Label: OVO Sound, Young Money, Cash Money, Republic

At about 1:57 into "Tuscan Leather," Drake finally turns the corner. The second beat change in the longer-tha-six-minute opener to his third album Nothing Was The Same sees the rapper eschewing the image of the emotionally ravaged lothario, becoming a tougher, more experienced artist. An artist more direct in his rhymes and balanced in his approach. Drake's newfound maturity is a fitting way to continue the story of the kid who has it all but is still trying to keep it together.

Keeping it together is the major theme of NWTS, every song flows from his anger at being misunderstood and unheard, and ends up finding resolution in the balance between his singing and rapping. Songs like "Started From The Bottom" and "Worst Behavior" find Drake testing out new flows, a delivery more akin to chanting than singing or rapping. There's less straigh singing on the album than on any of his previous efforts.

Other than "Hold On, We're Going Home," (a song you'll most likely hear at your wedding) Drake mostly sets out to prove that he is the premiere rapper that most people never thought he could be. He shows blinding confidence next to Jay-Z on "Pound Cake," lifting a little of Hov's aura to match him bar-for-bar. On "the Language," Drake borrows the most popular flow of the year (Thanks, Migos) and hits his rivals over the head with it. 

It was one of the most anticipated albums of the year, and one that actually lived up to the hype. Nothing Was The Same might not have had a legendary producer on hand to "minimalize" its sound, but it has minimized the discussion of who is the most popular rap star in the world right now. That would be Drake, this is his triumph. Everything past 1:57 on the first track is the edict to that fact. Like Kanye said himself, "It's Drake season." —Justin Davis