Can we all sit down right now and agree Drake gets too much shit? I mean, guy’s obviously – obviously – talented, and frequently gets the production to back his strengths: the people who complained the instrumentals on Nothing Was The Same were “too airy/spacey” wouldn’t know a good melody or hook if it danced naked in front of them. And Drake himself is often criticized for things that can be easily disproven if you actually sit down and listen to one of his albums. “Drake can’t rap?” OK, what’s “Tuscan Leather” then? Or “Worst Behavior?” Or “Wu-Tang Forever?” The guy can flow and rap about shit fine. “Drake’s singing sucks?” Well firstly there’s “Hold On We’re Going Home,” a song that’s incredibly tuneful, hooky, and tight, full of soulful singing. And then there are “Take Care” and “Hotline Bling,” which are the best examples of Drake’s expert melodymaking; the guy can deliver a seriously good hook (“Ever since I left the city y-oo-uu…” gets me every time.) “Drake’s not real?” I could probably rattle off a dozen rappers right now you like who aren’t “authentic” but who’ve made great art you enjoy. How’s Drake any different? Cause he’s from Thornhill? “Drake is corny?” Sure he is, but he’s self-aware; the aforementioned “Hotline Bling’s” video is silly in all the best ways, and I’m sorry, if you hated “Started From The Bottom” because “Drake just bragged and didn’t actually say anything about anything about his life!” then perhaps you should watch that video too and realize it’s a joke. Drake isn’t making some big statement like Biggie’s “Juicy” (a song people seem to enjoy comparing to “Started From The Bottom” – why? Cause they’re about the same thing? Context, context, context, children); he made a fun brag song where he raps about coming up with his homies and how he’s happy he made it. Hating the song doesn’t mean you don’t get the joke or anything, but I’d humbly suggest that perhaps you missed the point. Drake’s a corny dude, who tends to sing about things that make him look bad/stupid, or perhaps just kind of goofy – that’s his character, love it or hate it. But the point I’m making is that he is talented, he is self aware, and he’s gonna be around because of those things. He has a penchant for the subtler features of singing and rapping that push him above and beyond your average R&B performer, and his extremely well-calculated decision in absorbing the critically divisive 808s and Heartbreak to mold his own style was an inspired one, and one that would help validate the album’s existence.
Which brings me to my next, significantly sadder, point: that Views (formerly Views From The 6) is a disappointment. Not a failure; I don’t feel comfortable calling something so commercially successful a failure. Drake got what he wanted: big buzz, big airplay, and big sales/streaming. But it’s disappointing, mostly because his last full length was so consistent, and showed so much of his growth as an artist. Views doesn’t reach any of the highs its predecessor did, and steeps far below its lows, especially in lyrical content. The lyrics will be a point to their own, but if you’ve listened to the album, you’re familiar with what I’m talking about. We’ll get to that at the end.
Actually before we go any further, can we talk about that album cover for a sec? Like I know people have already done the math on how huge Drake must be to appear so large atop the CN Tower (something like 8 feet tall!), and how how the Photoshop is endlessly cheesy, but like… what’s even the point? Is the whole album supposed to be him sitting up there singing and rapping? It’d explain the wind and phone calls between tracks, but even so… that’s dumb. Moving on.
Now, I was unsurprised to find that Views was better than If YOu’re Reading This It’s TOO Late. There’s not a lot of room below that particular barrel. But what I didn’t expect was to find a project so mediocre, and almost deliberately so; it felt at first like Drake decided to make an album that was more watered down than any of his previous work. That was merely a first impression, though, and as I’ve grown more familiar with the project, I’ve found it’s not just a result of Drake’s input as a emcee/singer. The production just flat-out sucks at points, and those moments between the tracks – the “atmospheric” portions – are totally useless dead air – attempts to worldbuild a crappy album still leaves it a crappy album. In a hilarious roast of the album on Dead End Hip Hop, Myke C-Town described Drake’s work here as “nap-rap,” and I couldn’t agree more. Almost every track here has a sleepy, nighttime vibe, but not in a good way; it’s less like an Unseen and more of a Do You Want More?!!!??!. And the fact that it’s such a sleeping pill shocks me because Drake’s never been particularly boring (stick with me here). He’s always elicited a reaction from people, positive or negative: almost nobody goes, “Eh, Drake’s ok, I guess.” You have opinions on him ’cause he forces you to make judgements. But Views finds Drake sleepwalking his way through 19 snoozy instrumentals, murmuring lame ad-libs over them and generally being the least interesting part of the album as a whole. That’s what I mean about it being disappointing: nothing is brought to the table in terms of evolution of sound (not even the dancehall stuff) or growth as a singer or lyricist. This is a step back.
