Photo: Courtesy of OVO Sound
Poor Drake has so many feelings. He has feelings about having feelings; in fact, very few rappers have felt so conflicted about having feelings at such a young age. For instance, Nas has lots of feelings, but he has been rapping for two decades. (Side note: Want to feel old? Illmatic turned 20 this year.) Jay-Z also has a great heap of feelings, but he has about eight lifetimes worth of career underneath him. But Drake, at the tender age of 26, spends time looking backwards, reflecting on his career, the nature of fame, and the depth of relationships — and this is just his third, full-length album.
Nothing Was The Same features more of Drake shoe-gazing, dreamily both boasting and lamenting about being at the top and how lonely it is up there. The experimental dance jams that made Take Care such a hit are gone, but in its place are more emotional, rolling tunes, perfect for rainy days and heartbreak. ("Worst Behaviour" is notable, not just for the Kanye-style synth and organic drums, but also for its adorable Canadianess in the spelling of "Behaviour.") While "Started From The Bottom" is the ostensible single on the album, other chart-ready tunes include the '80s-esque "Hold On, We're Going Home," which has Drake doing his own version of Marvin — that is, if the radio is cool with Drake doing R&B. A couple other tearjerkers include the Hudson Mohawke-produced "Connect" and the very, very James Blake "305 To My City," which demonstrates Drake's usage of electronics to make us, like him, feel feelings.
In fact, anyone looking for the braggadocio that Drake enjoyed during his time as Wayne's right-hand dude will be left out in the cold; even Jay-Z's verse (which he simply steals out from under Drake) in "Pound Cake", is a dreamy, downtempo song that would feel more at home in a bedroom DJ's 3 a.m. playlist instead of a club.
So, nothing is the same, says Drake, who is bringing a thoughtful sensitivity to mainstream rap. He employs emotion, musicality, and confession to make us connect with him — and he only falls off when he tries to sell us a rags to riches story like in "Come Thru." (Sorry, Aubrey Graham, but we remember your Degrassi days...you can't sell us on your hard knock life.) But yes, Drake succeeded. We are feeling things, lots and lots of things.