"Is it Drake's magnum opus?"
"It it the mansplaining version of Lemonade?"
"Is it really trash that people hyping up because it's Drake?"
"Is it just trash overall? Where's Kendrick's new album?"
These are all questions I've seen over the past few days since Drake's Views (f/k/a Views from the 6) dropped. And while I like hot takes, I feel that albums with this much buzz behind them need to be checked out a few times before you can give a review on the tracks. You give a hot take and say it's the greatest album of the year, then you go back and say "ehhhh, it's aight." So, without any further ado--and after several listen-throughs--here's my Views review. Hopefully, this one doesn't get me banned from writing for Boi-1da.com. If it does, it's been a helluva run and I still love you.
For the TL;DR folks, here's what you need to know: it's not trash, nor is it not the GOAT album. We get some retreaded themes from previous efforts, delivered in new ways from new perspectives, a la TLOP. It's a pretty solid album that'll definitely go hard in the summer months. But, it still doesn't, for me, surpass the levels of Take Care. This is mainly because, if you're unaware of all of the context, you're going to be out here for months and months trying to piece together what Drake's really getting at (and still probably get it wrong). If that TL;DR entices you, continue to read my track-by-track review below.
Views starts with what may arguably be Drake's biggest and best intro to date, "Keep the Family Close." Maneesh's haunting but triumphant production, it builds up nicely over the five-minute-plus track with military-esque drums placed at just the right moments and orchestra hits to add to the tension Drake's going through within this track. Drake, opting to sing his verses versus rapping them, delivers on this.
Over the years, jokes about Drake's singing have been made. But, on this track, he hits all the right notes (literally and figuratively). It can feel a bit melodramatic with lines like the opening line for the chorus "all my 'let's just be friends' are friends I don't have anymore." However, the emotion's there to keep this one from going too out the way. I've finally found a Drake intro that surpasses "Over My Dead Body" in setting up the album and its...views. There, I made the pun. Can we move on now?
"9" just takes the emotions from "Family" and puts them to rap bars. It showcases a Drake who is seemingly continuing the "I'm alone at the top" energy we've gotten for the past couple years, with a few more wrinkles. This time around, Drake is "willing to cut ties" for what he reps. "9," on the production side, lends itself well for random artists to spit their struggle bars on. That's not a shot at indie artists. I'm (at times) one myself. It's just that the production itself is perfect for some "I started from the bottom shit." In fact, that's kind of what Drake's getting at on this one anyway. It's, additionally, a subtle jab at many of the artists who've dapped Drake up at some point, only to spit in his face later on.
"U With Me?," I like for Drake's interpolation of DMX's "How's It Going Down" and "What These Bitches Want." Anything that brings DMX back into peoples' minds, I'm here for. However, we get the same "Drake likes this girl, but she's playing games" themes here we've seen since "Replacement Girl" for a lot of the song. I'm not against it, since we've all been through it. Also, the team on this (which included TDE in-house producer AxlFolie) put their foot into this one. But, I'd like to hear a song where Drake's happy with the woman he's pursuing and nothing shady, shitty, weird, or wonky is going down. I want my Canadian brother to find happiness in romance. I mean, damn.
The breakdown on this beat is beautiful, as, like the intro, it builds up well. Additionally, I like it for another reason. As a disclaimer, I'm not a stan for either Drake or Meek; I just wish Meek would not scream at me and I wish Drake would have some happiness in his relationships. But, Drake kind of borrows Meek's flow--and does it better, since he's not screaming everything to the point it blows out your speakers.
"Feel No Ways" has that energy, beat-wise, that makes you want to get up and dance in your seat at work. Well, at least it did for me. Don't judge me, dammit. It's a song that'll get some burn, definitely, especially for its lyrics (which, again, many dudes could relate to). This is probably the closest to a "mansplaning Lemonade" we get on this album, for me: the combination of "U With Me?" and "Feel No Ways." Lyrics such as "I had to let go of us/to see what I can do" show that Drake is reevaluating life while realizing that, while he loves this girl (or, at least, likes her), she may be poisonous to him. However, where Lemonade spoke on a wide variety of issues, these two tracks play it safe by going to Drake's bread and butter: songs about women who may or may not have broken his heart in some way.
