The most anticipated rap album of the year is here and “Nothing Was the Same” is probably nothing like you expected. Drake’s third album is introspective, practically guest free, and every bit as sonically brave as Kanye West’s “Yeezus” – though not quite so abrasively bold.
There are no radio cuts here – a predictable inevitability after he debuted “Started from the Bottom” last winter. That song was nothing like the music Drake released on 2011’s top album, the Grammy Award-winning “Take Care.” Yet it got stronger, more mesmerizing and meaningful with each play, and it remains among the most streamed songs in a year overstuffed with sickly sweet pop tunes.
“Take Care” was meant to be played at top volume with the windows rolled down. It was club music. The party is over now. “Nothing” is for dark rooms and headphones. There are few hooks here, almost no choruses, not much to sing along to. The heart-on-his-sleeve rapper with a million friends and the tightest of crews seems all alone here after ridding himself of fake friends, trying to sort out why all the success, the money, the drugs and the women leave him with a hollow feeling.
The only pleasant memories seem to come from his childhood – represented by that chubby-cheeked cherub in the cover painting – and the ’90s are all over the album, serving as touchstone, reminder, and measuring stick.
Where “Yeezus” shows us West has turned confrontational in the post-fame portion of his career and Jay Z has become condescending with “Magna Carta… Holy Grail,” Drake becomes more and more confessional with each release. His charismatic self-doubt remains intact even as he wears the crown.
It sits atop his sharp-cut fade, heavy and at a tilt, but still firmly in place.
Drake ‘Nothing Was the Same’ Rating: W W W W