03 May Album Review: Drake’s Views
When Drake announced via OVO Sound radio that his fourth proper studio album, Views would be released later that month on April 29th, it was pretty much a forgone conclusion that the LP would go on to be nominated for a Grammy Award and debut at number one on Billboard. According to Noisey.com and analysis from Buzz Angle Music, Drake was already halfway to fulfilling that prophecy in just two days time. The record sold roughly 741,000 units in the U.S. and about 80,000 in Drake’s home country of Canada in the two days following its Friday release, and is already on the precipice of going platinum in record time. The 29 year-old rapper/singer is no stranger to widespread, mainstream success as his last commercial mixtape, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late made him the first rapper ever to top Billboard‘s Artist 100 chart. At one point last year, Drake occupied 42% of Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart with all 17 songs from the tape earning a spot on the list of 50 at one time. To go along with the success of If You’re Reading This, Drake also released a couple smash hits with “Hotline Bling” and the Meek Mill diss-track “Back to Back”, as well as a collaborative mixtape with Atlanta rapper, Future entitled What A Time To Be Alive. Drake’s monstrous 2015 not only put him in the same breath as some of the biggest stars of the last two decades in hip hop, but also in the pantheon of contemporary music legends.
After a five-year run on the Canadian teen-drama, Degrassi and a few well-received mixtapes under his belt, Drake signed to Young Money Cash Money records and began his dominance in the world of music. The artist’s signature sing-song rapping cadence captivated audiences and eventually turned Drake into the modern-day King of Pop as we know him now. Given Drizzy’s 2015 hot-streak, and the fact that all four of his full-length projects have gone platinum, it appeared as though Views would be the pinnacle release of his already storied career as an MC; however, that is just not the case.
In an exclusive interview with Zane Lowe the night prior to the release of Views, Drake stated that he wanted to make a record that he wanted to listen to while also paying homage to his city of Toronto. He referenced the blistering cold seven months of winter there, and how the city just shifts from scorching summers and right back into winter again. Drake definitely accomplished his sonic vision with the beat selection on this record by having the first seven-tracks occupy this dreary and chilling atmospheric space before moving into more rhythmic and island-vibes in the instrumentation on the following eight songs. That Caribbean flare is extremely evident on songs like the single “One Dance” and his token duet with Rihanna “Too Good”; however, this is where the 20-song record really starts to drag. Although Drake also said in the interview that he scrapped entire songs during the recording process just to save an idea here or four bars there, he seemed to really struggle to cut the fat and filler on this project. “Grammys” featuring Future clearly sounds like a WATTBA leftover, and a large part of me wishes Drizzy had the stones to tell Kanye that having Jay-Z spit only the first two lines of his verse on “Pop Style” was a bullshit idea. Rather than just using that song as a stand-alone single, Drake made the track worse by removing The Throne feature and haphazardly placing a weak verse of his own in its place. The presence of so many mid-tempo tracks on this 20-song record really makes the pace lumber along despite what could have been really strong sequencing thanks to a great deal of smooth transitions on other cuts.
Another issue to take with Views is the content on the record. Although Drake often caught flack from hip hop elitists for pouring so many feelings into his music, he had always been an artist that owned his own insecurities so wholeheartedly that they should’ve been called something else. Drake really reached that perfect level of transparency on 2011’s Grammy Award-winning album Take Care on the back of some ethereal, moody beats and instantaneous quotables. At 25 years-old, Drake really hit a sweet spot with the college demographic as every young 20-something could relate to that rock bottom of drunk-dialing an ex or tweeting out the lyrics to “Marvin’s Room”. I saw “I’m just sayin’ you could do better” on more facebook statuses than I could ever count my sophomore year, and Drake’s fragile arrogance was something very tangible and real at that point in time. On Views, it is as if Drake suddenly developed reservations about divulging too much of himself in any one song and put his clever and brash cockiness on the back burner. This record is full of cringe-worthy lines as well such as “I get green like Earth Day” or “you toyin’ with it like a Happy Meal”; and also comes through with the most painfully ignorant Drake track, “Child’s Play”. With the amount of singing and R&B focused songs on this project, Drake would have been better served to go almost over the top with his vulnerability, rather than the front he took of not saying much of anything. Drake sounded hungry and out for blood on If You’re Reading This, but that sharp tongue only shows up on a few tracks here like “Hype”, “Weston Road Flows”, and the title track, “Views”.
Though it may seem like I’m totally down on Views, it’s not a bad record in general; just a little disappointing given Drake’s past output. Drake’s long-time producer and OVO Sound partner Noah “40” Shebib really shines on this record by producing a majority of these glossy and cloudy beats. The bass really knocks and drives a great deal of the production on these tracks, and Drake does deliver some of his best vocal performances to date on the singing front. “Feel No Ways” seems like a hit, and “Keeping the Family” close delivers some real bombast as the album’s opener; it just that with MCs such as Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper continuing to improve and defy expectations with each release, many hardcore fans of Drake (myself included) expected Views to be his Illmatic or Blueprint. Instead of the classic many were anticipating, Drake came through with a very calculated, yet incredibly formulaic record. I suppose it’s all a matter of what you come to Drake for. If you want that slick production and a pleasant listen, there is quite a bit of material on her that will most certainly click with you; however, if you’re more like me, and expected a lot more from Drizzy, let’s just hope he has some more songs left in the chamber to fire off this summer.