Drake himself. Do I think it works on this track though? Eh, kinda.
I didn’t know there was a man named Daft Drake. Come on, Daft Punk sucks at being Daft Punk now. He should not pursue this sound. The production is too weak to try and highlight it.
I really like the sort of inverted sound of this track. It’s almost as if everything is a little quite, which brings out the lyrics. I guess this is another case of Drake complaining about being successful but he touches on a universal feeling of relationships: control and security.
“She just wanna run over my feelin’s
Like she drinkin’ and drivin’ in an 18 wheeler
And I’d allow her, talk about pussy power
She used to say “You can be whoever you want, even yourself”
Yeah, I show up knowin’ exactly who I was and never leave as myself”
Those are sorta Radiohead lyrics. Shit’s deep as Drake would say if he had to judge Radiohead.
(This album review has been almost two months in the making now. It’s seemed like years after trying stay with it. We didn’t even finish. Here are our thoughts on the actual process.)
I can’t think of a time before this that I’ve given up on a review. Most of the time I force myself to finish — and in forcing myself, I learn something about the process. Being a critic isn’t about liking the right music and promoting it. It’s about analyzing the text, playing the songs over and over again and discovering something new about the music. Sadly, Drake’s “Nothing Was The Same” doesn’t stand up to critique. We tried. Track after track we discovered the same themes just spoken over slightly different rhythms.
What this track-by-track does show is potential. Potential to be more. Potential to finish; to do better next time. In many ways, “Nothing Was The Same” shows that same potential but doesn’t quite realize it.
What can I say, I liked Drake more when he was coming from the bottom. Now he’s here.
I like how when I read the review again, the parts I like from the album are all the same thing. Each song repeats itself instrumentally and especially in the thematic sense that money and success don’t buy love. What’s even more interesting is that before really analyzing the album I thought it was one of the more progressive albums of my time. Does that say more about me or the current state of legitimate rap? I prefer not to know.
Yes, I enjoyed the album at times, but trying to do an extended review about an album almost about wanting an extended review essentially sucks. I have to say if the goal of a review is to learn something, I did. I learned that I shouldn’t be afraid to just quit. So thank you Drake (and to rip off the use of Drake titles and lyrics),
“Nothing [is] The Same” in my critiquing career.