After four years in the game, Drake sets out to prove that all of the predictions about him being the best are true.
“Prince Akeem, they throw flowers at my feet, nigga!” Drake declares in the intro of his third album. In 2009, he released the highly-acclaimed So Far Gone mixtape and since then the half Jewish, half Black kid from Canada has gone on sell millions of records, sell out concerts, become insanely rich and currently holds the title for most number one songs on the Billboard rap charts.
Drake’s debut album Thank Me Later was a precursor to what type of rapper he would become today. In four years, he’s gone from an actor who can rap, to a rapper than can sing to a singer/rapper. Drake’s third album Nothing Was The Same fully embraces who he is: a blend of rap, R&B and pop that is at the top of his game. Acknowledging the hype and fanfare that has always surrounded him, Drake sets out to prove that he deserves every bit of the praise and then more.
In the opening six-minute “Tuscan Leather” intro, Drake is all verse and no hooks and the braggadocio lyrics start immediately ("This is nothing for the radio/ But they'll still play it though/ Cuz it's the new Drizzy Drake, that's just the way it go") but his rhymes have a lot more bite to them:
“Like Aye, B I got your CD, you get an E for effort/ I piece letters together and get to talking reckless/owl chains like credentials, you know you see the necklace/ My life’s a completes checklist/ I’m tired of hearing about who you checking for now/ Just give it time, we’ll see who’s still around a decade from now”
After a few years of trying to fit in while simultaneously hoping to find himself, Drake has fully matured and is comfortable being labeled the sensitive rapper. While it’s hard for most people to please everyone all of the time, Drake has the knack for crossing the boundaries with his music. His lyrical skills earned the respect from rap’s elite while his introspective, emotional and soulful storytelling rhymes won the ladies over tenfold. Now he plays to his strong point and combines both skills in the long-anticipated NWTS.
“Started From The Bottom” leaked prematurely but it pleased his hardcore fans and the beat helped spawn countless freestyles from other rappers. Drake offers up other songs for his true rap fans. “The Language” reuses Drake’s staccato flow from his verse on Migos’ “Versace.” “305 To my City” is an ode to Miami. Partnering with Jay Z on the “Pound Cake/Paris Motion Music 2,” the Canadian rapper comes to the table ready to match the soon-to-be billionaire rapper bar for bar all the while still being the same Drizzy that is attune to his softer side:
“I hear you talking, say it twice so I know you meant it/ Fuck it, I don’t even tint it, they should know who’s in it/ I’m authentic, real name, no gimmicks/ No game, no scrimmage, I ain’t playing with you niggas at all/ My classmates, they went on to be chartered accountants/ Or work with their parents but thinking back on how they treated me/ My high school reunion might be worth an appearance/ Make everybody have to go through security clearance/Tables turn, bridges burn, you live and learn/ With the ink I could murder, word to my nigga Irv”
(Jay Z still checks him and all of the other younger rappers out there with his first line: “I had Benzes before you had braces.”)
Unsurprisingly, Drake sings just as much as he raps. His third effort, which he also served as the executive producer, has some songs that lean a bit more on the R&B side than others. The sex invitation “Come Thru” will no doubt please his female fans. The beautifully tragic “From Time” features the angelic voice of Jhene Aiko who serves as the object of Drake’s affection. But “Hold On, We’re Going Home” featuring Majid Jordan, which serves as the second official single from NWTS, finds Drake doing his best Justin Timberlake impression.
What has become the norm for Drake, he continues to share his most personal thoughts with his fans in song-form throughout NWTS. He opens up about the rift between him and his fellow Young Money label mate Nicki Minaj:
“Not even talking to Nicki, communication is breaking/ I dropped the ball on some personal shit, I need to embrace it/ I’m honest, I make mistakes, I’d be the second to admit it/ Think that’s why I need her in my life, to check me when I’m trippin"
On “Too Much,” with R&B singer Sampha, the London version of The Weeknd, crooning sweetly behind him, talks about the growing distance between him and his relatives and even gives it to his mother straight:
“Hate the fact my mom cooped up in her apartment telling herself/ That she’s too sick to get dressed up and go do shit, like that’s true shit/ All my family from the M-Town that I’ve been around started treated me like I’m “him” now/ Like we don’t know each other, we ain’t grow together, we just friends now/ Shit got me feeling pinned down, pick the pen up or put the pen down/ Writing to you from a distance like a pen pal, but we’ve been down”
Drake borrows a few lines from Ma$e’s verse on “Mo Money, Mo Problems” for “Worst Behavior,” a song that has the 25-year-old rapper in his best form yet. By far, one of the stand-out tracks, Drake’s lyrics matches the intensity of the mean-sounding beat produced by DJ Dahi:
“Who’s hot, who not/ tell me who rock, who sell out in stores/ You tell me who flop, who copped the new drop/ Whose jewels got rocks, who else making rap albums/ Doing numbers like it’s pop? Same old pimp/ Drake, you know ain’t nothing changed with these funny style niggas/ We done put on in the game/ I just ask for some blessings at my grandmother’s grave/ And it’s back to L.A., open the mail up staring at the check/ Enough to make you want to throw up, it’s gross what I net”
Drake has found the perfect partner to match his sound, the Ryan Lewis to his Macklemore in producer Noah “40” Shebib. They’ve been together since the "Degrassi" days and it’s evident how well these two work together. Drake also relied on producers Detail, Boi-1da, Jake One, Hudson Mohawke and others to sonically shape NWTS. The entire album feels like one fluid motion where a hook blends seamlessly into a bridge, you can’t quite figure out where one song ends and the next begins, and the lines between R&B and rap are blurred.
By far, this is Drake’s best piece of work yet. The 26-year-old has been christened the heir to the throne back when he signed under Lil Wayne’s Young Money label. While his previous albums showed the potential and the creativity that he had, it is with NWTS that the predictions are finally coming true.
“Prince Akeem, they throw flowers at my feet, nigga!”