Release Date: Apr 29, 2016
Record label: Young Money
Genre(s): Rap, R&B, Contemporary R&B, Pop-Rap
Views has been two years in the making — two years of anticipation, rumours, leaks and loaded expectations. Originally called Views from the 6, it was imagined that the album would propel Toronto culture into mainstream America, cementing a position of power for the little city that could.Spearheaded by Noah '40' Shebib's production once again, VIEWS is a transitional album, timed to bring Toronto from the icy winds of its winters into its warm summers. "You're not from the city, I can tell," Drake raps on "Still Here," invoking an exclusive experience to VIEWS that, at times, only Torontonians will understand.
Fog hugs the CN Tower's summit, looming distinctively above the crowded sidewalks, delayed TTC streetcars and bumper-to-bumper traffic. The grey city has finally thawed after an extended freeze and you can tell just by standing in the thick of the hazy Toronto air that the seasonal change has transformed everything. Even Drake, a global pop dominant, knows that kind of magic is exclusive to this place and time.
Drake is probably the premier male artist of the selfie generation, making a career out of revelatory introspection mixed with a rapper’s reflex high dudgeon. The Toronto-themed Views follows last year’s hit mixtape with more Auto-Tuned post-mortems on Drake’s convoluted love life, balanced out by slightly more routine hip-hop swagger. Although tracks like One Dance, Controlla or the Rihanna duet, Too Good, throw in feelgood island vibes, the latter’s verses find the two sometime lovers miscommunicating (being lost for words is something of a theme on Views); ultimately nothing here really out-pops last year’s dulcet hit, Hotline Bling, included as a bonus track.
Midway through Drake’s fourth studio album comes a song called Still Here. The musical backdrop is sparse and eerie – its two-chord hook marooned over a scattering of vaguely gothic-sounding electronics – but the mood is self-congratulatory: “Doin’ well, dog,” he keeps repeating, with the air of a man who might be nodding his head and smiling as he says it. This counts as one of Drake’s more understated assessments of his own talent and success.
“Views already a classic,” announces Drake on “Hype”, a song on his latest and fourth overall album, formerly known as Views from the 6. In a way, he’s right, though “already” is the key word. When you have as many committed supporters as almost any other artist in popular music, you can be pretty confident that at least a few hundred thousand of them are going to adore your new record.
Smack in the middle of Views, Drake does it: He drops a nearly perfect song. Suddenly, it doesn’t matter that his fourth studio album is overly dramatic, too braggy, so bloated, and a little delusional. Blissed-out, sun-kissed chords shimmer like a mirage, Drake’s voice sounds like he’s on vacation and it’s just skittery enough to make you throw back the last sip of your Appleton and wind up on the dance floor.
Leading a paradigm-shifting youth movement of like-minded eccentrics, Drake emerged in the early 2010s as a devotee of the icy sound pioneered on Kanye West's 808s & Heartbreak, a profoundly influential work that at the time seemed like little more than an odd lark. Picking up the mantle of the half-singing, half-rapping, fully introspective MC, Drake and other guilt-ridden softies—voices as varied as Kid Cudi, the Weeknd, and Frank Ocean—embraced a turbid, melancholic production style and confessional approach that initially seemed poised to introduce a new level of emotional candor to a famously taciturn genre. In conquering the mainstream, this anomalous subgenre has also hardened into its own form of orthodoxy, its emphasis on catharsis balanced out by updated forms of tough-guy posturing.
“Know thyself.” — Socrates “There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.” — Benjamin Franklin “I’ve always been me, I guess I know myself.” — Drake Know yourself, the theory goes, and you will know all. The world will open up to you. Existence will be made plain. You will be one with the matrix.
