In a lot of ways, Drake’s latest work builds on his past releases. As he’s built a career on letting everyone know he’s the underdog that rose to fame by being different, he further reinforces this perception by taking his meteoric rise and flipping it into an undulating story that people admire and identify with, the good and the bad.
As always, Drake does this by employing the same brutal honesty that has become the cornerstone of his image. From this perspective, Nothing was the Same acts as an insight map laying out his experiences in front of the whole world to see. His observations are the same thoughts we have within our own lives, of course, on a much more exaggerated scale.
This is the standard he’s set within his aesthetic, and it works well. He’s not afraid to be open and let listeners know what he’s done. Sprinkle in some vicious braggadocio and you have a an artist who celebrates his successes and ruminates on his lows with his listeners, letting them into his world in a way that’s not often seen from your typical hip-hop artist.
The album structure reinforces this by cycling through his different flows in an erratic sequence making Drake seem bi-polar. Switching from braggadocio flows, to desolate storytelling, and back to stream of consciousness emotion gives the listener an impression of being overwhelmed, where everything seems bigger than it actually is, which is a common perception of life for younger people. Consider the title and Drake’s stage in life. Listeners identify with a constantly changing world, a common thread running through our lives.
As a hip-hop artist, Drake has shown little growth technically, which should not be interpreted as though he lacks technical gifts, but that, conceptually, he’s far removed from his So Far Gone days. His ability to connect to his audience has become stronger as time has gone by as his understanding of painting his experiences in a relatable light has become more refined.
This is the case for the production as well. Drake lets you know this is not a radio singles album. As good as the singles were, ‘Started From the Bottom’ and ‘Hold On We’re Going Home’ stick out sorely from the rest of production. For the most part, it’s the other tracks that really bring Drake’s vision into focus. The production formula has been slowly refined with Noah “40” Shebib unleashing it on this release.
Shebib takes the quintessence of ’90s R&B production and flip ’90s R&B tropes into something more emotionally raw. While ’90s R&B production was glossy, elaborate, and often maudlin, Shebib isolates the same type of vibe and redefines it through more atmospheric synth and drum work.
It’s a concept that reinterprets the soul sample for an audience that’s used to more aggressive synth loops and speaker breaking drums. Add to this a new range of producers who fit well with Shebib’s outlook and the contributions of those producers enhances the overall listening experience, balancing the R&B inverted production that Shebib utilizes.
On a side note: The synth bridge that Hudson Mohawke came up with in ‘Connect’ only reinforces the hype around him.
For more on Drake, visit www.drakeofficial.com.