Honest Reviews: a listening session in which reviews are recorded in the moment.
Go ahead. Make an all-too easy joke about Drake. They’re all over the Internet like a starlet gone seriously bad. Hitherto, while they are jokes on jokes at his expense, with even Slate.com pondering if it’s possible to love his music but be frequently annoyed by him, it’s safe to concur that apparently a possibility. With his strong OVO fanbase beside him, Drake is polarizing to lots of rap fanatics that are regularly mangled that while his upbringing is more clean but than the average emcee, he has a way with words and in inflecting them in his music that is achingly stripped to the marrow because he’s conspicuously emotional and admitting defeat is at times seen as a major flaw not to be showcased in hip-hop.
I’ll be honest. I stalled at listening to Nothing Was the Same the week it was leaked online for I wasn’t ready for another round of emo-rap. I got my own problems to meditate, but I also knew that listening to him would be a much more welcoming experience than some of his peers’ work. Listening to a Drake album is very much a case study of looking into the mirror glass and having to face your bravado, fears, and anticipations. A Drake album has always been like this, and on Nothing Was the Same, I found his return to familiar territory not just tangible, but discussed in a way that showed growth in how he shares his recollection of the mistakes the made and the women that shocked him with their tenacity to walk away, and most of all, his unceasing need to spread his torrid for love demons across the table, or better yet a bed sheet. If anyone was feeling “Summertime Sadness”, it was Drake, and his re-modeling of the “Heartbreak Hotel” is one for the fellas. Some critics argued that despite maturity as an artist, Drake has yet to deliver a classic album, but I disagree. NWTS may be the most accessible out of his three releases. Thank Me Later was a juvenile understanding; on Take Care he seemed to hanging by a thread for all he had earned and wanted so desperately. On NWTS, he’s come to terms to what’s he done and what happened and is getting better as deciphering his character for the sake of his well-being, even if he sometimes contradicts himself out of a sheer need to appear brawny despite being a walking glass house.
There are also many sonic adventures here that’s also exciting to hear. I gave into how cathartic the album was and that despite any child-like tendencies I still express, as a young adult getting closer and closer to leaving my 20s behind, I completely understand his faults, his over-charged self-examinations, and the need to hold on to arrogance .
Below are the honest reactions developed while listening to NWTS.
1. “Tuscan Leather”
Based upon Drake’s standards, this is an epic intro that eloquently wraps up an up-until-now look inside his life that you feel he’ll dive into deeper unto the following tracks. He starts off rapping calmly and then eases into a minor agitated tone as if he’s realizing what he’s saying, e.g. how him and Nicki Minaj haven’t talked like they used to. He sounds
2. “Furthest Thing”
“Somewhere between psychotic and iconic” may be one of the most profound statements from Drizzy, and he goes on to list odds and ends of what we should be blessed to already have and our greed for more. There’s something kind of “Marvin’s Room” about this track, and immediately hooks you with a memorable hook perfect for the quarter-crisis of what we should be aiming for, and how we insist on holding on to the 21-year-old in us. If at all, “Furthest Thing” is about how it’s time to grow up.
3. “Started from the Bottom”
Drake will probably never get the full credit for this jam for the simple fact that he was a child actor and never at one point a hustler in the streets. Who cares? This song speaks to the Rocky in all of us, especially the chorus. Give a Drizzy and join in the celebration. His deeper tone is quite interesting to hear as well, like he was holding back or running a bit out of breath.
4. “Wu-Tang Forever”
I knew this song would be controversial for its title alone. Named after the iconic group’s 1997 LP, everyone collectively thought this better come hard. Not at all rough-edged, it’s a not-so secret semi-ballad with a trying to be sexy chorus of “It’s yours”, and he’s voice goes breathy with invited temptations of spending the night with him. Drake continues to sound sexually frustrated not because he’s not getting any, but because for whatever reasons sex is easy but nothing else is.
5. “Own It”
The this is yours if you really want motif goes on in this one, and is a bit more convincing than WTF, but maybe because the pressure of living up to such a song title is gone. There’s a lot of pleading for ownership here, but oddly enough I don’t want to use his unmasked insecurity against him. And evidently, his women problems, or contemplation(s), are really getting the bet of him despite what he might think.
6. “Worst Behavior”
Abruptly abrasive, Drake gets gully here. I can’t even remember the last time he said “muthafucka” while listening to this. It’s like the ready to rumble version of “Started from the Bottom”, and sounds like Kanye on a pissy day. Oh. And I peeped that Mase reference in one of the verses (“Ain’t nothing change but my limp”).
7. “From Time”
Jhene Aiko’s whisper-y vocals are so amazing on “From Time”. As she sings “I love me, I love me enough for the both us”, the production was smart to include her here. Aiko’s angelic presence almost becomes a revelation of what are we fighting for when it comes to love. This track also contains Drake’s now infamous call-out to Courtney from Hooters on Peachtree, alluding to major jealously on his a part. Note to Aiko: More piano backbeats for you to sing along with.
8. “Hold On, We’re Going Home”
The love stories of Drake continues as on this electro-pop lite thang, Drake is whirling in a reverie of promises and expectations. I find the line of “You’re a good girl and you know it” intriguing because sometimes guys like saying that, and it’s like a under the radar comment on a girl exhibiting the traditional values or expectations that a woman should exhibit as opposed to a headstrong, self-imposed leader of her world. Is this good girl still headstrong if she’s that to you? And what does that makes Drake? I do like the choir part towards the end.
A wrap-up of the every other argument you’ve had in a relationship, especially one that despite the red flags you want to make it work. Did he really just say “pussy power” though. I can’t deal. And he said it again. What’s best about this track is that for whatever reason, I’m envisioning a Mulholland Drive style down the road, of a girl looking as stylish as ever walking alone with a car on her footsteps, in-between flashbacks of him and her fighting. This one’s cinematic.
10. “The Language”
I have no idea what this one will be about. He definitely has introduced himself to the inner circle trend of talking about real life issues of love and life amongst the acknowledgment that he is a public figure and some of his problems are of the 1% kind. This right here is pompous and shallow with no faults. The Glamorous (oh, the flossy, floss-sssayyyy), according to Drake,
11. “305 to My City”
The first track I actually found a tad boring, and random. Another nod to the good life, this doesn’t encourage a repeat as some of the others, but the swollen drumbeats are hypnotizing.
12. “Too Much”
It’s about to get John Legend up in here. I immediately recognize it as the song he performed on Jimmy Fallon’s show. I really like Sampha’s all-knowing vocals and you will get magically lost in this pop-rap wonderland of learning to let go and just be, even if for a short awhile.
13. “Pound Cake”
I see “Pound Cake” as the requisite hip-hop track, adding to the cameo of Jay-Z that again references Katy Perry and lists former friends and foes in the game of success before, during, and after the glitter has been swept off the floor. It all ends with a solo Drake on “Paris Morton Music”, as like the prologue in “Tuscan Leather”, he attempts to epilogue his third LP and reminds us that “nothing was the same”.