The best thing you can say about Drake on Views is the worst thing, too: He's a lightweight. That description suits his breathtaking nimbleness in switching between flows, intonations and genres; his fleet-footedness adapting to, and jettisoning, passing trends; his ear for killer stripped-down beats and his stunning economy when crafting hooks – singing irresistibly wounded melodies, finding unlikely musicality in barked refrains about woes and Jumpmen. But his fourth album (seventh if you count three nominal mixtapes) reveals him as a lightweight in other, more frustrating ways: increasingly shallow in his thematic concerns, and ultimately slender in the scope of his creative ambitions.
A unifying trend among all the biggest crossover rappers of the last decade is their single-minded creative spirit and boundlessly productive creative energy, an energy and influence that has allowed them to set their own musical course and shape the future direction of hip-hop. Arguably no other rapper has quite set the tone for hip-hop’s direction in the last decade than Drake, who has now unequivocally reached that upper echelon of superstardom to such an extent that he is now almost omnipresent, existing online in a world of memes, gossip, leaked tracks and hype. In a word, he’s a phenomenon.
Throughout his career there have always been two versions of Drake. One, the brash and undaunted braggart rapper. The other, the humble everyman, graciously extending an invitation to anyone desiring to live vicariously through his successes. At times the otherwise parallel notions have run perpendicular, with Drake going out of his way to remind his listeners of his uncomfortable relationship with fame and hero worship.
At times, Drake can be an impressive rapper (class, please turn to the final verse of “Worst Behavior”, where he leaps off Ma$e’s opening lines from “Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems” and knocks the verse out the goddamn park). At times, Drake can be a tuneful singer, and his way of inserting melodies into his raps—not even considering his choruses—can lead to pretty moments and/or memorable hooks. At times, Drake’s access to top-tier producers, including but not limited to his long-standing relationship with 40, Kanye West, the seemingly infallible DJ Dahi, Boi-1da, Nineteen85, can create music that’s by turns, banging, atmospheric; maybe both simultaneously.
Drake :: ViewsYoung Money/Boy Better Know/OVO SoundAuthor: Jesal 'Jay Soul' PadaniaIs this the beginning of the end for Drake? "Views" is simultaneously his most polished album yet arguably his worst. His career seemed to have survived a mixed 2015 in the best way possible, and "Views" seemed as though it would be a victory lap - instead, it ends up a pity party, with Moany McMoanface as the host, constantly chewing your ear off, spewing out every problem he's ever had bottled up (like Bruce Willis' turn in "Friends"). It's obtusely long (over 80 minutes), and packed with too much filler.
Such is the culture around Drake these days that as quickly as he can become a web omnipresence, he can be turned upon. A glance at a longer than average track-list, a half-listen to a few opening tracks, or one too many self-indulgent lines, is enough to break Drake, just as one hook can shoot him skywards. To expect the same audience who had turned the ‘Views’ artwork into a meme within minutes to sit down and listen to 20 tracks of Drake’s inner workings is a big ask, but this is the critical mind-set Drake has curated around himself.
Kanye West’s 2010 magnum opus, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, takes a piercing look at the relationship between humanity and celebrity. Such a duality is clearly what Drake sought to explore on his 4th studio effort, Views, yet he falls short at almost every turn. What could have been a carefully curated display of pop-sensibility and hit-making turns out to be an elongated crawl through the desolate psyche of a man whose previously endearing introspection has been eclipsed by self-absorption.
Since the release of his last non-mixtape/non-collaboration album in 2013, Drake has solidified his position as a pop music icon, scaling the charts, dominating gossip columns, and generally living the good life. Or so it seems. 2016's Views is another in a string of dour transmissions from the dark night of Drake's soul. As before, he casts himself as both the melancholy bachelor looking out over the city from his penthouse manor, and the criminally underrated rap genius demanding his due, and it's one album too many for both personas.
Despite the endless flurry of reminders that Drake’s not actually the “best rapper alive,” his last 365 days made plenty of good cases that he’s at least half-serious about the throne Lil Wayne once occupied at the height of his powers. From What a Time to Be Alive’s mixtape calisthenics, to If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late’s compilation format, to a variety of guest appearances in advance of his proper follow-up to 2013’s multiplatinum smash Nothing Was the Same, Drake was not only trying some new shit out, but he also genuinely appeared to be having fun with music again, getting back to his roots as “that kid in the basement. ” Besides, Drake works better when he moves quicker, embodies youthful vitality, and doesn’t overthink things.
