Looking back at the past year or so, it’s kind of strange that Drake had a beef with Common, considering that Drake’s sound is actually closer to Common’s than it is to his Young Money label mates. Wayne is a tried-and-true misogynist with a heavy southern sound, while Nicki is an almost cartoon-like, crossover caricature that woos female fans with her girl-power raps, and male onlookers with her body. While many of the other Young Money crew members more or less follow the blueprint set by Wayne and Birdman, Drake’s almost the odd man out; a clean-cut Canadian who passes on the Southern sound, instead opting for beats better suited for Sade, Phonte Coleman, or yes, Common. Maybe that’s why we like him.
But the one thing that Drake has that Common doesn’t is the ability to use this mellowed out sound, and still resonate with the crossover and hood audiences. Common has carved out many classic albums (you can debate amongst yourselves which), but he’s never had a bonafide mainstream hit record that has resonated with each the streets, the club, and radio. Perhaps envy is what sparked the beef, but as Common said famously on 1997′s “Invocation”, “Not for the money, I could have sampled Diana Ross a long time ago” – a thinly veiled diss at Biggie’s “Mo’ Money, Mo Problems”.
So Young Money’s formula for success is much different than it’s previous incarnation, Ca$h Money Records, which more-or-less followed the No Limit Records blueprint of similar-looking albums, from similar sounding artists. The holy trinity of Drake, Wayne, and Nicki presents three different artists with their own sound and style, which – if you can look beyond record company marketing and branding – suggests you can like one without liking the rest.
Drake’s albums have reviewed well here because of this, but Wayne and Nicki have not followed suit in our review section. Drake has been branded by the hardcore fans as a pop artist, but he has proven over the last few years that he does have bars. It might not be evident from something like “Hold On, We’re Going Home”, an obvious ode to Sade, and a song he intended to be “played at weddings in ten years”. But the flipside, “Started From The Bottom”, finds Drake getting a bit more raw over a beat that clearly is inspired by Raekwon’s “Ice Cream”.
The Wu-Tang influence in Drake’s music has come through since his first album, on “Show Me A Good Time”, where he compared his crew to a millennial Clan: “That’s my team, never would I let a woman come between / What we doing right now, this our dream / Wu-Tang Clan: n***as want that cream / I’m the Osiris to this shit right now / Go to guy for the hits right now.” Clearly raised on the Wu, he has carried that influence over – albeit a smoother sound – to his own music. It comes through in many places on the record, such as on the aforementioned “Started From The Bottom”, as well as this album’s “Wu-Tang Forever”, which samples “It’s Yourz”, from RZA and company’s seminal double album. While the idea of titling an R&B-tinged song about one-sided monogamy after a classic Wu-Tang album is a bit blasphemous, outside of that, in this context, the track remains pretty decent. So while most of his label mates were likely bumping the Master P catalog in their youth, again, Drake is YMCMB’s odd man out.
Nothing Was The Same is his third album, which builds upon the blueprint set forth on Thank Me Later and Take Care. While Drake has stated that he sees this as a departure from his earlier works, truth be told, this album is very similar to it’s predecessors. As fans of his first two releases – and it’s preceding mixtape, So Far Gone, the album subscribes to an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” aesthetic. It’s largely produced by longtime collaborator, Noah “40″ Shebib, whom has a knack for chilled, ethereal beats, so naturally carries the vibe of his last two records. Drake’s an interesting story-teller, with a crisp delivery that somehow keeps you hanging off of every word, as he demonstrates on the album opener, “Tuscan Leather”. It’s a two-part introduction where he beats critics to the question, “How much time is this ***** spending on the intro?”, yet it’s so well done, you don’t seem to mind. Songs like “Worst Behavior” and “Furthest Thing” find him exploring his imperfections, hypnotically employing his voice and his hooks into songs you can’t help but sing along to.
While Drake is an interesting character with a kush, James Bond-esque lifestyle, his adventures are intriguing to listen to, but also easy to hate on. However, he isn’t trying to hide who he is, as songs like “Too Much” and “Pound Cake / Paris Morton Music 2″ find him airing out personal details of his life and family. Despite the fact we barely know who these people are, it’s almost an Eminem-like view into the windows of his private jet. Almost.
It also should be noted that this album produces two potential breakout stars, with Majid Jordan, who provides backup vocals on “Hold On, We’re Going Home”, and on “Too Much”, led by soul vocalist, Sampha. It’s clear that we will be hearing a lot from these gentlemen over the next few years, if even only regulated to a few more background vocals.
If Nothing Was The Same has a fault, it is that Drake has essentially made the same album as he has twice previously; which is ironic, given the title of this record. However, those albums were good, and this one is too. “305 To My City” seems to trail off into randomness at times, and there are some other parts of this record that plod along. However Drake and 40 have found a formula that works for them, and have built upon a solid foundation laid by his first few releases. Get to know this dude, he’s not a bad guy.
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