"Hype" gets us out of the "Heartbreak Drake" bars and energy with a track that feels a bit like a IYRTITL track. 1da, Nineteen85, and the rest of the team on this one, they murder the energy on this one (in a good way). It's a chilling beat that makes you want to listen to what Drake's got to say and, well, get hyped. Lyrically, it's a pseudo-chopper flow track where Drake observes his surroundings and realizes that while others are getting hyped over little things (including beefing with him, such as, ya know, Meek, Tory, etc), he's dunning the hype. And hopefully, I spelled that right.
"Weston Road Flows," plain and simple, sees Drake doing that Comeback Season type of track, even down to the flows. Because, you know, Weston Road is where Drake had his come-up. It's a solid track that reminds people that, even though Drake's been out here doing sing-songy tracks, he still can drop some hot bars. And, no, I'm not some easily impressed young'un. The bars on here are pretty nice and the flow is legit too.
"Redemption," like "Weston," is a throwback to another era of Drake: Take Care Drake. On this one, we get those rapid-fire introspective lyrics layered with sing-song elements over a somewhat slowed and throwed beat. That's really all I want to say about this one. It's a cool track, but up until the fourth verse, it kind of just exists as another Drake track. It's on that fourth verse where we get Drake delivering what we came for on this one.
"With You" is one of the first dancehall-esque tracks on the album. Featuring PARTYNEXTDOOR and Jeremih, the track makes you want to find the one who left you, grab her up on the dance floor, and try to make amends. For me, this is where I realized this album is, in some ways, like TLOP. We're getting a collection of Drake, from different eras (Comeback Season/Room for Improvement/So Far Gone, Take Care, NWTS, IYRTITL, etc) to present us with a showcase of who Drake is and who he's aspiring to me.
From here, we get into "Faithful," the Pimp C and dvsn-assisted track. Pimp's verse was lifted from the "Tom Ford Remix" from 2014, but still fit here, somewhat. I'm a huge Sweet Jones fan, but Drake's choice to put this verse on here kind of, for me, throws the song off before it begins. I get that "I don't fuck with anybody in this shit but Bun" is an homage to how faithful Drake wants his girl to be. However, the verse still doesn't really fit for me.
"Still Here" feels like "Tuesday" in terms of the production, or some late-era Keef track. Not a bad thing, just something I noticed. The track goes, to a degree. Like with "Redemption," things, for me, don't really kick in until the later part of the track. It's probably one legitimate skip on this album. Again, that's my own opinion.
"Controlla" takes us back to the dancehall vibes. It's a solid track that'll get the clubs going, especially with the Beenie Man sample. I know some people like the Popcaan version more, which I get. But this one, in the context of the album, goes a bit more with the album. Both it and the afrobeat-influenced "One Dance" are made for the clubs and the girls who wanna wine, and I'm not even mad at that.
"Grammys" mixes up the energy from the last two tracks and gives us WATTBA Drake. And, yes. That's aided by the fact we've given a Future hook and verse on this one. Now, you can go and say "oh, this is Drake shit-talking since, you know, he had a hit album while other albums have won over his." But, eh. I don't think that's the case, at least not completely. Besides, as tight-knit as TDE is, I doubt Drake would drop any sort of diss to people (read: Kendrick) and have one of the TDE producers on his project.
And, just as we're getting into this vibe, we're taken to "Childs Play." One thing I'll say about this album is that, while we get a TLOP-like album with less congestion from Drake in Views, the problem with that is that the album feels less conceptual. Yeah, the album is, obviously, dedicated to the many sounds and styles of Toronto and Canada in general. However, the switch between styles on the album can be jarring.
