Words by Mustafa Abubaker (@mustafaintheory)
It’s starting to get cold in Toronto. 40 degree nights and thoughts of the New Year hover over the city like a shroud; wispy, non-committal, existential. Somewhere in this international city, Aubrey Drake Graham is driving in that dark Bugatti Veyron, surely thinking about how much his third LP will change things, if he’s finally ready to get back into acting, if Courtney from Hooters still thinks about him, if the confessional nature of the “Too Much” verse was a good idea, maybe even amused at the fact that it took so long to embrace change for the better.
Nothing Was The Same is a wide departure from the brooding sounds and topics which, perhaps un-intentionally, haunted his previous releases. Gone is the excess of Take Care and the structured feel of Thank Me Later. Gone is the Drake who wishes he wasn’t famous, who finds himself drunk-dialing old flames after the club’s let out and it’s time to go home. Nothing Was The Same marks an era of cordial apathy, a time in his life where he simply accepts. It’s devastatingly refreshing from a musical stand-point; Drake’s cut the corners, refined the edges and really taken time out to look deep within his own soul. As easy as it sounds, it’s much more difficult to accomplish. On some level, we’re all working towards acceptance, whether it’s realized or not. Think about the session for “From Time.” A discerningly beautiful Jhene Aiko cautioning hip hop’s golden child about empty relationships, a nostalgic Drake reminiscing on past loves.
Taking the higher path, Drake blames himself and leaves the rest to life. “Flower child, beautiful child, I’m in ya zone.” It’s a cathartic LP on the cusp of nonchalance, lingering on the out-skirts of town, staring wistfully into the city behind it, the memory behind it, the woman behind it, the experience behind it, without any regret. Reversed samples of Whitney Houston, thinly veiled messages towards Rihanna, pledges of allegiance to his YMCMB team, a Grammy acceptance speech in the form of the final verse, a heightened sense of self… these are just a few of the elements strewn about Nothing Was The Same, a project which likens itself to a wiser, more focused So Far Gone.
I just think about when I heard “Best I Ever Had” for the first time. All the homies were saying ‘Yeah, dude signed to Wayne, etc, etc.’ I’m 16, hung up on the likes of Kanye, Jay, and Ross and I didn’t get it then. That’s the point. So much of my generation has grown (and is still growing) with Drake’s music, more-so than any other artist. So much has been made of Drake’s ability to exhume the intricacies of the human condition from deep under the storied bravado of rap music. I’m 20 years old, a college student born in Queens and raised in Atlanta. I can’t forget all those school bus rides, bumping “Ignorant Shit” in the a.m. and “Bria’s Interlude” on the way home. I can’t forget how “Karaoke” helped me realize all hearts must break and how “Light Up” helped me realize how important it was to protect mine. I can’t forget where I was for “Headlines” (2 a.m., flying down Route 75, smacked) or who “Look What You’ve Done” made me remember after years. And, a few years down the line, I’m sure I won’t forget “Started From The Bottom” or “Hold On, We’re Going Home” for what they are, polarizing records, mirror opposites in their content but records that shaped my 20th year and give me the ability to accept.
So, in a few months, when it’s starting to get cold in Atlanta, 40 degree nights and thoughts of the New Year will hover over the city like a shroud; wispy, non-committal, existential. Somewhere in this diversified city, I’ll be driving through it in that dark Nissan Xterra, surely thinking about how much this third LP has changed things; if I’m finally ready to write that life-affirming and highly personal novel, if Shashika still thinks about me, if coming back home was a good idea, maybe I’ll even be amused at the fact that it took so long to embrace change for the better. With Nothing Was The Same, Drake, an icon to myself in my adolescence and forever an inspiration to kids who sought more than bravado, has proven one truth: compliance is no true reprisal.