We've reviewed every song on Drake's third LP, the soon-to-be-released Nothing Was the Same. Check out our opinions on each of the album's 13 tracks, collected in one place for your convenience below. Click on the links for the individual song reviews, or just click NEXT to read them one at a time.
1. "Tuscan Leather"
2. "Furthest Thing"
4. "Wu-Tang Forever"
5. "Own It"
6. "Worst Behavior"
7. "From Time"
10. "The Language"
11. "305 to My City"
12. "Too Much"
1. "TUSCAN LEATHER"
"How much time is this n---- spending on the intro?"
Drake has always used his album's intro tracks--"Fireworks" on Thank Me Later, "Over My Dead Body" on Take Care--as hyper-focused sort of state-of-the-union addresses, letting you know where he's at and what he's up to. In the case of "Tuscan Leather," he does so with three verses over three different chops of the same sped-up and reversed Whitney Houston sample--ten points if you can actually identify the song--sounding as locked in as he ever has, rapping his typical rags-to-riches story and relating his ever-expanding ambitions ("On a mission tryna shift the culture") while dismissing those who still bother to challenge his supremacy ("Just give it time, we'll see who's still around a decade from now").
But perhaps more importantly, Drake also sets the tone for Nothing Was the Same by bragging about his ability to subvert the mainstream hip-hop form, as he's actually doing so. Like much of the album, "Leather" is too atmospheric and free-form to work as a single, but Drake still threatens to "go an hour on this beat," and repeatedly makes the above rhetorical reference how long the track is, almost daring listeners to skip ahead, if they can break from the song's hypnotic spell. "This is nothin' for the radio, but they'll still play it though / Cause it's that new Drizzy Drake, that's just the way it go," Aubrey boasts in the song's first verse, before summing it up with his new brand motto: "Heavy airplay all day with no chorus."
Amidst all the well-placed namedrops in "Tuscan Leather"--shoutouts to Dwight Howard and UNLV basketball, comparisons to Guy Pearce in Memento, even details of dates with Fresh Prince alum Tatyana Ali--the two that really stand out are his references to his Young Money crew, Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj. Based on the lyrics here, it seems like Drake's relations with his label family are as strained as they often sound to be with his real kin--his claims to be "as famous as his mentor" (reflecting back on his hopes that "success never changes our relationship" from "Fireworks") sound more like a lament than a boast, while his reports of "not even talkin' to Nikki" are near-heartbreaking for the couple that once got married on record. (Tellingly, and unsurprisingly, neither rapper shows up anywhere else on NWTS.)
"Leather" is ultimately as strong an opener as "Fireworks" or "Dead Body," with 40 doing a brilliant job of keeping things fresh by twisting up the sample with each successive verse, and ending things on a despairing but defiantly hopeful Curtis Mayfield quote from a live late-'80s gig ("Our having the same fears, shedding similar tears, and of course dying in so many years. It don't mean that we can't have a good life"). How much time is Drake spending on the intro? As much time as he goddamn pleases, and if he wants to go an hour on the beat, we'll listen for the whole thing and not check our watch once.
POPDUST SAYS: 4/5
Next up, the textbook Drake second cut "Furthest Thing."
2. "FURTHEST THING"
As is the grand tradition of Drake albums, the second track is a more meditative comedown from the focused intensity of the leadoff. "Furthest Thing" sees Drake addressing his current state of career and personal limbo ("Somewhere between psychotic and iconic / Somewhere between I want it and I got it") but maintaining that he's been and will be around regardless, doing his usual drinking, mobbing and (duh) fucking "on the low." Drake talks his talk over a typically dolorous piano riff and plaintive beat, the kind of track 40 could probably crank out in his REM-less sleep by now.
It's a textbook Drake transition cut, at least until the pitched-down voice from rap buddy Kendrick Lamar's "Swimming Pools (Drank)" show sup to summarize the activities Drizzy has been performing on the low, and the beat switches to a Just Blaze-like classic soul hurrah, with a suddenly pepped-up Drake explaining his relative absence last season by saying he had "Derrick Rose the knee up before I got the re-up." It's a nifty little twist to keep Nothing Was the Same's opening gambit from being too by-the-numbers, though "Furthest Thing" is still a bit too bland to be considered a real album highlight.
POPDUST SAYS: 3/5
Next up, the lead single "Started From the Bottom"
3. "STARTED FROM THE BOTTOM"
Continuing to follow the Take Care) tracklisting playbook, Drake slots his lead single ("Headlines" on TC) third, with "Started From the Bottom" piercing through after two cuts of atmospheric self-reflection, sounding like Lil Jon's "Get Low" by comparison. The song makes even more sense in album context than it did as a smash single, clearly a key mission statement of Drake's attempts to keep himself grounded as he finds himself drifting further and further from the core--though where it sounded triumphant and confident as a single, it sounds insecure and maybe even a little bit paranoid in the context of the album, like Drake knows that his "fuck a fake friend, where your real friends at?" mentality is getting less and less realistic with time and money.
