When Nothing Was the Same leaked online last week, Twitter broke down in 140-character tears, and rumors that the deluxe version would include a box of tissues emerged. Jokes aside, Drake’s third studio album is a heavy hitter in every sense. Radio favorite “Started from the Bottom” gave us an initial glimpse at what the album would be about — after the Grammy-winning success of Take Care, Drake has all the bragging rights of an artist who’s made it to the top. The second album single, “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” is a sweet serotinal jammer that paired a new sound with the same starry-eyed lines about a hopeless romantic named Aubrey. The rest of NWTS channels much of that same energy.
Using samples from Whitney to Wu-Tang to Ellie Goulding, Drake, producer Noah “40” Shebib and collaborators like Majid Jordan and Hudson Mohawke craft a richly minimalistic sound. Low-end synths and heavy percussions highlight brooding hooks and verses that linger in the air long after their initial play.
Lyrically, NWTS is Drake’s strongest yet. As he goes from “something between psychotic and iconic” on “Furthest Thing” to name-dropping ex-girlfriends Bria, Summer and “Kourtney from Hooters on Peach Street” on “From Time,” his lyrics flow seamlessly, melting tracks together. Everything unfolds as he delves into a history of family troubles, career struggles and toxic relationships. If the record wasn’t personal enough, note Drake doesn’t really bring in additional artists, except for up-and-comers Jhene Aiko and Sampha as well as El Padrino himself, Jay-Z, on the grand finale.
It’s hard to pick the better album between Take Care and NTWS, but having exemplified what it takes to be a rapper who makes the pop crossover as easily as he crosses national borders, Drake’s still sitting on his pillow-soft throne, and he’s not coming down any time soon.