7 Years Later and Still, Nothing Was the Same.
September 24th marked 7 years since Drake released his third album 'Nothing Was the Same'. In the time since, Drake has continued his journey to the very top of the hip-hop mountain. Micah Chudleigh reflects on a moment in music history, the release of Nothing Was the Same.
Snapbacks and all-black outfits with white air maxes. Lil' Terio killing it all over vine. Miley Cyrus twerking in all of our faces. At the rate trending topics and news cycle seem to move nowadays, 7 years seems almost like a lifetime ago when you look back on what's transpired since. In what has come to be known as the social media era, 2013 was truly a definitive turning point in music's relocation from the record store to the iTunes store, and eventually to the streaming platforms. Standing in the middle of all of that, as he often does, was a certain Aubrey 'Drake' Graham.
2013 was a stellar year for mainstream hip-hop music, essentially proving to be a changing of the guard; Kanye and J. Cole released on the same day as Chance and Childish Gambino kept the indie-rap crowd happy with 'Acid Rap' and 'Because the Internet' respectively. JAY Z dropped an album via Samsung and Eminem returned with his eighth studio album, all whilst Kendrick continued to ride the wave of his 'good kid, m.A.A.d. city' album with a slew of guest verses. Rap's elder statesmen were being replaced by a younger, more sonically diverse crowd.
And guess who stood in the middle of it all?
In 2013, Drake was on a mission. Perhaps scorned by the adulation his former tour-mate Kendrick Lamar was getting, perhaps angered by the mixed critical reception of his sophomore 'Take Care', (which would later receive a Grammy for Best Rap Album, however) Drake's mind was clearly set on dominating a year that would be packed with releases. He started strong, with the lead single for the album 'Started From the Bottom' taking over the radio and the clubs, with it's remix 'No New Friends' birthing a wave of Twitter hashtags and Instagram captions.
He continued on this tear right the way through the summer with the now infamous 'scary hours'; the world woke up one July to 'The Motion', the J. Cole assisted 'Jodeci Freestyle', a feature on the then fresh-faced PARTYNEXTDOOR's 'Over Here' and last, but certainly not least, the 'Versace' remix. That verse, now enshrined in hip-hop history, cemented Drake's place on top of mountain, with the line 'rap must be changing cause I'm at the top and ain't no one on top of me!' setting the precedent for the year as a whole. Hip-hop haad changed and the new school were here to stay.
Then came the album. 13 tracks, 59 minutes long - arguably, and quite possibly, still his most concise and focused effort to date. An album focused on the duality of his past life and his current life; reflecting and accepting, reminiscing and moving on. Even the covers, his younger self and his current self, are indicators of the album's theme. Loosely based on the concept of the Christopher Nolan film 'Memento', Drake had played with the idea of the deluxe version, the version with the painting of his adult self, having the initial track-list reversed to represent his current self reflecting back.
From the opening track, Tuscan Leather, Drake lays out the same statement he did on the Versace remix, except less explicitly and more emphatically. Does that make sense? Listen back to it again and maybe it will; flipping Whitney Houston's 'I Have Nothing' three times over the same song isn't for the faint-hearted and Drake came with the bars to back it. The transitions on this album, in typical Noah '40' Shebib fashion, are seamless - truly giving the feel that you are part of a series of hazy flashbacks, all rolled into one hour long experience.
There were similarities from his sophomore, but Nothing Was the Same seems an apt title for a man who was revelling in the peak of his artistry. 'Furthest Thing' the most 'Take Care' sounding track of the whole album, and even that transitions into a triumphant rap verse. 'Wu Tang Forever' is another throwback to a previous sounding Drake and yet, even that ends with one of his most solid verses to date. 'Things change in that life and this life, started lacking synergy' he raps, taking a moment to step out of the album's theme and analyse exactly where he stands in this moment.
Other album highlights include the Jhene Aiko assisted 'From Time', (the second verse of which, the instrumental plays backwards) the braggadocios 'The Language' - the most 'in-the-moment' track of the album - and 'Too Much'. Drake said that with this album he planned to 'blur the lines' between the rapping and singing, a task he achieved nonetheless, but perhaps his ability to blur the lines between the past and the present in the form of 13 of his most concise, personal and confident tracks is pretty impressive.
Perhaps the biggest indicator of Drake's growth as an artist, and a brand, is the outro Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2, more specifically Pound Cake. 3 years prior, Drake and his idol JAY Z linked up on Light Up, a song that played like the latter schooling the former. 3 years later, the student very much became the master, with a simple verse being enough to ensure that the guard in hip-hop was in fact changing and that one man stood in the middle of it all.
In hindsight, it's funny to see how Drake's career ha panned out. Several number ones, platinum albums and
Grammy awards later, Drake is undoubtedly a figure in music history. At the time of third album release, hip-hop wasn't the pop culture juggernaut it was - but it was certainly on it's way. Nothing Was the Same helped cement hip-hop as pop music - music for the masses, if you will. Take Care may have started Drake on this warpath to domination, but Nothing Was the Same was the steam train that carried him there.