Drake has been striving to be just like Jay Z or even Kanye West (who reunited with Drake at this year’s OVO Fest), but NWTS is passive compared to luxurious Magna Carta Holy Grail or the abrasive Yeezus. Still, it’s clear that he’s vying for the number one spot, as Drizzy tries to kick an ever-growing Kendrick Lamar out of the game and take the crown for himself. (He recently spoke about Kendrick’s controversial “Control” verse…again, saying “Are you listening to it now, though?”)
The album opens with “Tuscan Leather,” which immediately signals an even more confident Drake — one who channels Jay Z throughout the six-minute track with bold lyrics laid over a dizzying production that is reminiscent of a 2004 Kanye West (due to the Whitney Houston “I Have Nothing” sample and background vocals from Wu-Tang‘s Cappadonna). The track interestingly mirrors the Take Care opener “Over My Dead Body,” where the rapper spits braggadocio lyrics like “comin’ off the last record, I’m gettin’ 20 million off the record/ Just to off these records, nigga that’s a record/ I’m tired of hearing ’bout who you checkin’ for now/ Just give it time, we’ll see who’s still around a decade from now.”
Drake has given us inescapable phrases like “Yes Lord!,” “Shooting in the gym,” “I’m on one,” and the hashtag-appropriate “YOLO.” His latest addition is in the form of the eerie, yet popular, club anthem, “Started From The Bottom,” the catchy first single released from the album back in February of this year. “Wu-Tang Forever” finds Drake taking a different turn, sounding slightly like Eminem when the latter was cursing out his ex-wife on the The Marshall Mathers LP‘s explicitly chilling cut “Kim” — but Drake doesn’t take it far enough. If he channeled that hysterical energy throughout the song, “Wu-Tang Forever” could have been a masterpiece.
“Wu-Tang Forever” seeps beautifully into “Own It,” the second chapter to Drake’s gloomy love story. The tune is derivative of his previous sappy tunes (ie. “Marvin’s Room”), with lyrics like “Next time we fuck, I don’t want to fuck, I want to make love/ Next time we talk, I don’t want to just talk, I want to trust.” What saves the borderline-draining song is the aqueous sound effects and weighty bass drops.
The album’s shocker comes courtesy of the crazed “Worst Behaviour.” The tune purposefully skips, distorts and bends its back so far that it’s almost tormenting to listen to — it’s actually quite genius. Drake gets absolutely manic in a way that we’ve never heard him before (which was missing in “Wu-Tang Forever”), yelling into the microphone, “They used to never want to hear us, remember?/ Motherfucker never loved us, REMEMBER? MOTHERFUCKER!” He even takes a spin on Ma$e‘s classic verse from “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems,” keeping up with his theme of interpolating signature rap and R&B jams from the ’90s and early 2000s (His cover of TLC’s “I Get Lonely,” and his spin on Aaliyah’s “I Don’t Wanna” on “The Real Her” and Juvenile‘s “Back That Thang Up” on “Practice,” both found on Take Care).
In comparison to his first two albums, the guest features on NWTS are sparse. The first comes from Jhene Aiko, a California R&B singer who has received a large amount of underground love and is just making mainstream strides, who makes an appearance on “From Time.” It breaks away from the sparse production of the prior tracks and provides a small glimpse of melody and also pays tribute to Drake’s hometown of Toronto with a thickly-accented voicemail serving as the outro.
“Hold On, We’re Going Home”, one of the record’s highlights that acts like the grown man version of 2011′s “Find Your Love,” is a gorgeously produced record with Drake’s vocals flowing over the ’80′s New Wave-inspired elements with ease. What makes the song so special is that it transitions from genre to genre. Indie R&B artists like Solange or Dev Hynes could easily cover it, while bands (like the Arctic Monkeys) can put their own rocker spin on it. In the realm of Miguel‘s infectious “Adorn,” Drake’s version definitely has the chance of becoming someone’ wedding song.
Back in 2009, with the release of his breakthrough mixtape So Far Gone, Drake broke the rap mold by adding tunes where he sang, whether it was on a single track or interlaced with a more “hardcore” cut. As he grew within his own artistry, he received flack while connecting R&B and rap together. But it’s a factor that makes Drake who he is, and he won’t stop anytime soon. That said, his singing efforts on this album aren’t as effective as they were on tracks like So Far Gone‘s “Brand New” or Take Care‘s “Practice.” In comes NWTS‘s “Correct,” a snooze-worthy tune where the rapper confesses to succumbing to the power of the pussy…seriously. This is the point where the album goes downhill; best friend and longtime producer Noah “40″ Shebib‘s rhythms become increasingly repetitive and Drake’s flow becomes lazy and the songs begin to blend together.
Following is the cringe-worthy “The Language,” complete with 2 Chainz-esque lyrics like “Fuck going platinum, I looked at my wrist and it’s already platinum.” Drake also imitates Nicki Minaj‘s verse on “Take It To The Head” almost line for line: “I send all my money to banks in the islands and eat with Italians, I do” (compare that to Nicki’s “Ran away with his money just to chill on the Island/ All my bitches is stylin’, beaches and eating Italian”). What makes it worse is Birdman‘s uneccessary guest spot on the outro.
The only gem from the album’s second half is the revealing “Too Much,” which acts as an extension from Take Care‘s emotive “Look What You’ve Done.” The rapper gives the listener an insight to how his fame has affected his personal life: “Money got my whole family goin’ backwards/ No dinners, no holidays, no nothing/ There’s issues at hand that we’re not discussing/ Look, I did not sign up for this.”
Closing the album is the lengthy “Pound Cake / Paris Morton Music 2″ featuring Jay Z, who last collaborated with Drake on Thank Me Later‘s underrated “Light Up.” Yet the lyricism isn’t up to par, with Jay Z dismissing a greatly produced song for another “I’m so rich!” verse that’s laden with tons of cake references (Rihanna-inspired maybe?) The song includes another Wu-Tang sample “C.R.E.A.M.,” combined with dreamy yet twisted sample of Ellie Goulding‘s “Don’t Say A Word.” The song showcases Drake at his cockiest: “And understand that I’m not doin’ it the same, man, I’m doin’ it better/ Like I didn’t make that clearer this year/ Like I should feel, I don’t know, guilty for saying that.”
It’s evident that Drake and Noah “40″ Shebib are trying to create a producer-artist relationship that can match the greats, like Hova with Pharrell and Just Blaze, Justin Timberlake and Timbaland, Beyonce and The-Dream, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, etc. At times, it can come off as too contrived. But overall, the duo has successfully found their musical niche.
On “Tuscan Leather,” Drake boasts, “This is nothing for the radio, but they’ll still play it though” – a bold statement coming from a man whose singles discography is mainly made up of radio repeats. But the album is almost devoid of catchy hooks or choruses, which are traded for therapeutic ramblings. Nothing Was The Same is literally nothing like the hungrier Drake found on his debut effort. Rather, it continues the road that Take Care paved where he has settled quite comfortably into his fame – so don’t expect him to stop boasting anytime soon.
The Best Song That Wasn’t The Single: For people who were getting tired of Drake’s saccharine musical love letters, “Worst Behaviour” finds him in a refreshingly vengeful and hostile state as he puts up his middle finger to all his haters. Many recently jumped on the Drizzy bandwagon, but he just pushed you off with ease.
Best Listened To: At a house party with all your closest homies as you all pass around a chilled bottle of champagne, drinking to your accomplishments in the midst of secretly DM’ing your ex-girlfriend on Twitter.
Idolator Score: 3.5/5
— Bianca Gracie