An Album that Shifted My High School Life: Drake — Nothing Was the Same

“Buzz so big I could probably sell a blank disc.” That line from Drake’s first big hit, “Best I Ever Had,” still rings true. When it’s all said and done, Drake will go down as one of the greatest artists of his generation. The number of hits, level of consistency, and anticipation of his presence are unmatched. There’s only a small selection of artists that have reached that level and Drake is one of them whether we like it or not. I remember when I first heard the Toronto native. I was 12 years old when I downloaded So Far Gone on DatPiff and instantly pressed play. It’s like you heard the tide changing once you finished the tape. The way he was rapping over Kanye West’s “Say You Will” beat, singing with Lloyd on “A Night Off,” and the big co-sign from Lil Wayne told me that Drake was on a path to greatness. Shortly after, Drake was all over the radio nonstop. I haven’t heard an artist get played like that ever in my life. All 97.9 The Box ever played was “Best I Ever Had,” “Successful,” “I’m Goin’ In,” “BedRock,” “Every Girl,” “Say Something,” and “I Invented Sex.” Yes, I had to list every song because that’s all they ever played and it worked. Drake was the golden child who was changing the game in a major way.

Although he wasn’t the first rapper to sing or rap about his emotions or personal life, he was (and still is) the biggest to ever do it. “Thank Me Later” may have not been the debut album we all wanted, but it did prove Drake can make great music that can reach the masses. A year and a half later, Drake released Take Care which some people call his best work. While I do love the album, I don’t believe it was his crowning achievement. It’s not what I wanted from him. The album was too long for me and it had some songs and features I could do without. It didn’t matter anyway because Drake was a certified star by that time. The hits kept charting, the audience kept growing, and his star power grew bigger. However, I wanted something more from Drake. I didn’t know what was it at the time until I got it. I got it on September 24, 2013, but before I talk about the album, I have to bring it back a bit.

When Drake dropped “Started From the Bottom,” it was a monumental anthem. I remember my friends in high school playing that song on the bus, in the cafeteria, and on the way home. It’s a song that is relatable to anyone who comes from the trenches. Everyone wants to make it in life. Everyone wants to reap the benefits of being successful. We all start from somewhere and Drake was able to attach a relatable feeling to this song and make another hit. As much as I love “Started From the Bottom,” I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about “Hold On We’re Going Home.” I feel like it’s one of Drake’s first timeless records. You know where you were when that song was first released. It’s a song that will play at weddings for years to come and even after we all perish. During the promotion of the album, Drake released a couple of loosie songs that I enjoyed listening to. “Jodeci Freestyle” with J. Cole was great, Drake’s verse on Migos’ “Versace” was so hard “All Me” was a great collaborative song where 2 Chainz, Drake, and Big Sean showed off their braggadocious lifestyle (I wish Drake would release the original one on streaming services,) and “Girls Love Beyoncé” is one of my favorite Drake loosies ever. However, a song that made me anticipate Nothing Was The Same was “Too Much.” When I saw him perform it on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, I had to convert it to an MP3 format. It was that good to me. The way he talked about his anxiety towards reaching his goal of being the best rapper and the family issues he was dealing with was riveting to me. I was all in for this album. However, I’m pretty sure you know what happened next. The album leaked a week early.

Although I waited for the official release of “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City,” I can’t say that I did the same for Drake. As soon as it leaked, I went straight to Zippyshare and got it. “Tuscan Leather” was the first track I heard and it did not disappoint. Drake was rapping as if his life depended on it. You can say what you want about him, but when he’s locked in the way he was on in that intro, he’s one of the best. From the lyrics to the three beat switches (with the second beat switch being my favorite one,) he did not let me down. “How much time is this nigga spending on the intro?” is my favorite line on the album. “Furthest Thing” is a great song as well and that beat switch feels so celebratory. The second half of the song felt like it could’ve been the final track of the album. Drake says on the song, “This the shit I wanna go out to” and I don’t blame him honestly. It has the feeling of Michael Jordan when he hit that final shot against Utah in ’98 or Kobe Bryant in the last game of his career. This is how Drake wants to go out. He wants to go out on top even when it’s all said and done. “Own It” was a song I didn’t really like at first until I revisited the album in college. “Worst Behavior” is just a banger. It’s as simple as that. It’s one of my favorite songs on the album. However, “From Time” is the turning point for me.

Jhene Aiko just shines on this song and Drake does what he does better than anyone: rap about relationships with women. The first verse is him talking about what he wants the future of his relationship to be like with the current woman in his life. Then, the beat plays backwards as Drake is rapping about the relationships in his past before he was famous. It’s a perfect Drake song with a concept that elevates the theme of NWTS. The ongoing conflict between his past and present life is spread across this album. Additionally, I just remembered that even on “Worst Behavior” he talked about how he’s transitioned from the boy to the man. It’s a very reflective project and the album showcases how Drake’s life hasn’t been the same since he’s been on top. For better or for worse.

“The Language” is an infamous song on NWTS because of how Drake subliminally dissed Kendrick Lamar on it. Before this album dropped, Kendrick had a verse on Big Sean’s song “Control” which name-dropped a lot of rappers on it including Drake. It was a verse that blew up on social media and was talked about for weeks. Afterwards, Drake stated that he wasn’t phased by the verse nor did he think it would hold any long-lasting significance. Whether you believe him or not, it’s still a good song without the drama that surrounds it. However, I can’t lie, I believed a few of those lines were directed at Kendrick when I first heard the track. “Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2” was the victory lap. From the Jimmy Smith intro to Drake talking about the life he lives now, and JAY-Z just being himself. Now, I know a lot of people have been mixed about Jay’s two verses on the song (specifically the second verse where he talks about cake.) Here’s how I feel about it: I don’t mind it. It doesn’t ruin the song for me. Do I think it’s amazing? No, but it’s not bad either. Anyways, the song transitions to “Paris Morton Music 2” in which Drake talks about how he deserves his respect. He also talks about how he’s not going to change who he is just for people to respect him. He then goes on to reflect on his relationship with Paris and how he met Lil Wayne. There goes that word again. Reflect. This is all the album is about at the end of the day.

Nothing Was The Same is an album that shares a constant dialogue of Drake looking back at his past and his past looking back at him. A lot of things changed for him when he started to become successful in music. Drake is not the same person he was as a kid. He went from being a youngin’ in Toronto to becoming the biggest rapper of his generation. You don’t get to that point without certain changes in your life. Whether it’s your relationship, family, mindset, career, etc.; things don’t stay the same forever. I didn’t think like this when the album first dropped. I just loved the album because the songs were that good. However, growing with this album made me realize how I appreciate Drake for giving me this relatable body of work. This is Drake’s best album to me. I believe he achieved what he wanted to. I’m also glad he believes that it’s his artistic peak as well. It’s a concise and well-thought-out project. Nothing Was The Same is everything you want out of a Drake project and it still holds up as the crown jewel in his discography.