When it comes to being a loyal fan of Drake, Drizzy, 6God, Aubrey, or whatever moniker you prefer to call the man of the hour, the distinction between your love for him and for other artists is underscored by the fact that you feel like you know him – really know him. His hyper self-aware, confessional lyrics have always been the quality that separate him from the pack, and his concern with cadence means he delivers his verbal disclosures in hypnotizing measures. On the cover of his newly re-named and recently released sixth studio album, Views, Drake sits high atop a building in Toronto – or the “6” as we now know it – surveying what is ostensibly now his kingdom. He’s too far away to read his expression, but cast against a gray sky, the image paints a lonely picture of isolation and introspection. Unlike other major artists who cloak their innermost selves with theatrics and spectacle, Drake never leaves his fans wondering what’s on his mind. He’ll tell you, and before you know it, you’ll be singing along, his pain and disillusion becoming your own.
As it stands, Drake is at the top of his game, but the higher someone reaches, the further they have to fall.
Although Drake treats his albums like diaries, he rarely gives interviews, unless you count the gonzo-style journalistic endeavors of Ernest Baker, who has been allowed to observe and report from inside the Drake camp. However, on April 28th (or “Views Eve” as some have dubbed the date), fans who tuned into the global listening party for Views on Beats 1 radio were treated to an hour-long interview with Drake conducted by Zane Lowe. In the interview, he dropped plenty of juicy details about the album, its influences, its thesis, and also dished on more personal matters like the current state of his relationship with Nicki Minaj or the conflicts he faced with Jay-Z and Kanye West’s contributions on Pop Style. Not only did the interview set the tone for what is Drake’s most personal work to date, but it also offered a window into his current mindset. As it stands, Drake is at the top of his game, but the higher someone reaches, the further they have to fall. One gets the sense that he is aware of his precarious position, but when Views handily sold over 600,000 albums in the first day it was available on iTunes, the numbers backed his verbal stunting.
However, the reviews of Views have been lukewarm. When you are getting to know someone, their flaws are not immediately apparent. It is only after spending quality time with that person that their limitations and shortcomings are revealed. Fans that have been with Drake since his first mixtape dropped in 2006 or his first studio album was released in 2009 have become intimately acquainted with his personality. In that time, he has been alarmingly clever, painfully self-exposed, and magnetically confident, but one hopes to see continued growth on Views. One hopes to see him stretch himself beyond mainstream rap’s obsession with cars, drugs, and women, or perhaps, take some measure of responsibility for the malaise he so openly suffers. Who is Drake now after the Twitter feuds, after the late nights in Calabasas, after the meme-ification of Hotline Bling and the Internet parodies and the slavish devotion of fans?
What is immediately apparent in the opening track, Keep the Family Close, is that Drake is still harping on the same old subjects: Who’s loyal to him? Who can he trust? Who are his friends? “All of my ‘let’s just be friends’ are friends I don’t have anymore / How do you not check on me when things go wrong,” he complains, making it instantly evident that he hasn’t evolved at all. Rolling Stone is quick to point out, “In 2016, it seems as if the sliver of self-awareness he had in the So Far Gone days has been totally eclipsed by self-absorption,” while Stereogum says, “In a 73-minute album, Drake spends most of the time morose and adrift, mourning past relationships and blaming everyone but himself.”
However, for all its musical advancement, Views represents lyrical regression – or maybe not regression, maybe stagnation is a better word.
Views stretches Drake vocally; he is at his most accomplished singing on tracks like Redemption and Controlla, however there is far more singing than rapping on this album. It is clear that Drake and his longtime producer and compatriot, 40, are pushing to develop huge sonic landscapes, which are noteworthy for their inclusion of Latin beats, Afropop, dancehall, funk, and beautiful string sections. In his interview with Lowe on Beats 1 radio, Drake remarked that Stevie Wonder and Alabama Shakes influenced the sounds of Views, and this much is evident in the complicated structural arrangement of his songs.
However, for all its musical advancement, Views represents lyrical regression – or maybe not regression, maybe stagnation is a better word. He can be irksomely misogynistic and obstinately myopic, spouting lines like, “You wildin’, you super childish, you go to CVS for Kotex / In my Bugatti, I took the key and tried to hide it / So you can’t drive it, and put on mileage / Then you find it, awkward silence”. There is a lot of talk of ex-girlfriends – mostly told in simultaneously scorching missives and cool dismissives – and a lot of talk of who wronged him, who burdens him, what annoys him, etc. Gone are the days when he was still on the come-up, thinking about the game ahead and confessing, “If I ain’t the greatest / then I’m headed for it,” or blowing minds with righteously clever/hilarious barbs like, “I’m about to say a true thing / You was poppin’ back when Usher wore a U-chaaaain /God damn, you changed.”
While this may come off as nitpicking, unnecessary criticism, that’s what happens when you enter Drake’s world. That’s what happens when you feel like you really know a guy, and then you start to know the bad sides of him too – when you see that he can be petty, short sighted, arrogant, or worse. However, if you remove the personal entanglements you may have with the artist himself and reflect objectively on his art, Views is a solid album. It’s different, it’s slower, it’s got a lot of sleepy R&B ballads, but it’s also the most musically diverse and daring album Drake has ever released. Maybe you aren’t looking to get into the mind of Drake. Maybe you’re just searching for some new party bangers to bob to on a wild night. Maybe you’re looking for the next 10 Bands or a hype track like Headlines. If that’s the case, Views doesn’t disappoint. If you want to work up a sweat, try Too Good featuring Rihanna, Hype, Faithful featuring Pimp C and dvsn, and Controlla.