"Childs Play," to me, is slightly funny in its WTF moments. I mean, this man is talking about a woman taking a Bugatti to get some maxi pads and fighting in The Cheesecake Factory. The song borders on misogynistic, with lines like "don't make me give you back to the hood." However, he's just as hard on himself, since he's "not someone you should trust," even though he still may very well "Hate Sleeping Alone." There, there's my obligatory Take Care track reference.
"Pop Style" gives us more of the NWTS Drake. And, I'm sorry. But, I'm glad we got two Drake verses versus Jay's two lines. Besides, this means we could see the Kanye West x Drake x Jay whole version on those rumored new Kanye albums, right? RIGHT?! Either way, "Pop Style" (with or without The Throne) kind of goes.
"Too Good" feels like "Work" meets "Take Care." That's it. Nothing more, nothing less. If you liked either one or both of those tracks, you'll like this one. If you want deeper-than-deep lyricism, eh...you might be a bit hard pressed to find it. It's a song about folks who want each other, but know that, in reality, they're probably better off with someone better...even though the sex is good.
Now, I'll admit. I was a bit "huh" to know that "Summer Sixteen" wasn't on the album. However, the "Summers Over Interlude," it's beautiful. Featuring vocals by Majid Al Maskati of Majid Jordan, the 1:46 track pretty much details that, well, things are different now. And, as much as we, as listeners, may want that "Take Care Drake" or that "WATTBA Drake," he's evolved into something else, something that's a mesh of all his previous eras, but still new. Again, this is where, for me, the TLOP comparisons come into play. This track is, essentially, Drake's "I Love Kanye."
"Fire & Desire," it's a slick little "I still want you even though I'm sure you're moving on" track. That So Far Gone/Thank Me Later-esque Drake. It's a slow burn that you may very well want to call someone after. Maybe. You may just be like "screw that" and keep it moving. Depends on your mindset at the time.
The title track "Views" kind of feels like the sums of Drake's freestyle outros put into one. We get love for the city (and its artists) and scoldings from Papa Graham (probably not a nickname, but whatever) to the next wave. We get some solid sample work on the beat. We get the Comeback Season flows. We get some Take Care and NWTS lyricism along with some IYRTITL and WATTBA bravado. All in all, like the intro, it's one of my favorite tracks of the album.
The bonus track, "Hotline Bling," is the same track we got in Summer Fifteen. So, if you liked it then and didn't get tired of it by now, while we're at the cusp of Summer Sixteen? You'll probably still like it now. I really hoped Drake would've threw a remix up there, but...ah well.
So, verdict time. What do I think of Views as a whole. It's a decent album. It falls flat on a couple tracks, such as "Still Here," the fact that we don't even get a "Hotline Bling" remix, and the concept that MAYBE Drake misappropriated a Pimp C verse on "Faithful." It's got some hype tracks. It's got those "damn, Drake snapping" freeflow tracks. The unification Drake tries here between the many elements Toronto has is admirable and, for mostly works.
We get to go from the Jamaican and dancehall references to the trap rap to the straight spitting. We are given, quite literally, views from The 6. Keep that context in, and we're given a contender for Best Hip-Hop album at 2016's Grammys (even though Drake doesn't give a fuck about Grammys a la Eminem), as it's a concept album based around the many cultures and vibes one can get in Toronto layered on an album about love lost, trust issues, hate from the outside, and more.
However, if you take that contextual information out of the picture, we're left with an album that feels like someone went in, grabbed the hottest Drake tracks off each album, spruced them up a bit, and put it out with some dancehall-influenced tracks that make the women wanna wine and twerk (two separate things, but yeah). That's not necessarily a bad thing, as the tracks work, for the most part. Drake has the ability to make something for everyone, and it shows. However, for the album to reach the echelons it should, you've got to know the context, like all of the context. It's like going into the middle of Gurren Lagann where Simon's in jail without seeing anything before or after, even though you know that Gurren Lagann is a somewhat complex anime with lots of GAR, lots of explosions, and lots of drilling to pierce the heavens.
By no means is Views a "bad" album. But, it's going to be a very polarizing one.