Most artists remain relevant by dropping vast amounts of music. And that’s fine, pending quality and quantity remain eye-to-eye. Drake just happens to practice the exact opposite.
Coming into 2013, the anticipation for Aubrey’s third album, Nothing Was The Same, was suffocating. He rode the success of his Grammy-winning Take Care throughout 2012 while releasing no new music of his own. What ultimately happened by the time NWTS dropped almost two years later was another emotional roller coaster authored by Hip-Hop’s most transparent serial dater.
The result was par for the course from Drizzy who tapped into every element of his veil of vulnerability. There were the obvious ploys directed towards the fairer sex (“Come Thru,” “Connect,” “Hold On, We’re Going Home” and “Own It”). There was Drake’s penchant for introspection, which shone brightly (“Too Much” and “From Time”). There was also tough talk that claimed residency on the LP, too (“Tuscan Leather,” “Started From The Bottom,” “Worst Behaviour” and “All Me”). An admitted perfectionist, Drake’s latest collection of quality thoughts effortlessly fell in line with precedents set by Thank Me Later and Take Care.
Yet, there was one moment when NWTS all made sense. For me, at least.
Before addressing that, let’s take a trip back in time to late 2008. Drake’s “Say What’s Real” was a glimpse into what would become the game-changing mixtape So Far Gone, which dropped two months later. Harping on deals gone sour and the unending presence of false friends, Drake masterfully painted the picture of trusting in a talent few initially invested stock in.*
Now fast forward to Nothing Was The Same, in particular “Paris Morton Music 2.” Or, as the song has since become known, Drake’s “full circle” moment and when “Say What’s Real” completed its manifestation.
“Look, fuck all that ‘happy to be here’ shit that y’all want me on
I’m the big homie, they still be tryin’ to lil’ bro me, dog
Like I should fall in line, like I should alert niggas
When I’m ’bout to drop something crazy and not say I’m the greatest of my generation
Like I should be dressing different
Like I should be less aggressive and pessimistic
Like I should be way more nervous and less dismissive
Like I should be on my best behavior and not talk my shit
And do it major like the niggas who paved the way for us
Like I didn’t study the game to the letter
And understand that I’m not doing it the same, man, I’m doing it better…”
Drake surpassed nearly every unrealistic expectation placed upon him in 2009. He wore ugly sweaters, was the subject of countless memes and survived controversy because, at the end of the day, the quality of his product spoke for him. He was hilariously denied access from the Miami Heat’s locker room. Yet, he won the respect of his peers. He stood over them in some cases. He set records. He became his own brand. He became everything he said he’d be.
Is Nothing Was The Same the album of the year? Well, no, not exactly. Ranking at No. 3 obviously implies two other projects eclipsed him in said category. What it is, nevertheless, is the most recent and concrete example in what’s becoming an undeniably legendary career, one currently in progress with several chapters still yet to be composed.
Coming to grips with this truth is easier for some than others. The guy formerly known as Wheelchair Jimmy? Yeah, he’s built for the long haul.
Previously: The 10 Best Albums Of 2013: Part One (10-4)
* – My best friend Brad went to see Lil Wayne perform in January 2009 in Atlanta. Before the concert, he stopped by Lenox Mall. Jae Millz and Drake were there. Here’s the catch, all of the fans swamped Millz. Not one person asked Drake for his autograph, let alone recognized who he was. A month later Drake became the hottest name in rap and, literally, nothing was the same.