By the end of 2011, Take Care was in the consumer’s possession, but Noah “40” Shebib and Drake had work to do—they began working on the next chapter—a body of work that would shift the perception of Drake’s character. By age 26, Drake had a Grammy award beneath his belt, two albums that debuted at no. 1 on the Billboard 200, but still, his competitive spirit sought no rest, even with an extolled, previously release.

Nothing Was The Same catapulted Drake to new heights, solidifying his reign and putting an end to the talk regarding his ability to rap. The bars were indeed sharper with additives that were previously absent.

“F**k all that happy-to-be-here sh*t that y’all want me on,” Drake asserted on “Paris Morton  Music 2,” the track shared with “Pound Cake,” featuring Jay Z. He confirms the confidence held on the intro track “Tuscan Leather,” the aggressive spirit on “Worst Behavior” and the versatile flow (similar to the “Versace” cadence with Migos) on “The Language.”

No longer did we embrace the artist who was just happy to be rapping alongside his mentor Lil Wayne, we embraced the artist that is, as Drake puts it himself, “just as famous as my mentor.” The transition of an artist who silently dominated, who then began to assert himself as the greatest of his generation, with the music to reinforce such a statement. His ability to make a hit song like “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” then transition into giving bars on “Wu-Tang Forever” and “Worst Behavior”  should not be looked at as a small feat.

Women were still the muse of Drake’s pen, but critics and his fellow rapper counterparts served equally as a muse during the making of NWTS. Even more, spectators and counterparts set fire to his desire to be the absolute best.

“Worst Behavior” takes on a life of its own. I begin to think back to the years that would follow—Drake adapting to a formula that works–allowing attitude into his space. Songs like “We Made It,” “Energy” and countless others would embody the attitude of “Worst Behavior.” He talks his talk and he has the resume defend big talk.

While his music structure is versatile and forward-minded, Drake still falls victim to being a boxed-in artist. He was the good guy who croons through his tracks with an eerie sonic texture. Aggressive tracks with Rick Ross can’t impede the mood set from Drake’s Take Care, even loose records that arrived before the album. Drake’s melodic genius (which he admits comes easy) naturally shines at every turn. “Hold On, We’re Going Home” was written in less than a week.

via Elliott Wilson and WatchLOUD.

“I really, really really spend a lot of time on bars. Luckily, for me, melodies come extremely easy *knock on wood*. That is something that naturally I just get in [the booth] and it starts flowing… when it comes to raps, I spend a lot of time on it.”

Drake’s bars are intricate on NWTS and took him, at times, up to three weeks. When you listen to his bars, you’ll notice a different approach–the confidence is present, the humbleness disappears and he’s making his presence known as a top-tier rapper. By doing so, you can’t question him as an artist nor a rapper, he does multiple lanes better than anyone. The imagery and alliteration are sharper than any lyric pre-NWTS. This was a crucial time period: the landscape of music was changing as flows were becoming dominant over lyrics. Drake was able to get his bars off and still play around with flows on tracks like “305 To My City” and “The Language.” That’s not to say that Drake, today, can’t get his bars off with sharp precision, but the focus upheld on NWTS was exciting and fresh.

“I took a risk on this album by changing my tones and my flows. I just experimented with different things.”

Due to 40’s signature underwater sound, a few tracks may bring back the feel of Take Care. However, Drake’s tone is not the same.

NWTS is the first and may be the last album that is a cohesive body of work in Drake’s catalogue, to producer 40’s credit–challenging Drake to clean up the edges and narrow it down to 13-14 tracks.

“I was trying to make a body of work that from front to back, was a complex body of work but an easy listen… I really tried to make a piece that wasn’t too much music to the point you had to pick out your favorites, I just wanted it to flow from front to back.”

Before us was an artist who not only had a plan, but he spoke his plan into existence. You can hear the existence speak on “Tuscan Leather,” where Drake raps, “I’m tired of hearing ‘bout who you checking for now, just give it time, just see who’s still around a decade from now. That’s real.” Existence shows up on “Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2” with Jay Z: “all that other bullshit is here today and gone tomorrow.”

As we look back and forward, Drake’s presence remains humble, but by God, not by human. His shoulders are broad and he knows he’s at the top of his game.

“Just as a reminder to myself: I wear every single chain, even when I’m in the house,” Drake rapped, just before the chorus of “Started From The Bottom.” Many would argue that Drake didn’t start from the bottom and that’s a financial assessment that doesn’t dim the light on the fact that there was room for improvement when it came to music. From boy to man, Drake matured and put in the hours to reflect on his journey and understand that he is in the top spot.

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