Album: Nothing Was the Same
Label: OVO Sound, Young Money, Cash Money, Republic
Producer: Mike Zombie
It might not be the best song of 2013 but it was the most universally appealing, the most agreed-upon, and the most undeniable. A populist anthem, it worked on multiple levels, at once a recognition of the very real obstacles Drake overcame to reach his latest pinnacle, and a troll of those who recognized that those obstacles were hardly the world's worst. But regardless of the step up granted to him by Lil Wayne co-signs, television stardom, or gawkily goofy good looks, Drake tapped into an underlying theme of hip-hop history. "Started" is a "Juicy" drained of details, non-specific enough to be relatable across the board. Everyone has something to overcome. And hip-hop has always been friendly to the underdog. Drake may not have had the hardest life in hip-hop history, but he definitely has been one of the genre's most unexpected success stories.
Musically, "Started From the Bottom" is Drake at his most irrepressibly memorable. Stripped down to a simple piano line and a crisp, unforgettable drum pattern, the song's simplicity gave it a singular fingerprint. It epitomizes the new, clean, minimal direction Drake took throughout Nothing Was The Same, while sounding like no other song on it. It is wistful, atmospheric, as catchy as a nursery rhyme. Lyrically, the song is packed with hooks, each line a mantra of burgeoning confidence, hard-earned. —David Drake