“Don’t think about it too much,” sings Sampha on the crestfallen hook of “Too Much,” one of the many highlights on Drake’s Nothing Was The Same, and though it’s a nice sentiment, it’s not exactly easy to do when it comes to Drake. Few artists have inspired as much hand-wringing, head-scratching and face-palming as the ascendant Canadian rapper and XXL cover star. His lyrics, his beats, his videos and even his sweater choices are subject to in-depth breakdowns and analysis that’s typically reserved for sporting events or political debates. And yet, the question remains: How does Drake keep winning? What’s the secret to his success?
And he is winning, as he loves to remind you. With the release of Nothing Was The Same, Drake will have delivered four distinct projects in the span of five years, each collection of songs showing a clear progression and growth while still spawning chart-topping hits, boundary-pushing collaborations and an infinite supply of memes. It’s a run that’s almost unparalleled in hip-hop. If we’re going to count So Far Gone as an album—which it practically was in many respects—then Drake’s four album dominance of rap is almost incomparable to any other artist. Who else has stayed this hot for so long?
To figure out the secrets that make Drake’s music tick, XXL dove deep into Drizzy’s discography, taking a closer look at how each of his albums helped him transition from being a child actor with a nice voice to a “voice of a generation” style hip-hop prophet. So Far Gone, Thank Me Later, Take Care and Nothing Was The Same combine to form a portrait of an artist drawing from outside hip-hop to refashion the genre in his own image. Nothing would be the same. –Written by Dan Jackson and Eric Diep, with additional research from Miranda Johnson