The other thing that really stands out about "Started From the Bottom" in album context is how damn short and sweet the whole thing is. Not only is it based around the year's most matter-of-fact, easy-to-remember chorus, but after a couple verses, a couple choruses, a bridge and an outro, the thing wraps in under three minutes, almost unheard of brevity for a hit single in 2013 and particularly telling for a self-confessed ramblin' man such as Aubrey. Drake's story isn't anywhere near as neat or simple as he tries to make it sound here, and after two tracks (and in essence, five separate songs) on Nothing Was the Same, it's pretty clear that he knows that himself, too.
POPDUST SAYS: 4/5
Next up, the distractingly titled "Wu-Tang Forever"
4. "WU-TANG FOREVER"
Drake calling a song "Wu-Tang Forever" is a pretty brilliantly executed baiting of the rap internet, knowing that nothing would further draw the ire of hip-hop's older school than one of the young guns stealing the title of a '90s underground classic for his own self-indulgent, self-congratulatory slow jam (which, unsurprisingly, bears absolutely no resemblance to a Wu-Tang joint minus the part of "It's Yourz" it actually samples). Drake's affection for Wu-Tang is no doubt genuine--later on the album, he talks about listening to the music Clan associate Cappadonna, and then interpolates "C.R.E.A.M." on another track--but the connection between Wu-Tang's tales of cold-world street warfare and Drake's borderline-narcissistic meditations on the effects of fame and fortune is indeed a pretty distant one.
Title distractions aside, "Wu-Tang Forever" is one of the more gripping tracks on DWTS, largely due to the clever way Drake twists the "It's Yourz" sample (deployed as a backing vocal echo by 40) to be about his thirst for owning both the rap game and a female friend's sexual compliance, craving the constant assurance that both are his and nobody else's. By song's end, though, the "it's yours" repetition stops being a comfort and starts being an imposition on Drake, as he bemoans "Paranoid, always rolling with my mothafuckin' boys / But you gotta understand when it's yours / They don't really leave your ass with a mothafuckin' choice, man."
Set against the song's stark piano and imposing bass hum, it's simultaneously one of the most sensual and disqueting tracks on the album, making the whole thing a pretty spot-on sonic approximation of 3:00 in the morning insecurity and horniness, like a more self-reflective version of J. Cole's "Power Trip." Good stuff, even if Wu-Tang's feelings on the track are understandably mixed.
POPDUST SAYS: 4/5
Next up, the "Wu-Tang" encore "Own It"
5. "OWN IT"
"Own It" isn't really its own song as much as an extended encore to "Wu-Tang Forever," particularly its continuous of the shifting "It's yours" hook and sentiment. That hook--even the Wu-Tang sample--shows up again in "Own It," though this time the meaning is again twisted: Rather than Drake using it as confirmation of the love and devotion he owns, he's now pledging his own to his girl, an almost disorientingly straight-faced proclalamation of feelings from Drizzy. "Next time we fuck, I don't want to fuck, I want to make love," he pleads, while the "Swimming Pools" voice returns to plead for his girl to perform the title action, regarding Drake's stated feelings.
As a song, the whole thing is pretty amorphous, particularly when it takes a late-song turn for an extended Drake complaint about how "N----s talk more than bitches these days"--thanks for the PSA, Aubrey--and musically, it's a hard track to get much of a read on. "Own It" probably would've worked better at half the length, and maybe a little later in the album, so it could have been an evocative echoing of "Wu Tang Forever" without letting itself get kind of meandering and redundant.
POPDUST SAYS: 2.5/5
Next up, the brutal rant "Worst Behaviour"
6. "WORST BEHAVIOUR"
"Worst Beahviour" finishes out the least focused section of Nothing Was the Same--the third straight molasses-slow track on the album, and the second straight with no clear structure for the first few minutes, before a last-minute verse brings some order to the proceedings. This one is oddly angry and dark for Drake, as he repeatedly shouts out "MOTHERFUCKER NEVER LUHHHED US! / REMEMBER??" over a sputtering, almost screwed-and-chopped-sounding, hook-less beat, before performing an extended quote of Ma$e's verse from Biggie's "Mo Money, Mo Problems" and comparing his game domination to that of Serena Williams.
It's pretty evocative, but it's hard to tell exactly what Drake's ranting about for most of the time: His father? His haters? His rivals? Does it even matter? "Worst Behaviour" is definitely a low end for Nothing Was the Same, and like "Own It," it might have been a lot more effective coming later in the album, but coming where it does, it just sounds kinda brutal and unnecessary, like Drake on a bad trip getting lost in his own nasty thoughts. Undoubtedly, the album suffers for it.
