REVIEW: Drake —- Nothing Was The Same
Kara was 5’9. She was light caramel with a subtly round booty, perky breasts, and thick thighs, but was still somewhere between average build and almost athletic. She also had a law degree and comes from a well connected family. Okay, the point is not about her degrees or her subtly round booty or thick thighs. (I know you are still picturing her in your head.) One day, as Kara and I were studying for a very difficult three day exam, she excitedly informed me that she was going to a Drake concert. She might as well have told me that she got gangbanged by the Croatian National Basketball team and the Mexican National Soccer team on the same day. “How the hell is your 33 year old ass going to pay to see Drake and be excited?” I thought to myself.
In reality, it doesn’t matter.
And that is the key when listening to Drake’s music, just remember that it doesn’t matter.
Drake has found a way to access the ears and attention of everyone from 33 year old professional women to kids who still keep up with new releases and what is on the radio. He has done this by making music that is simultaneously the perfect representation of mainstream hip-hop in the new millennium, while at the same time, being damn near close to just simple pop music. If rapping, as Andre 3000 once stated on an mid-2000s VH-1 documentary, is essentially “shittalking,” then Drake is the best shit talker on the planet. And an essential element of early hip-hop was having fun, then, Drake’s music is the most aesthetically pleasing hip-hop that is made today. Everything sounds great, whether it is his flow (and Drake can rhyme better than 99 percent of underground rappers that hip-hop nerds champion), or his production, ranging from Southern-Cash Money influenced songs to Golden age/East Coast influenced songs to his flirtations with pop and fake melancholy dark moody soundscapes. It doesn’t matter if some of his sentiments are vapid and his clever lyrics and lines lack depth. Who the hell really listen to music for depth anymore? (I know Kara doesn’t.)
When it comes to pleasing the listener, Nothing Was The Same sounds great from beginning to end. It is probably the most consistent hip-hop album in recent memory, a thousand times more consistent than Life Is Good…., which everyone claimed to love. “Tuscan Leather,” as Drake would mention, sounds like a long extended intro. Drake vents, but still find time to be charmingly funny, as he said, “Rich enough that I don’t have to tell them that I’m rich. Noah “40” Shebib’s production sounds like a leaner, tighter, early Kanye West sound. “Furthest Thing,” is one of a handful of songs featuring Drake singing or talk-singing. He is still “drinking, fucking, scheming, on the low,” and confesses that he is ” the furthest thing” from perfect. The song is sonically perfect and the mellow production blends well with his talk-singing on this track. Listening to Drake, it appears that he is half bragging/not giving a fuck rather than confessing, as he mention that he still remembers seeing the object of his verse naked, and “getting high at the condo that’s when it all comes together.” The thinly-veil confession, while his real sentiment is bragging and not giving a fuck, is a continuous theme on Nothing Was The Same.
“Started From the Bottom,” is straight simple great hip-hop braggadocio. “Wu-Tang Forever,” continues on Drake’s theme of owning everything from the women he bedded to his wealth and power. Somehow, he managed to make this track, which is treading a fine line between self-parody and Wu-Tang mockery, one of the better tracks on this album. “Own It” continues the same theme as “Wu-Tang Forever,” but with a moody slow down tempo for better background music for the ladies. “Worse Behavior” has Drake going off on everyone who has doubted him in the past, and bragging that he is making “rap albums doing numbers like its pop.” Besides his lyrical prowess and sense of humor, the next two tracks are essential reasons why Drake can shift units like a pop artist.
“From Time,” which features vocals from Jhene Aiko, is a shallow pop mood piece, which at first listen appears to be deep, reflective, and soulful. However, at the core, it is one of Drake’s tracks, even with the moody melodic piano, that is essentially shrugging about the women he’s been with and their emotions about him. In the end, he claims that he is still the better man for them than anyone else — even if he is not, cannot, or do not want to be with them. Simply put, women love this shit. Part of Drake’s genius is that he understands that women love this shit — the sensitive, but “do not give a fuck” player that appears to have a heart. Women falls for it about ninety percent of the time, and they fall for Drake, so much so that Drake went ahead and wrote a pop/yacht rock song for them. “Hold On, We’re Going Home” (featuring Majid Jordan) is a damn good pop song that could be played on any light rock/less talk or smooth jazz station that has the words “sunny,” “windy,” or “wave” in its title. The song, which is less about love, commitment, or passion and more about an affair or an semi-emotional fling, is genius and shows how keen Drake’s pop sensibilities are.
