I really can’t stand to listen to this joint in its entirety anymore. So this shallow review is all you get!
Drake has been that simp that I’ve loved to hate for a long time. I first heard about dude back when Joe Budden’s youtube was poppin with new funny videos every week. Back in the So Far Gone (his intro mixtape that was eventually officially released like an album) days, when a sometimes-gangsta rapper claiming to like Drake’s emo-music was something to be surprised about. To tell the truth, I too liked Drake back then. You still can’t tell me that Say What’s Real and Uptown aren’t amazing songs. So I decided that I could ignore the emo aesthetic and weak singing, and appreciate the rapper who was sort of dope and could actually make an overdone topic like materialism be interesting again. And hopefully Drake would make that strategy easy to carry out. But the hate started just a bit later…
You see, Drake never chucked that other crap aside. He never became the rapper I wanted him to be. In fact, listening to either of his first two albums was an exercise in avoiding drowning in his tears. They had a few moments but you had to wade through a lot of therapy session songs to get to these moments. To top it all off, Take Care‘s Practice takes the cake for Drake’s most cringe-inducing moment, where he sings Juvenile’s Back That Azz Up(!) on a terrible muted instrumental. So yeah, Drake made hate trivially easy to embrace.
Despite this history, I decided to give Aubrey’s newest bowl of simpery, Nothing Was The Same, a shot. I’m a music critic now, right? So I ought to spend some time on the mainstream shit too. My experience with this album wasn’t too different from his last two, but overall I liked NWTS the best out of all three. It feels less whiny, and the missteps aren’t as bad as before, in my opinion at least. Note that I’ll mostly be talking about the hip-hop songs on NWTS. I’ve no interest in Drake the singer, so a good 2/3 of this album isn’t for me. Shit like Hold On, We’re Going Home and From Time were made to cater to Pop and R&B audiences, respectively, and I don’t want them and songs like them on my rap albums.
But back to the missteps, as opposed to the forays into unapproved genres. The main “misstep” that everyone has likely heard about is Wu-Tang Forever. Topically, the song has nothing to do with The Majestic W, but its beat captures the haunting vibe of some mid-era Wu music. And it samples The Clan saying “it’s yourz”, from their song titled, you guessed it, It’s Yourz. Oh, and Drake lifts the first couple lines from Raekwon’s verse on that song. But Drake’s pseudo-reinterpretation of classic Wu is about a girl until Drake starts rapping about one topic per couplet. So it’s a weird song like Practice, where the influences are from all over and mashed together, but here they at least make a cool song. No, I don’t know what he’s talking about. No, his singing here doesn’t sound any better than usual. But damn if it doesn’t sound good with that beat. Damn if I don’t wish he had doubled the number of rapped verses and nixed all sung ones. Where Practice should have never made its way outside of Drake’s imagination, Wu-Tang Forever shows much more effort to be true to the influences. They weren’t forced together, it all feels organic.
A song that fails in feeling organic but regardless, keeps your head knodding is the huge single, Started From The Bottom. In it, Drake tries to sell us on his “humble” beginnings but the fairy tale falls flat on its face when he reminisces on things like borrowing his Uncle’s car or arguing with his mom on a monthly basis. He might as well have complained about not having HBO on the TV in his bedroom! Only a banging beat like this one could rescue such slop.
Like Wu-Tang Forever, the best part of Worst Behavior is its energy. Drake refuses to talk about anything, and even declines to rap for most of the song, instead yelling one-liners for about three minutes before doing a verse that jacks more than a little bit of Ma$e’s verse from Mo Money Mo Problems. But the indignant, fuck you and your friend attitude that permeates the song is perfect. And the video is hysterical!
the beginning is like Biggie’s Sky’s The Limit video in hilarious reverse
The two other rap songs worth talking about are Pound Cake and All Me. The latter has 2 Chainz and Big Sean dropping bragging rhymes along with Drake. The song altogether is decent but nothing special, and Drake’s sing-yelling hook threatens to ruin everything. Meanwhile Pound Cake has such head-knodding, real hip-hop beat, replete with DJ scratching, that it’s tragic that Drake’s middling verse is complimented by two-too-many instances of Jay-z again proving to be a colossal waste of space. Ah well, I’m sure some mixtape rapper (or 500) has done better with that beat by now.
So there’s my opinions on the rap pieces of Nothing Was The Same. Most of the songs that I didn’t talk about were of the “sing everything but rap one verse” variety. I don’t hate the idea of these songs, in fact most were pretty alright. But Drake’s singing voice, the constant woeful tone, and the sleepy beats didn’t warrant repeated plays. Call me a neanderthal, one who does in fact like some emo music, like Atmosphere, but this is just too much emotion for me. I can’t deal. When Drake decides to mostly be a rapper, the results are surprisingly good. But clearly, his bread is buttered on the female, spacey R&B side. Again, I’m disappointed by a rapper who refuses to embrace being a rapper.
PS: Leave it to The Lox to do to a beat what the mainstream rappers failed to do: