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The bar that best encapsulates the stakes, mindset, mood and ensuing aftermath of Nothing Was the Same isn't on actually on the album, nor its bonus tracks. It's not on the excellent, iconically boastful verses complimentary to that era like "5AM in Toronto" or "Over Here." It's from the interim between album cycles, on French Montana's "Pop That" where Drake raps "Dropped Take Care, bought a motherfuckin' crib/ And I'm picking up the keys to the bitch right now."
That crib is the star of many memorable scenes on Nothing Was the Same, from playing tennis with Serena on the backyard courts, to Drake hilariously idly wondering if he should casually "donate a million to some children," while naked women swim in the pool. What you need to know about this mansion Drake bought—a "compound," as he'd later clarify on "Paris Morton Music 2"—is that, so the story goes, it's the exact house Drake has had as a computer screensaver since his days as a gawky Degrassi teen who bought Pusha-T mics on eBay.
After delivering what's more-or-less agreed as a seminal album in Take Care, things changed for Drake and something changed in him. 2013 found him feeling validated. Copping your actual dream house and getting a Grammy shipped to it will do that. Nothing Was the Same is all about unpacking that surreality, and how common it is now: the dinners with Tatyana; checks big enough to make you vomit; the after-hours at il Mulino with Live Nation's CEO. As well as the dark side of uber-fame: paranoia, club fights, family distances both physical and emotional, sustained romantic unavailability.
With no disrespect to the summer of 2015, creating Nothing Was the Same was Drake at his most charged up. With the onus on him to prove that sweet mix of critical and commercial acclaim on Take Care wasn't a one-off, the album represents Drake at his most disciplined—thirteen tracks!—and, stacked up against his ensuing albums Views and Scorpion, seemingly the last time he was truly creative. Scorpion is double NWTS but it doesn't have the A Side/B Side aesthetics in one song scored by 40 and Jake One. Or 40 going full Heatmakerz with three beats off one Whitney sample and Drake matching his ambition with three different flows. It doesn't have A1 sequencing like the audio suite created by placing "Wu-Tang Forever" and "Own It" next to each other. It doesn't have "Worst Behavior," arguably Drake's best song.
NWTS is where Drake first began to master his something for everyone approach: songs for weddings, club anthems for the bros, hard beats and bars for the lyrical miracle crowd. There's experimental flows, like the performance Detail culls in "305 to My City" and experimental sounds like the midnight-drive scene Hudson Mohawke paints on "Connect." All of it—especially making the only rap feature the GOAT on the same song he says he salutes "the niggas who paved the way for us" then says he's doing it better —is in service of one grand statement. On Take Care, it was "really, think I like who I'm becoming." Here, that sentiment matured into "You know it's real when you are who you think you are." Nothing Was the Same is Drake, fully formed, arriving in a Bugatti no less.—Frazier Tharpe