When you hear Jhene Aiko’s voice kicking off Nothing Was the Same‘s side-one closer “From Time,” it’s surprisingly jarring–mostly because aside from the samples and pitch-shifted hooks that littered the first half, the only voice we’ve heard so far on NWTS has been Drizzy’s. Though there were high-profile featured appearances scattered throughout his first two albums–at this point on Take Care, we’d already heard from The Weeknd, Rihanna and Kendrick Lamar, with Birdman, Nicki Minaj and Rick Ross all soon to come–the roster on NWTS is far thinner and less star-powered, with an up-and-comer like Aiko (best known at the moment for her appearance on the Big Sean single “Beware”) actually being one of the biggest names on the album.
This approach makes Drake’s vision for the album clearer and less cluttered, but it also risks listener exhaustion at spending almost an hour hearing about Drake’s compelling but inevitably repetitive issues with fame, fortune, friends and family–and just a whole lot of his voice in general. Aiko’s sweet, sympathetic crooning on the chorus here is a most welcome sound, then, as is the gentleness of the song’s piano hook and snapping beat, lacking the sinister, growling edge of most of the earlier tracks.
Drake also finds somewhat new fare to discuss here, giving us a rare look into his ongoing relationship with his parents, sparking one up with his dad and dealing with his mother’s despairing self-pity, and then name-checking a number of the less-famous women of his past (Bria from Macy’s, Kourtney from Hooters) and how they were the “muses that inspired the music,” though most of them have since moved on. It’s sweet and sentimental, which NWTS certainly needed a touch of, lest listeners start dreading the album’s second half as a Yeezus-like slog, without Kanye’s aptitude for reaching to the dark side musically or lyrically.
POPDUST SAYS: 3.5/5