Sunday, April 6, 2014

Drake- Nothing Was The Same (2013)

Why did I review the album? I like Drake
Did I like it?  Yes, but it has a major flaw
Will I listen again?  To some tracks
I was going to review this album a while ago, but I couldn’t sort my feelings. I knew I liked the album, but I also knew there was something wrong. I didn’t like the songs as much as I should. After listening to this album 5 times I finally sorted my thoughts.
In my Yeezus review I complained that Kanye changed too much of his formula at once. And, I said that changing the formula works best when an artist changes one aspect and leaves the rest the same. In this case, Drake changes his delivery and leaves other variables constant.
Now, here’s the problem with that. For me, the delivery is the most important part of a rappers formula.  Delivery can turn stupid lyrics into passable ones, and passible ones into great lyrics. Essentially it can revert attention away from what is said and focuses on how it is said. In this album I found that drake disrupted his flow and delivery in order to make room for content.
So, why do I like this album? The beats are still classic Drake and 40 collabos that I fell in love with long ago. Also, if you strip away the (sometimes) lackluster delivery, there are some gold mines and hints of pre LP Drake that allowed him to explode onto the scene five years ago.
For me, the good outweighs the bad. It goes back to what I said about changing the formula. Experimentation with music works best when the artist changes one thing from his/her repertoire. This formula works because it fosters innovation, but keeps enough features consistent to avoid alienating the audience. Even if the person does not like the element the artist changed, there is still enough of the original artist in the song that the person will still like the song. At worst, the person would notice the attempt to try something new and not like the song, but appreciate the effort.
He did a dangerous thing toying with his delivery, but there are still enough elements of the old Drake for me to appreciate.
My Favs
3. Pound Cake/ Paris Morton Music 2
2.  From Time
1. Tuscan Leather

