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Back when Drake was just a young light skin kid, writing music in his mother’s basement, I bet he faced a tough decision–sing or rap? I am convinced the Canadian star originally wanted to be a singer, but his rapping talent far exceeded his vocal ability. Instead of deciding to be the next Trey Songz or Jay Z, (f**k that) he chose to be a harmonic hybrid between the two. And a good choice it was indeed. His passion for R&B and hip-hop is why his music is so refreshing. Ja Rule would be proud.

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Oddly, nothing has really changed between the three of his projects. His third album “Nothing Was The Same” is no more or less evident of that. He has remained true to what he loves, rapping and singing.

“NWTS” was released today, following a leak a week ago. But not even that unfortunate event can slow down its sales. We learned two things from the premature release: Drake haters hate it and Drake lovers love it. It’s as simple as that. But, what even the haters can not say, is that Drake doesn’t create good music. While it may not suit their taste buds, denying Drake’s talent would be a blatant lie. “NWTS” isn’t a classic how Drake and I hoped it would be. Though the baby Drake album cover was a noble attempt to implant that seed. Is it a good album? Yes. Mediocre by his standards but still a league ahead of the rest.

“NWTS” begins with “Tuscan Leather” a six-minute intro with Drizzy spitting for broke. “This is nothing for the radio/ But they’ll still play it though/ Cuz it’s the new Drizzy Drake, that’s just the way it go,” he accurately declares. “NWTS” already has three songs in rotation on the airwaves. “Tuscan Sun” is one of the stronger rap tracks on the album. Somehow, even with Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing,” incorporated into the beat, it still wreaks of hip-hop. We have Drake’s producer Noah “40” Shebib for that. He is the mastermind behind Drake’s unmatched production. 40 saves Drake’s a** because “Nothing Was The Same” would be only half as great without him.

It is a smooth transition into “Furthest Thing.” Already, “NWTS” follows Drizzy’s mellow “Take Care” tempo. In true Drake tradition, the second half of “Furthest Thing” is a completely different song, almost better than the first.

It isn’t long before you’re rapping along to NWTS’s lead single “Started From The Bottom”–the track that generated all the hype surrounding Drake’s affluent upbringing. “Wu-Tang Forever” follows. “I just love when I’m with you,” he sings sampling Wu-Tang’s “It’s Yours” (who referenced T La Rock). Allow the bedroom doors to slam behind you, this begins the sexier portion of the album. “Wu-Tang Forever” sets the mood for “Own It.” Sex is among “Nothing With The Same’s” many working components. Drake is more open on this disc than ever. “Next time we f**k, I don’t wanna f**k, I wanna make love,” he sings. Marinating over slow drums, Drizzy is tempting as he rides the beat. Drake knows exactly what his female fans like and “Own It” appeals to the women, like me, who find his voice to be his most compelling feature.

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The oddly placed “Worst Behavior” is among the album’s throwaway tracks. We simply could do without the monotonous hook and borrowed Jay Z lyrics.

“From Time” presents the albums first feature–up and coming songstress Jhene. The mid-tempo track pieces together a period in his life, the time he met Bria. Because Drake’s life seems to be broken down into periods by the women he’s dated, it makes sense that most of his music revolves around someone he’s lost. And then he throws a curve ball. “Hold On, Were Going Home,” sounds nothing like anything else on the album. It’s the “Take care” of “NWTS.” It has the ability to cross genres but it’s easily one of the best songs on the collection and most radio-friendly. It succeeds on several levels. The chorus is infectious, the lyrics appealing and the beat just commands you to move.

“Connect” brings you back to the groove you were in before. Reminiscent of “Houstatlantavegas,” Drake brags about the power of a female’s “p****y power” while steadily declaring what “Started From The Bottom” did five songs ago. At this point it’s clear that lyrically, “NWTS” is weaker than “Take Care.” “You don’t know what I been through,” he raps. And this is the truest statement on the album, because nine songs in and we have no idea what qualifies Drake’s bottom as the bottom.

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“The Language” borrows his “Versace, Versace” flow, but is just another mediocre track. “305” brings the album back in sync. It is a stripper’s anthem that will surely be played throughout Miami at peak nights in King Of Diamonds. Drake spawns ubiquitous phrases like he drunk dials his ex. “I get it, I get” is going to be the next trending Black Twitter hash tag.

“Too Much” is the album’s strongest rap ballad. It is what we expected from Drake–an emotional testimony of how his success wrecked his family and left them dysfunctional. His uncle, who he adores, isn’t the same and his mom is too sick to even enjoy their newly acquired funds. Sampha assists Drizzy in his story-telling. His soulful tone emphasizes the strife of Drake’s lyrics. “Too Much” is the crux of what “Nothing Was The Same” was supposed to be–a modern-day “Blueprint,” which brings me to “Pound Cake/ Paris Morton Music” featuring the “Blueprint” creator himself. I am disappointed. My two favorite rappers on one song should have been an orgasmic experience but it was anti-climatic. Jay Z is laid back, once again rapping about things that don’t resonate with the audience. Hov’s verse is obnoxious and pointless and adds no validly to the supposed theme of Drake’s “Nothing Was The Same.” Moving on.

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“Come Thru” is another favorite of mine and another of Drake’s two songs in one package–the second half (again) better than the first. “You deserve rounds tonight,” Drizzy says. The album picks up again around “All me.” Boasting that chopped and screwed, auto tune dynamic featured in today’s hottest music like Beyonce’s Houston jam “Bow Down,” “All Me” delivers. It all make sense because Drake is influenced by Houston’s sound. Sampha appears again on “NWTS.” “The Motion”–an emotionally- fueled track that even thugs can bump, ends the Drizzy experience.

Where “NWTS” goes wrong is lyrical content. Clever lines can not mask lack of substance. In short, what the f**k is Drake talking about? A bunch of nothing. There’s no strife in his words and that may be because there’s no strife in his heart. There is heartache still cruising through his veins, however. That’s why his slower, more romantic songs are among the stronger tracks.

“Nothing Was The Same” is the antithesis of what is expected from a hip-hop artist. It’s a solid project with rookie mistakes but at this rate, his next album should be closer to classic. 4/5 HB kisses!

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