POPDUST SAYS: 2.5/5
Next up, the Jhene Aiko-featuring "From Time."
7. "FROM TIME"
When you hear Jhene Aiko's voice kicking off Nothing Was the Same's side-one closer "From Time," it's surprisingly jarring--mostly because aside from the samples and pitch-shifted hooks that littered the first half, the only voice we've heard so far on NWTS has been Drizzy's. Though there were high-profile featured appearances scattered throughout his first two albums--at this point on Take Care, we'd already heard from The Weeknd, Rihanna and Kendrick Lamar, with Birdman, Nicki Minaj and Rick Ross all soon to come--the roster on NWTS is far thinner and less star-powered, with an up-and-comer like Aiko (best known at the moment for her appearance on the Big Sean single "Beware") actually being one of the biggest names on the album.
This approach makes Drake's vision for the album clearer and less cluttered, but it also risks listener exhaustion at spending almost an hour hearing about Drake's compelling but inevitably repetitive issues with fame, fortune, friends and family--and just a whole lot of his voice in general. Aiko's sweet, sympathetic crooning on the chorus here is a most welcome sound, then, as is the gentleness of the song's piano hook and snapping beat, lacking the sinister, growling edge of most of the earlier tracks.
Drake also finds somewhat new fare to discuss here, giving us a rare look into his ongoing relationship with his parents, sparking one up with his dad and dealing with his mother's despairing self-pity, and then name-checking a number of the less-famous women of his past (Bria from Macy's, Kourtney from Hooters) and how they were the "muses that inspired the music," though most of them have since moved on. It's sweet and sentimental, which NWTS certainly needed a touch of, lest listeners start dreading the album's second half as a Yeezus-like slog, without Kanye's aptitude for reaching to the dark side musically or lyrically.
POPDUST SAYS: 3.5/5
Next up, the hit pop single "Hold On, We're Goin
8. "HOLD ON, WE'RE GOING HOME"
When it first debuted, Drake's single "Hold On, We're Going Home" sounded pretty out of step with his catalog--much less insulated, much more unapologetically hooky, much...well, poppier than the rest of what he'd been doing lately. But man, if we thought it sounded like a Top 40 record as a single, as the centerpiece to Nothing Was the Same, it may as well be "Call Me Maybe" in the middle of a free jazz set. After four straight slow songs, the "Billie Jean"-like drum intro hits like a cold glass of lemonade on a blazing summer afternoon in H-Town, reviving you back to life after the album's sagging middle dragged you down into a near-catatonic state.
OK, so the middle of the album isn't that rough, and maybe "Hold On We're Going Down" isn't that crowd-pleasing--it's still relatively minimal and moody for a big pop song, and its chorus is pretty vague in its intentions. But it's undoubtedly catchy, both in its vocal hooks and that little chorus synth line that you've had stuck in your head for the months since the song leaked, and the song has that kind of communal feeling of general good vibrations that is so crucial to most truly great pop songs, which is exactly what Drake and 40 were going for here. It easily one-ups "Find Your Love" and "Make Me Proud," and marks his best pop song since "Best I Ever Had."
We still have no real clue who the hell Majid Jordan are, but we are thankful for their contributions.
POPDUST SAYS: 4.5/5
Next up, the poison-relationship tale "Connect."
Singing about poison relationships is a common theme on Nothing Was the Same and in Drake's music in general, though he rarely has sounded quite as powerless as he does in "Connect," where he recalls with excruciating detail--down to the gas prices he couldn't afford for his uncle's car on the rides over to her house at a moment's notice late at night--a girl who had total control over him, despite the fact that she would inevitably leave him swangin' in the wind. Drake doesn't sound all that angry or upset at being jerked around, though--he seems at peace with the late-night booty call treatment, so long as she doesn't fall asleep before he gets there.
The level of detail elevates the song a little, though again, without much of a hook to speak of (minus Drake's endless "swangin" repetition) it comes off as more of a mood piece and interlude-type track than a song proper. At least it's one of the more interesting such tracks on NWTS--though we're not sure it's necessary to start off the track with an audio call of a home run, just to tie in to the "At least we try for home run every time" line at the end of the first verse. The rest of the song certainly doesn't feel like a deep ball to center.
POPDUST SAYS: 3/5
Up next, the less-emotive jam "The Language."
"I just want some head in a comfortable bed, it could all be so simple." Aside from providing yet another one of Nothing Was the Same's Wu-Tang references, the line echoes one of the primary dichotomies of Drake's music--his conflict between being the nice guy from Toronto who just wants to find something real with the right girl, and the unapologetic prowler and strip-club enthusiast that just need to know what that pussy like. Most of NWTS finds Drake closer to the former pole, but he's not above taking a track out to simplify things a little, to shout out a girl who "just want to smoke and fuck" over a hot, bass-heavy beat that could very well be playing during LeBron James' next championship celebration in Miami.