Overall Rating: 70 with a recommendation to listen then decide

Tuscan Leather- Nothing was the Same’s version of Under Ground Kings, but it’s better than its predecessor. I love how Drake decides to boast in this song. He states that this song isn’t for the radio, but the stations will still play it because Drake fosters that kind of attention, so whether they want to or not they have to play Drake to stay relevant. Just in case you didn’t realize it the first time, he uses a Dwight Howard reference to bring it into a sports perspective. Then shows his age by referencing Prince Akeem. He takes three seemingly unrelated things to describe how great he is. This form of boasting works because he goes beyond the petty I have more (women/cars/ cash) that most rappers use. Also he doesn’t feel the need to insult in order to raise himself on a pedestal. This is the kind of boasting that is praiseworthy because it takes more skill.
 Afterwards he claims “I’m just as famous as my mentor, but that’s still the boss.” This is interesting because on one hand he’s elevating his greatness, but is still man enough to publicly call someone else the boss without feeling insecure. It speaks to the closeness of their relationship.  
He talks about relational friction with Nicki Minaj. He admits that he’s the one that crossed the line and he has to work some things out on his own. It rare for artists to admit they’re the guilty party. Usually the other person is just a (insert namecalling here) and that person could die without causing the atris\st to blink an eye. Drake drops all the pretense and pours his heart out to her and tells her how valuable she is in his life.  I respect a man that willingly makes himself vulnerable when he’s done something wrong.  I didn’t expect such candor, but I appreciated it. I see this verse as a musical olive branch.
The last verse deals with his determination. Because of it, he rose from a nonentity in the rap game to one of the hottest names in the business. He’s been able to meet people that most people only dream about. Essentially he’s congratulating himself on the amount he’s accomplished. It almost as though he’s saying to do what you love and the spoils will follow and for that reason I see this verse as a subtly inspirational verse.
“How much time is this n**** spending on the into?”  I had to talk about this because I hate introductions. They are usually used to fill space and add tracks to the album and serve little purpose. He keeps asking that question and I think it’s relevant. There’s a lot of content here. It’s filled with thoughts that are important to him, therefore he will take his time and do it correctly.
Three beatswiches + more content than some artist have on entire albums+ skillful boasting+ extreme candor= One of my favorite Drake songs ever.
He claims he could go an hour on this beat and I wish he did.   5/5 
Furthest Thing-I don’t like the first half of this song. I was never a fan of Drake’s singing. He further complicates the issue by switching from singing to rapping mid-verse. It’s almost as though he can’t make up his mind which style would work better. It makes the lyrics hard to follow (remember the delivery issues I cited in the overview). When you can hear what he’s talking about, it’s not very interesting. That said, the beat was solid. After the beat switch the song redeems itself. It features the carefree flow that was somewhat random, but delivered perfectly, so I never cared. It’s the pre LP Drake that I fell in love with. 3.5/5 
Started From the Bottom-I hate everything about this song except the beat. The only saving grace is it ridiculously short length.  A lot of people blasted Drake for making this song because started from the bottom implies that he had no money, but through rapping he’s amassed a fortune. Since his family was middle class before his stardom, the premise of this song annoyed some people. Honestly, I don’t even care about that. I could even make a case that he did start from the bottom. From a musical standpoint, this premise works well.  In fact, I’d argue he had a tougher road than others. Because of his character from the tv show, Degrassi, I knew many people that wouldn’t even listen to his music. Only after he repeatedly released several great songs did those people lower the barriers associated with Drake. Add the fact that he was not in a prime location to gain exposure and the title starts to hold merit.
However I do not think that’s what he meant from the title. The thing that truly bothers me is how hard the song tries to be “gangsta.” It only succeeds at sounding ignorant and ridiculously stupid.
This song is delivered oddly as well. Sometime he sounds like he’s fully invested but at other times he uses what I call the I don’t give a f*** voice. That voice is the voice used when the artist sounds like he’d rather be doing ANYTHING other than delivering a verse. And, it does work sometimes; it can even be pretty funny. But the key is, the artist has to fully commit to it, or it ends up sounding confused and unfocused like this song. The song gets one star for the beat. 1.5/5
Wu-Tang Forever- It’s Yours probably references three things:
1. The girl tells him he can “get it”
2. The rap game is his
3. A reference to WuTang Clan’s “It’s Yours”
He believes he’s revolutionized the game the way Wu- Tang did when the group released 36 Chambers in the 90’s. He’s revolutionized it because he can rap AND sing. Whether he can sing is debatable, but I won’t even go there. Even if I let this go, the statement doesn’t ring true. Lauryn Hill was the first I knew that could rap and sing. So, he’s not the first. But, I will admit, he could be the first male.
He brags that he’s made Toronto matter in the rap game, and that’s probably not debatable.
Drake talks about how dangerous it is in the street and is thankful he didn’t have to live there. He only visited to meet with his friends. It shows that he is aware of his upbringing and the advantages that came with it.  I appreciate the candor because he could have easily turned that into another “Started From the Bottom”
Also, does anyone know who Mazin is? He seems to be important, but I don’t know who or what its referring to.
Something about this song irks me, but I can’t quite place it. When/If I do I’ll add more to this post and explain it. Still. there a lot of content here and I should respect that.4.5/5
Own it- This song is probably talking about Rihanna and Drake’s relationship. He’s asking her to make their relationship official instead of doing things behind the scenes. I respect him for being upfront and potentially making himself vulnerable.  3/5
Worst Behavior-This song has pieces of the carefree, free-flowing Drake that I love and a classic Drake beats, but it also has really stupid lyrics (at times) and toys with delivery a lot. It seems like every time the song does something brilliant it takes two steps back. 3/5
From Time-
This was my favorite song my first time through the album.                                                                  
The song opens with a woman appealing to Drake after some absence. She asks him why he’s dealing with woman that cause problems for him. She wouldn’t do that because he knows what he’s been through and wouldn’t hurt him any further, so it’s a no-brainer for him to trust her. She doesn’t even care if he loves her back because she has enough love for the both of them.
