About a year and a half after announcing the project, then titled Views From the Six, Drake is back with his 4th LP Views. Described by the man himself as “the most blatant statement of me being proud of where I’m from” in an interview with Zane Lowe for Beats 1, the album is a 20 track journey that further separates Drizzy from his rap peers, essentially pushing him into the pop world.
The cover of the album has Drake sitting atop the CN Tower. Memes aside, it’s an accurate representation of his status as rap’s current king. No other rapper has arguably come close to Drake’s popularity since he dropped his surprise mixtape If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. Throw in the Future-assisted What A Time To Be Alive and the “Hotline Bling” craze and it’s easy to see the Toronto rapper’s influence on pop culture. Suffice to say the hype for this album was through the roof, and upon first listen, it doesn’t match the massive hoopla that the music world placed on it, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad album necessarily.
The intro, aptly titled “Keep the Family Close,” has Drake questioning the loyalty of those he lets close to his inner circle. “How do you not check on me when things go wrong? Guess I should’ve tried to keep my family closer,” he sings behind a very cinematic beat courtesy of relatively unknown producer Maneesh. Speaking of production, the music on Views is beautifully arranged. Led by Drake’s longtime producer/partner-in-crime Noah “40” Shebib, who is credited on 13 of the 20 songs, Views raises the bar on what hip hop production can be. The samples, ranging from R&B legend Mary J. Blige to relative unknown UK House act Kyla, are also executed by the producers wonderfully. Even the transitions from song to song are spot on. Much like the rapper’s previous record, 2013’s Nothing Was The Same, Views is an ‘album’s album,’ meant to be listened to front to back without interruption. The beats also set the vibe Drake wanted them to set. He explained in the interview that the album’s concept is based around the two seasons his beloved Toronto experiences; winter, summer and then back to winter. The front and back half have chilly, moody beats, while the middle of the album possesses a sunny zeal.
However, production alone doesn’t make an album and this is where Drizzy falters a bit. On “Hype” he raps “I don’t run out of material.” The album begs to differ, as some of the songs sound like the same old Drake, whether it’s Take Care-esque “Redemption” or “Grammys,” which could belong perfectly on WATTBA. We all know that he has commitment and trust issues, it’s just constantly being reminded of this throughout his projects can turn off some listeners. However, he occasionally bypasses this by utilizing fresh (and sometimes corny) lyrics to convey his thoughts, adding to his ‘memeability.’ If you’re fighting with your girl at Cheesecake Factory or your chain is too heavy to tuck (and you’re serious), then Drake’s got you covered.
When Drake does decide to move in a new direction, he passes with flying colors. The dancehall track “Controlla” is a fun little song that is sure to be in contention for song of the summer, and “One Dance,” which as of this writing just went to No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, is a testament to Drake’s versatility as a musician. “Too Good,” a duet with his well-acquainted pal (and rumored girlfriend) Rihanna should also fly up the charts relatively soon. Recorded around the same time the duo did their smash hit “Work,” the island-vibe track has the two going back and forth accusing the other of taking his/her love for granted. Naturally, they both work well together, as Drake himself said they have “genuine energy.” It’s definitely another ‘W’ to add to their growing catalog.
In the interview (which if you didn’t pick up is essential to listen to before delving into this album), Drake noted that he made the album that he wanted to make. “If I didn’t want to listen to myself then there was a problem,” he explained. However, the project also seemed to have been made with Toronto in mind, as the album is littered with references about “the 6.” On “Weston Road Flows,” titled after the street Drizzy grew up on, the rapper goes into detail his come up and his life as a young Torontonian just trying to find his place in the world over the aforementioned Mary J. Blige sample. On the proper closing track “Views,” he takes it a step further, name-dropping several Toronto places and events, ranging from clothing stores Jaydees Connections and Ceesay’s Sporting Goods to the annual Kiddie’s Caribana festival. If you’re from Canada’s biggest city, Drake’s got you on his back.
As previously stated, this album won’t blow you away on first listen. However, this seemed to be the intention, as Drake stated in the interview that the album is meant to be listened to multiple times in order to get the feel of it. Since the album is based around the changing seasons that Toronto faces; winter, summer, then back to winter again, perhaps seasons need to change before we can ultimately appreciate Views the way Drake intended it to be. But for the time being, we must judge it during the right now. If you’re not a Drake fan, the album won’t change your mind. If you are, you’ll like it. If you’re from Toronto, you’ll love it. However, if Drake wants to avoid this problem of polarization and reach newer audiences and stay relevant going into his 30s, he’s going to have to switch up the subject matter and/or the way he comes off addressing them, because as Drake gets older, so will the sound he pioneered.