With Drake’s pop savvy in place, “Connect,” “The Language,” and “305 to My City” continues lyrical cleverness braggadocio and more semi-caring lines and half reflections about meaningless sexual encounters. “All Me” is similar to the three aforementioned tracks just with Big Sean and 2Chainz, and more meaningless posturing. An interesting thing happened on “Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2.” Drake clearly outshines Jay Z, who sounds tired and old on it. One realizes that Drake has taken everything from post millennium Jay-Z: the wit, the humor, the punchlines, and the ability to brag and boast but remain likable — and is doing it ten times better. The early to mid-period Jay-Z albums had a soulfulness about them, even with the bragging about money and women and drug infused storytelling, there was a heavy emotional core. This all stopped somewhere after the Blueprint. I doubt that anyone can name more than four Jay Z songs post the Blueprint album. This is because after that album, Jay Z was about famous producers on the record, some hot beats, some clever verses, but keeping the theme about the same shit over and over again — and people will still buy it because — shit, because its Jay Z. Drake figured this out too. He knew that finding a pop audience and keeping his sales up, and being a personality (and Drake has fifty times more personality than Jay Z), is more important than making thoughtful, soulful, emotionally connected and sincere hip-hop or pop influenced hip-hop. As long as it is sonically pleasing, and his flow and his personality shines through — who cares if the emotions are fake and the reflection and thoughtfulness are less than sincere.
It doesn’t matter. As long as it sounds great, and “Come Thru” and “Too Much” sound clean, even if the vocals by Sampha and Drizzy himself, sounds hollow and soulless. It is not about soul, effort, or sincerity as long as you get the pussy, the money, and come out unscathed in the end. In the new millennium, Drake’s singing or talk-singing tracks does not make him “less hip-hop.” It is clever marketing and pushing his brand with just the right about of pop or pop songs, and doing exactly what he wants on his record. It actually makes him more hip-hop than anyone else out there. There have been other hip-hop artists who sang, but no one does it as effectively as Drake.
When Phonte sings, he gives wisdom, soul, and real advice. But Phonte is too honest and sincere for 2013, or hell, 2009, no one wants honesty and sincerity in pop music anymore. Wyclef’s Carribeaness and Bob Marley imposter act gives him some white folks credibility, but he sounds like a clown at times. Nate Dogg is menacing masculinity. You wouldn’t want to fuck with Nate Dogg. However, as endearing as Nate Dogg can be, his counter melody tone and glare make some people uncomfortable. While Drake’s singing can be a mockery of the listener; he is adept at allowing the listener to think that he is laughing with you, all the while he is laughing at you and bragging that he is better than you. This fits society perfectly, he is the dude every asshole wants to be and every woman wants to be with. In the end, assholes from Dwyane Wade to Steve Ballmer wins. And while people who sees through his bullshit wants to kick his ass, the problem is, if we do, he would hire people he knows from the bar mitzvah he went to and press charges.
On Nothing Was The Same, the key is that Drake and his guest singers sound sincere, even if they are just shrugging and are thinking about more sex, money, and drugs. The reflective pensive songs on the album sounds like a reflection after a night of drinks, drugs, and sex in Miami or Vegas, rather than a reflection by the ocean or some bleak but beautiful walk through Bristol. The moody songs that are supposed to be soulful and quasi-deep sounds hollow. Then again, that’s probably the point. Depth and substance is completely gone in modern music that it has to be made up and contrived to exist. Nobody does this better than Drake.
And always remember, sincerity and soul does not matter. It doesn’t matter.
“Just give it time, we’ll see who’s around a decade from now,” Drake said on “Tuscan Leather.” I have zero doubt that Drake will be around a decade from now. Similar to Usher and Snoop Lion/Dogg, he has mastered the art of getting pop fans/mainstream’s affection and attention. And just like Usher and Snoop, Drake is able to get grown ass women and not so grown ass girls to fall for him, want him, attend his concerts, listen to him, feel sorry for him, love and forgive him. This is something that Lil Wayne, Jay-Z,Common, Kanye, and Kendrick Lamar cannot do. Weezy is a curiosity/freak. Jay-Z is for money hungry materialistic bitches only. Common is that idealized dude that doesn’t exist. Kanye has too much anger and his music contains too much angst, frustration, and honesty. Intellectuals still debate Kanye, but women and kids think he is too crazy and overlook key points he makes about race and violence. Kendrick is a short ghetto intellectual from Compton; these are cliches that no longer work. While Drake is a boastful self-tortured but still getting pussy multi-racial former child star, these are the cliches that do work. For all the women that crave the mirages of these aforementioned rappers, all of them would rather hang out with and fuck Drake. And Kara would too.