Drake thanks her for her candor. It’s interest because the song takes on the tone of a conversation or an open letter.
“I like when money makes a difference, but doesn’t make you different.” In this line he is acknowledging the pathways that money can open if used positively. Drake wants to use it to make the world a better place.
“Started realizing there are a couple places I can take it.” He views his music as an art and is wondering where to lead his music. He wants to be like Pre LP Drake.
Funny you should mention that Drake because I do as well. The music he creates now isn’t bad (I really like him even after his first three albums), but I feel like his music has lost the carefreeness that I’ve mentioned a couple of times already.  Pre LP Drake didn’t care at all. He rapped about everything that was affecting his life and did it with extreme candor and a joyfulness that permeated through every song. His flow was great and every time he rhymed it had the vibe of a freestyle because he was having so much fun with it. I often say that each verse should tell a story, but many times drake violated that rule. He couple together line after line of thought that seemingly had no connection with one another, but I still loved it because I enjoyed listening to him discuss the matters in his life. I don’t know if I did a good job explaining what I mean, but listen to Still Fly (freestyle), Ignorant S***, Scriptures, Fear,  Get Over It, and Closer to My Dreams to get a better understanding of what I mean.
 “I want to do more than money, pussy, vacation”  I this is a shot a Lil Wayne (it could also be a shot at basic rappers that use this as a fuel for their rhymes) because it’s all Wayne talks about in his rhymes (it’s the reason I stopped listening to Wayne after Cater III). I wonder if this will have any effect on their relationship, or if they’re secure enough that each can talk about the other truthfully without fear of alienating the other. I’m leaning towards the latter, citing his lyric in Tuscan Leather. 
Drake then talks about his father. In it he uses weed and alcohol metaphors that a funny and well thought out.
The second verse makes numerous references to people that he knows and although I don’t know them I was eager to hear him talk about them. This is the old school Drake I’ve wanted to hear. 5/5
Hold on We’re Coming Home- Sounds good, but he’s not really saying anything 3/5
Connect- This albums version of Marvin’s Room? 4/5
The Language- I hate chopped rapping and he uses it for half the song.  On top that, the lyrics are pretty base usual rap fanfare. Birdman makes an appearance, but doesn’t do anything to improve the song. The beat is good, but not enough to save the song for me.2.5/5
305 to my City- This track seems like an extension of the last track. He’s still using chopped rapping and I don’t appreciate it in this instance either. This song might be even worse than its predecessor because at some points I don’t know what they’re talking about. In the last song at least I knew what he was discussing. To make matters worse there is too much meshing of styles in this track. Drake is chopped rapping while someone else is singing using autotune. This song is even worse than Started From the Bottom. As usual the beat is top notch. 1/5 
Too Much- As soon as I heard this song I forgave Drake for the last eight minutes of nonsense he forced me to listen to. This album’s version of “The Ride,” but even more chill. He wastes no time  releasing bar after bar of old school Drake. It's funny because the tension in his delivery and the lyrics contrast the beat well. It could even serve as a metaphor for the familial tension that Drake references in the song. 5/5
Pound Cake/ Paris Mortin Music II- I love this intro. It has an old school feel. The instruments help create the old school relaxed atmosphere. I can imagining the old man sitting in a lounge in the 1940’s and talking to the audience in between songs.
The beginning of Drake’s verse is fine. He’s talking about how great he is and says there’s no one is his league. He’s making record amount of money and selling out shows and the success is driving him forward. It gets interesting toward the end of his verse where he talks about his high school life. I wonder if he was bullied because the way he talks about it makes it appear that way. I shouldn’t be surprised, but the amount of vitriol he holds towards those that have wronged him surprised me. I figured that all the success he’s had would cause him to forget about such things. But, I guess that’s naïve. Whenever human beings are hurt they remember, and sometimes the scar last a long than we like to admit. And on that front, I want to congratulate him for his honesty in a particularly painful area. It’s interesting how much detail he supplies about how he could make their lives hell, even if it’s only for one day. He goes out of his way to prove how much better he is than the rest of them. Most of his classmates work for their parents, but he works for himself, so he doesn’t rely on anyone. He has a lot more money than anyone in his class, so he’s financially superior as well. Also, he has star power that few can boast. He wants everyone to realize who’s gotten the last laugh.
When Jay’s serious about rapping NOONE can touch him, and he’s definitely serious for this verse. He makes repeated references to cake (in all its forms). He talks about actual types of cakes, talks about money and even uses cake as a metaphor for new rappers he views as fakes. Since the name of the song is called pond cake he even throws in a few drug references and other references to the word pound.
 Then he talks about making other people millionaires. He names several people that have become millionaires using Jay as a proxy. That’s boasting at its best. He’s made so much money that he’s makes a sport of making other people rich. Essentially he’s made other people a lot of cake.   
One of my favorite Jay verses ever. When Jay’s rapping like this, there’s no one else I’d rather listen to.  
Drake picks up for Paris Mortin Music 2. He talks about a multitude of things ranging from getting signed to the person he shares his thoughts with.
He doesn’t want to shy away and act humble if that truly isn’t how he really feels. I agree with Drake on this. The U.S. has been preoccupied with making celebrities into perfect people and essentially asks them to put up a front. This would be alright except it forces people to shy away from being themselves. It disgusts me because it smacks of dishonesty. So, if Drake says he won’t follow that mold, I’m rooting for him.
I love how he says he’s the best and doesn’t apologize for it. He knows the history of the game and is thankful for those that paved the way for him, but he realizes that he’s trailblazing the rap game and wont apologize for celebrating his accomplishments.5/5  
Come Thru- A little bit of everything in this track. Some singing, some rapping, and the obligatory Drake beat. There's a bit of the rambling carefree Drake sprinkled in too. A good song to listen to if you want to learn what Drake is about.  4.5/5
All Me- I want to hate this song because this kind of rap is the type of rap I hate, but I have to be honest, I like this song even though it tries to be as ignorant as possible. Why? It’s funny. 3/5 


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