Drake Plays It Safe on ‘Views’
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. So whether it's broken down by the numbers or just by general consensus, there is no one completely dominating hip-hop right now more than Drake. But despite all he has accomplished in his 10-year career, his catalog is still missing an undisputed classic album. His fourth official studio album, Views, aims to fill that void.
The anticipation for the album was building exponentially for over two years since it was first announced the rapper would deliver a new project almost immediately after the release of his 2013 LP, Nothing Was the Same. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late and What a Time to Be Alive, both of which dropped in 2015, were satisfactory placeholders until the piece de resistance arrived. Based on the hype alone, Views would be Drake’s magnum opus. Unfortunately, it doesn't live up to the title of his most important body of work to date.
The album highlights everything we have come to love about Drake but in too much excess. Clocking in at just under an hour-and-a-half and spread across 20 different songs, Views renders itself too long, especially when some tracks sound like previously heard material -- in terms of both instrumentation and subject matter. Drake plays it safe here, never going too far into the revolutionary category and he doesn't push his narrative any further compared to previous releases.
The rapper goes for a unique start with “Keep the Family Close,” an elaborate intro that finds him delivering rhythmic spoken word over fluctuating drums and horns. His obvious trust issues are showing with lines like, “How do you not check on me when things go wrong/Guess I should've tried to keep my family closer.” Things really pick up on the next track “9." Intricately playing with Toronto’s numerical moniker, Drake claims he has “turned the 6 upside down, it’s a 9 now” -- clever wordplay that will undoubtedly become a catch phrase around T. Dot and beyond.
In fact, crafting standout lines and quotables is what Drake nails on this album. “U With Me?” almost perfectly illustrates the subconscious thought process of texting. Lines like “3 dots, you thinkin' of a reaction still/While you're typin' make sure you tell me” hits home with anyone who’s been anxiously waiting for a reply on the other end of an iPhone.
According to Drake, Views follows the sonic trajectory of Toronto’s seasons: a hot summer sandwiched by harsh winters. An interesting angle that he gets spot on. The album’s first eight tracks are primarily hollowed out, looming beats where Drake is flexing in his signature introspective flow -- songs that would be best listened to during a cold winter day. The middle of the album, where Views is truly at its best, finds Drake employing his recently acclaimed Caribbean feel. Toronto’s massive island influence has made its way onto the album’s best tracks.
“With You” featuring PARTYNEXTDOOR, “Controlla,” “One Dance” and “Too Good” with Rihanna carry a Caribbean vibe riddled with dancehall riddims and cadences -- all of which are sure to be on summer playlists around the globe. Hearing Drake use lines like “Cock up yuh bumper, sit down pon it” sound surprisingly authentic as he does the genre justice. Look for this reggae style to catch like wild fire across mainstream rap over the next few months. The summer songs end rather explicitly though with “Summer Over Interlude” and the album wraps up with more slower tempo odes.
“Hype,” “Pop Style” and the Future-assisted “Grammys” serve as the album’s token turn up tracks, specifically the latter. Longtime Drake producer and engineer extraordinaire 40 teams up with Atlanta’s Southside to create a rattling trap canvas that Drake and Future rhyme across effortlessly.
40 handles most of the album’s production but gets assists from the likes of Nineteen85 ("One Dance"), Boi-1da ("Controlla"), Maneesh ("Keep the Family Close"), Frank Dukes ("Pop Style") and Murda Beatz ("With You"), among others.
Casual listeners and staunch supporters alike may be hit with mixed emotions as Views comes to an end. The album does exactly what it's supposed to do but perhaps not what it should have done in exceeding expectations. Drake delivers a strong album that will undoubtedly get played for months and even years to come, but at this point he should be pushing the boundaries in his music. While he breaks some new ground for himself with the dancehall vibes, that only shines through on a handful of tracks. The remainder of the LP features Drake as he's been heard many times before on previous albums. As concrete as Views is, it doesn't stack up to the best opus in his catalog.
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