It’s actually really hard to talk about the music, ’cause so little fucking happens. The best part of the album, as everyone’s aware, is “Hotline Bling,” and it’s a bonus track. Whose brilliant idea was that??? And while we’re on about the track listing, why on Earth is this 20 songs long? Kanye’s The Life Of Pablo has the same number of tracks, but it’s not only 15 minutes shorter than Views, it’s also much more eclectic in its production, lyrics, and features; like the album or not, it’s never dull, and its revolving door of all those elements keep you on your feet. Views, meanwhile, is stagnant from the moment it begins. Clacking, ticking, thumping drum machines; groaning sub-bass; lo-fi samples; boring singing. I hit a brick wall around “Hype” every time I listen to it, and by the time I’m at “Faithful” I’m dead asleep. As far as songs go, I like “Hotline Bling” (duh), “Keep the Family Close,” “Weston Road Flows,” and “Controlla” (kinda), out of 20 tracks. Bad lines aside, these tracks have at least a little going on musically for me to mention them; “Keep the Family Close” has a frankly gorgeous beat, as does “Weston Road.” “Controlla” is bouncy and has active enough percussion to carry Drake’s sleepy ass, before it’s interrupted by the worst section of the whole album (no spoilers, though). As for the rest? Yeesh… let’s just say none of these producers conjure up anything more than something for Drake to prop up his weak rhymes, and that’s a shame, because the production is half of why we listen to Drake in the first place. I wish I had more to say, but I don’t; “Grammys” is a What A Time To Be Alive leftover, “Childs Play” is the worst thing ever, “Hype” bores me… blech. What’s there to say?
And, finally, we arrive at the lyrics. This’ll be the final part of the review, since they speak for themselves, but first my closing notes:
Views is a dull-as-dishwater step back for a talented artist with nowhere to go but up and no way to fail except not try at all. Drake feels less present on an album than ever before, and his lyrics speak of a man who thinks anything he spits over a mediocre beat will be cool to someone, a lot like Kanye on Graduation. Except that 1. Kanye is actually funny and charming and 2. the beats on Graduation were fun and retro. The album is indicative of 2016 as a whole: genuine artists reduced to anonymous voices over drab trap beats, talking about relationships and money, flexing without proving anything about themselves, and emoting without expressing passion for their work or their life. I can’t think of a year in recent memory so depressingly monotone in popular music. Thank god for Chance the Rapper, Donnie Trumpet, Kanye West, and Kendrick Lamar. At least they understand us.
And so, without further ado, in chronological order for your endless amusement, we have the following lyrical bombs:
- “Like when Chrysler made that one car that looked just like the Bentley”
- “Anytime people want to start problems / It’s like “for real, are you dumb?”
- “And I turn the six upside down, it’s a nine now”
- “More immature than Marques Houston”
- “Cuts too deep for a band-aid solution”
- “LOLOL I’m glad you find this shit amusin'”
- “I know you heard that my girl is sponsored by Audemars / That’s why she’s always correctin’ me when my time is off”
- “You toyin’ with it like Happy Meal”
- “Views already a classic”
- “I’m lookin at they first week numbers like what are those“
- “You number one and I’m Eddie Murphy we tradin’ places”
- “Lookin’ in the mirror I’m closer than I really appear”
- “Your best day is my worst day, I get green like Earth Day”
- “You platinum like wrappers on Hershey’s boy that shit is worthless”
- “But shit ain’t how it always seams when it’s so together / Yeah, I let that last line breathe, it take a second to get it”
- “I hate the number 2, that shit is unforgiven”
- “You tip the scale when I weigh my options”
- “You hate it when I coat things all in sugar”
- “That pussy knows me better than I know myself”
- “I want to get straight to the climax / Have you coming all summer like a season pass”
- “And I’m never on a waste ting shorty”
- *airhorns* [fuck off]
- All of “Childs Play”
- “Got so many chains they call me Chaining Tatum”
- “Girl let me rock, rock, rock, rock, rock your body / Justin Timberlake and then I hit the highway”
- “Schooling your ass like 101”
- “Told you I got Zs for these other girls sleepin’ on ’em / Girl I’m sleepy”
- “And my wifey is a spice like I’m David Beckham”
- “You could throw curve balls but I got the glove fitted”
- “Niggas quick to double cross like both of us Christian”
- “Tippin’ scales, bars heavy like triple XL”
- “I’m a staple in the game, all my papers together”
- “And my life is on display like Truman”
- “It’s far fetched like I threw that shit a hundred meters”
- “I keep it a hundred like I’m running a fever”
Oh, Wayne. I mean, Drake. Fuck.