KILLING THEM SOFTLY
Toronto's top dog delivered 2013's best LP by improving his complicated balancing act of romantic lover boy and boastful MC with a conscience. Drake sits down to dissect his masterful album Nothing Was the Same
STORY: John Kennedy l PHOTOS: Zach Gold
You’ve never seen an NBA locker room look like this. White sheets scale the walls, illuminated by blue mood lighting. A snowy rug sprawls the floor beneath a glass coffee table, on which two tall powder-scented candles burn so pungently that they make you want to sneeze. In the center of it all is Drake, folded forward on a white sofa in the Zen-like dressing room he’s subletting from the Charlotte Bobcats for the night. It’s past midnight and the 27-year-old rapper just performed at a packed November stop on his rhetorical Would You Like A Tour? run here in North Carolina’s Time Warner Cable Arena, keeping women of all ages (and even a few man fans) singing and rhyming along to the melodic anthems that have made him a supernova in music’s Milky Way. Yet at this moment the hip-hop heavyweight is assessing his stature on the undercard: the rap blogosphere.
“People fucking love to sing, that’s what I never forget,” says Drake, hovering over a lukewarm plate of pasta—carbs to replenish after leaving it all on the stage about an hour ago. “But you can’t say my bars aren’t up there with the best of them. People keep challenging me about what real rap is. Is it the shit you know all the words to, or the shit that sounds fast and complex? I don’t have the answer. At the same time, I know I can do a couple things.”
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Drake has become accustomed to dwelling in alternate worlds. His whole bio is a paradox: He’s a biracial Toronto-born former Degrassi child actor with family ties to Memphis who found megastardom after joining Lil Wayne’s YMCMB crew via truth-serum singing and 16s. It’s this tightrope treading that has defined Drake and helped his third studio LP, Nothing Was The Same, earn VIBE’s 2013 Album of the Year honors. While it lacks Justin Timberlake’s soul-warming grooves, Pusha T’s real-life coke fantasies or Yeezus’ fearless musicality, the Take Care follow-up achieves a steamy stew of emotional catharsis, mid-20s regrets and YOLO stunting. Never mind the Sampha sample and the already-timeless ’80s two-stepper “Hold On, We’re Going Home”; this is an excellent rap LP, with chest-beating bravado, alphabetical slaughter (“Aye, B, I got your CD, you get an E for eFfort”), respectable odes to ’90s icons and melodies that morph like Power Rangers.
“This album is probably the most aware of self that I’ve ever been,” Drake says. He’s rocking a virtually airbrushed shape-up, dark blue button-up shirt and creamy gray Timbs, preparing to deconstruct his best project to date. As he leans against a white throw pillow embroidered with OVO’s owl logo, Drake appears comfortable with his current pole position. “I’m here, I’m gonna own this now. I’m gonna give you guys everything and keep going forward ’til something else happens. Like, I’ve fallen in love. Or make the real Here, My Dear...”
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