The album was originally titled ‘Views From The 6’ after his nickname for Toronto, but though his hometown is a recurring theme, Drake is only really interested in its influence on him and vice versa. “Blew up and I’m in the city still, I’m still here, dog,” he notes proudly on ‘Still Here’. Elsewhere, Drake shares his relationship troubles (“Why do I settle for women that force me to pick up the pieces?”), his trust issues (“They still out to get me cause they never got me”), the pressures of having so much money (“All these handouts, man, it’s getting outta hand”) and, of course, his own awesome success (“They cannot f**k with my legacy”).
Superstardom buys many things, and Drake names an awful lot of them on his plush new album, “Views.” There’s the yacht “so big that they try to hit me with boat fines.” There are the elaborate pool parties that transform his backyard into Mardi Gras. And there’s the car he paid $1.5 million for — then drove only five times. This is a modal window.
There isn’t much Drake hasn’t accomplished in the world of hip-hop — or music in general, for that matter. Every single one of his commercial releases has gone multiple times platinum, he has won a Grammy Award and was recently crowned the most streamed artist on Spotify in 2015. There is no denying his ability to uniquely please both the suburbs and the streets; he’s proved to be well received all over the map.
Drake’s career has been built on collapsing walls, and “One Dance,” one of the early singles from his new album, “Views,” is a vivacious fulfillment of his promise as hip-hop’s great syncretic hope. Rapped and sung, sprinkled with patois, made in collaboration with the Nigerian Afrobeats star Wizkid and sampling Kyla’s “Do You Mind” (a smash on Britain’s funky dance music scene in the late 2000s), “One Dance” is a transnational dance-floor lullaby, one of Drake’s breeziest and most accessible songs, and also one of his savviest. But “One Dance,” gentle as it is, is also about fear.
“I made a career off reminiscing,” Drake gloats in a typically meta lyric on Views, his marathon fourth album, though the assertion is debatable. If anything, he’s made his career out of over-sharing. It was “Marvins Room,” a remorseful airing of his sad sexual laundry, that kick-started Drake’s reinvention from Lil Wayne’s cornball sidekick into a genuine prestige artist.
Depending on who you ask, the very public crisis of identity that has formed the crux of Drake’s career in music has either been his strongest suit or his Achilles heel. Is he the archetypal rapper he so clearly thinks he needs to be to keep his head above the hip hop water – the ultra-competitive alpha male who reels off details of wealth, women and status with casual arrogance? Or is he the man trying to drag the genre, kicking and screaming, in another direction entirely, one where emotional literacy is the most valuable currency? He’s been playing at both roles right from the start, and whether you view that as flexibility or indecision probably indicates the regard – or lack thereof – in which you hold his work. For better or worse, though, that’s always been his calling card.
Air horns, auto-tune, the immortal lyric “last name ever, first name greatest”; just like that, Drake was unleashed upon the world with the fury of a thousand unstereotypical Canadians. The year was 2009, and although Drake had already made his breakthrough into the hip-hop sphere with his So Far Gone mixtape, “Forever” was the track that catapulted him into the mainstream. And what was stopping it, really? It guest starred three of the biggest rappers in the game at the time (including a post-rehab Eminem trying to reclaim some of his former relevance) and had a spot on a major “inspired by” faux-soundtrack to a popular documentary.
It's the era of the stealth album, but sometimes a "surprise" album isn't all that surprising. Take Drake's "Views" (OVO Sound/Young Money), for example, which floated online a few days ago without any fanfare. The Toronto MC has spent the past several years working with essentially the same collaborators — notably the producers Noah "40" Shebib and Boy-1da — and together they've become a music industry island unto themselves.