Words by Walter George, Jr
You know…for all of the talk about Drake being manufactured and fake and effectively…created to blow up, I can’t imagine that many people thought that he would reach this level of success. What level of success, you ask?
In 2012, Drake made over $20 million, 6th among hip-hop artists, moguls, etc. The 5 above him read as a Who’s Who of contemporary hip-hop; beatmaker and product peddler Dr. Dre, shit-talker and label head Puff Daddy, label head and hip-hop king Jay Z, beatmaker, artist, and overall madman Kanye West, and Lil Wayne, Drake’s boss. Say what you will about the hip-hop produced by those individuals, but they are all very successful. For Drake to be among them, even for a year, is simply amazing for a Canadian child actor. Regardless of how you think he came to prominence, he really is a hip-hop success story.
And if you’ve ever watched his interviews with people he chooses to open up to, he really does seem like a decent individual. I have no hate for Drake.
That being said, clearly I am out of the loop here. I’m hearing it’s his best work ever…I’m hearing he isn’t doing as much singing…I’m hearing the bars are harder…all of this stuff. Look. I liked So Far Gone. I loved that shit. Going back, I liked Comeback Season and I liked a lot of his pre-Thank Me Later features. However, even with all of that, Nothing Was The Same is more of the same Drake.
He blurs the line between rapper and R&B artist. He cries about old relationships. He cries about current relationships with family members. He is a very good rapper when he raps, but that’s -55% of the time. Like I said before, I like Drake as an artist. He has released some very good work (somehow none of his albums qualify as such in my opinion) and it’s obvious that he’s a very talented individual. I’ve always said that his talent at utilizing soundscapes is close to unmatched; the only artists I can think of who are at his level at creating works with a consistent sound are Rick Ross, Kendrick Lamar, and A$AP Rocky.
Now to me, Take Care is Drake’s best studio album. Is there a lot of singing? Yes. Is there a lot of whining? Yes. However, the soundscape crafted by 40 and Drake is spectacular. Maybe you don’t like Nicki Minaj or Rick Ross, but both “Make Me Proud” and “Lord Knows” are at the least good. “Lord Knows” may have been the best beat of 2011, to be perfectly honest. If you can’t forgive “Practice,” I can understand…that was an atrocity. There are a number of pretty bad moments on Take Care. Even with all of those, I still have it as his best official studio album. Again, maybe I’m just missing something, but anyway, let’s get to NTWS.
As I stated before, despite the title Nothing Was The Same, there is nothing dramatically different between Drake’s product here and on prior albums. There IS an improvement in the rapping; he really is a very good rapper, and there are new flows on this album that remind you that he IS still quite young, and he is dedicated to improving himself as a rapper, despite seeing himself as more than a rapper. There are some pretty good moments on here, from a rapping standpoint; both “The Language” and “Too Much” are high points.
Even when he slips into his comfort zone of pseudo-R&B (which actually, now that I’m thinking about it, is actually closer to what I’d consider R&B than the shit that I can’t even listen to from Trey Songz, Chris Brown, etc.), there are moments that don’t disappoint; “Wu-Tang Forever” (despite the title) and “Hold On, We’re Going Home” fall under this category. However, one of the things I’ve always said about Drake is that he never releases “bad” music. If you rated every song he’s done from Thank Me Later onward from 1-10, you come out with A LOT more in the 6-8 range than you do the 1-3 range. On this album, he puts out some poor shit…I never want to hear “305 to My City” or “Own It” again in my life.
Sonically, the album is a rehash of the sound that made Take Care so easy to listen to, but done less effectively. Like Rick Ross, the sound that was fresh a couple of years ago has gotten fairly played by now, and from an artist who has spoken frequently on wanting to do things differently and constantly evolve, it’s particularly disappointing.
For a 3rd album from someone who wants to be in the Kanye West conversation for best overall catalog, this is a subpar effort. Compared to Kanye, Drake was already playing from behind; College Dropout and Late Registration are classics, Thank Me Later was a disappointing debut and Take Care was a solid sophomore effort. He falls further behind on album 3, as Graduation, despite my misgivings, is a pretty good album and better than Nothing Was The Same. The sad thing is that Drake really is talented. Even though he can’t sing, he does recognize how to harmonize, he’s a very good rapper, and the combination of he and 40 really does work excellently in general. However, even with all of that in his corner, this is the second disappointing album that he’s produced out of 3 attempts. That’s not a good success rate, especially not for someone with his resources and skill set.
I listened to an interview recently during which he basically said that Kendrick, despite putting out an excellent debut album, would have to make multiple great albums to be considered a great artist. In my opinion, Drake has yet to craft an album as good as good kid, m.A.A.d city, so what does that mean for his aspirations?
Standouts: “Wu-Tang Forever,” “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” Too Much”
Random note: Drake also said he’s proud of his work with Jay Z. I really hope Jay Z isn’t proud of his work with Drake. Two of the more talented artists today continuously put out bullshit. Nothing they’ve done together touches any of the high points of Jay/Kanye or even Drake/Wayne. Stop working together if you’re gonna drop bullshit.
Words by Walter George, Jr