"The Language" might not as rich as some of Drake's more emo tracks, but it's necessary to keep the balance for Drake, who would surely become overbearing if all he ever sang about was Facebook stalking girls from high school. Plus, it's fun to hear Drake engage his more caddish self every once in a while--he does sleazy a lot better than he does angry anyway.
POPDUST SAYS: 3.5/5
Next up, the Miami-saluting "305 to My City"
11. "305 TO MY CITY"
Of all the sort of formless jams scattered throughout Nothing Was the Same, "305 to My City" still feels particularly abstract, practically devoid of any kind of beat or melody, just more of Drake spouting love for Miami and for strippers with "Versace"-style vocal triplets over a rhythmic click track that sounds like it might wind to a halt at any second. Like "Own It" was for "Wu-Tang Forever," "305" is basically an extended encore to the previous "The Language," a transition track to take us into the album's emotional climax.
It's rare that you find an album in 2013 that's paced as purposefully as NTWS obviously is, with half-songs essentially strung together to form mini-suites, punctuated by singles that obviously stand apart from the rest of the record without ever really breaking thematically. It's impressive stuff from an artist who obviously cares about the way his albums help form his legacy, but it means that some of the individual songs can be kind of tough sledding.
(Don't sweat it, though, Drizzy--we'd people remember your idol Marvin Gaye's What's Going On as a masterpiece, but if any of them are actually jamming out to "Wholy Holy" or "Save the Children" with any regularity, we'd be pretty shocked.)
POPDUST SAYS: 2.0/5
Up next, the devastating piano ballad "Too Much"
12. "TOO MUCH"
There's a lot to slog through on Nothing Was the Same to get to the high points, but when they hit, they hit pretty fucking hard. Perhaps most stunning of all is penultimate track "Too Much," a piano-led ballad (and really, what rappers rep more for the old ivory boxes than Young Aubrey?) that feels so much like "Fireworks" and "Over My Dead Body" that it's a little surprising it didn't lead off the album.
Like those songs, Drake emerges from the cinematic drama of the music to give an unexpectedly hopeful message, one in which he tries to persuade his uncle not to give up on his dreams, for his mother not to give up on life in general, even telling his younger self not to get too caught up in the stress of trying to make it. He sounds encouraging but frightened, like he doesn't want his family to quit on themselves because he's afraid his own ambitions will further alienate himself from them--or worse, because he's worried about being in their situation himself one day, an old man full of regret.
It's a heartfelt sentiment, but it's completely overshadowed by the hook, as provided by the British soul singer Sampha. The frequent SBTRKT collaborator's voice is so aching, so incredibly powerful as he reiterates the song's message ("Don't think about it too much / There's no need for us to rush it through") that it becomes more powerful with each successive repetition, raising the stakes for Drake's verses, for which he thankfully rises to the occasion. It's an absolute jaw-dropper of an album climax, and it makes the trip there through the likes of "Own It" and "305 to My City" well worth the journey.
POPDUST SAYS: 4.5/5
Up last, the two-part closer "Pound Cake" / "Paris Morton Music 2."
13. "POUND CAKE / PARIS MORTON MUSIC 2"
As is befitting an album in which so few of the songs exists into themselves, the closer to Drake's Nothing Was the Same is a two-part, essentially two-song track, split into the self-congratulatory We Made It anthem "Pound Cake" and the more introspective "Paris Morton Music 2." They're both fine songs, particularly the latter, which features some of the album's more emotional moments, Drake temporarily breaking from his hard-earned narcissism (a la Kanye) to lament a female confidante having a kid and rejecting his support, to acknowledge how lucky he is that Wayne even discovered him in the first place, and as is again Drake tradition, to end the album with a reference to its title.
It's a pretty note-perfect way to end things--with one big exception. Well, two, really, since the scratched-up sample of the hook from Wu-Tang's "C.R.E.A.M." that provides the refrain for "Pound Cake" is pretty sloppy--it actually sounds like it's being human-beatboxed, which, really? But that's nothing compared to how destructive the phoned-in Jay Z verse is to Drizzy's closing statement, a tapestry of awful cake puns ("Look at my neck, I got a carrot cake"), clumsy references to Katy Perry and Carrie Underwood, and a laundry list of artists who owe royalties on their fortunes to S Dot, which is kind of like a much more passive-aggressive (and much less fun) spin on the list of rappers Kendrick Lamar was trying to murder on "Control."
Sad to see Jigga not really helping matters for his former honorary protege, especially since a top-form Jay cameo could've really taken the track to the next level. Still, it's Aubrey who has the last word, and PMM2 is such a beautiful note to end the album on that Jay's verse is almost forgivable as a result. Almost.
POPDUST SAYS: 3.5/5