By Maceo Maddox
Yes, I’m aware that Views came out some time ago but one cannot diagnose an album from the first few listens. It takes time and listen after listen to fully grasp the concept, lyrics and progression from start to finish. I can now say that I have reached that point..
Drake’s platform has continued to grow exponentially ever since his initial rise to prominence. Social media has played an undeniably-significant role in the resurgence of his career in the last 2-3 years, if you can even call it a resurgence. Topped off by his $19 million Apple deal, the contingency of the cult following he’s developed is definite. This following is both the cause and effect of Drake’s status as the most popular rapper in the game. However, what Drake has done with said status since achieving it may not be favorable to all of his listeners.
The non-international single “Pop Style” served as a valid indicator for many of the carefree cadences throughout Views. “9” and “Grammy’s” are the best examples, as Drake partners with Future on the latter for what sounds like an all-the-way-outtake from What A Time To Be Alive. Tracks such as these have proven that Drake’s regard for lyricism has dropped by a substantial amount ever since Nothing Was the Same, which I consider his lyrical peak. “I made a career off of reminiscing.” Yes, you did. It’s rather disappointing how Drake went from setting musical trends to following them. Imagine if WATTBA was released a year after Take Care. Wouldn’t you be disappointed?
The international influence of “Controlla” and “One Dance” only makes one question the influence of Rihanna on his personal life and music, again. Once the track list released, and it was clear that these two tracks were here to stay, all I could do was wonder how Drake was going to incorporate these borrowed styles into a highly-anticipated commercial release.
The point to take from this is that when Drake borrows flows, it often lacks anything except charisma and braggadocio. It seems like he’s just talking. He has all of the bragging rights in the rap game, but you can only make so many songs before that pipeline is exhausted.
“I made a decision last night, I’d die for it” isn’t a tough enough line to end a verse on.
“First place, first place, we can’t be tied for it”
“Keychain go jaaaaaangalaaaang”
Okay. Anything else, Chaining Tatum?
The Canadian trap template is not an immediate recipe for disaster. “Still Here” is a pretty dope song, as Drake combines his charisma with a melody that actually sounds natural and unborrowed. The lines about calling God and the Lion of Judah are pretty solid. It’s a pretty fun track to recite and ride to.
In Joe Budden’s spiel about Views, he stated that 40 is progressing while Drake is standing still. There’s much truth to that statement, which hurts to say because I never, for a single second, thought that 40 was anything but a painstakingly-average producer. Most of his instrumentals sound like they could’ve been engineered on the Fruity Loops free trial. Listen to “Wu-Tang Forever.” Listen to “Madonna.” Listen to “From Time.” They were fundamental with very few layers, and from what I’ve heard on Views, he’s going through the same motions. He tries to cover it up with down-tempo switch-ups, but I am not fooled. Listen “0 to 100.” Listen to “No Tellin’.” Boi-1da is greater than.
40 has producer credits on a strong majority of the album, and due to his tendencies for uninspiring chord progressions, it was easy to point out. “Redemption” is a fan favorite, and lyrically, it surely invokes an emotional response from the audience. But there’s basically nothing going on with the beat here, and it affects Drake’s punch-power. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that 40 and Drake have lost their compatibility, but at this point in Drake’s career, he should have transcended these vapid and careless displays of instrumentation. These days, the value of a good producer seems to be unknown, save for trap music. But that’s a different article for a different day.
Drake strays from his typical intro model on “Keep the Family Close,” in which he’s basically singing the whole song. Basically. It’s pretty hard to tell with him sometimes. Thankfully, he also strayed from 40 on this track, to a dramatic and eclectic surprise. Likely about Nicki Minaj, Drake recounts the falling out of a let’s-just-be-friendship in classic, reminiscent fashion. Save for the Chrysler 300 line, this is an easy track to get behind on the lyrical side. The instrumental starts out very airy and orchestral, and then ambushes you with a chord progression that’s both intense and confusing. It doesn’t ruin the song, but Drake maintains his mellow delivery while being bombarded by strings and horns. “Too much” is a common description. If anything, you’ll be intrigued listening to this song.
“U With Me” has a coasting vibe with a flow that follows suit. Drake uses the iMessage interface as a reference point for many of the lines, which gives the song a youthful appeal in a way. I’m sure this coincides with his Apple deal. One of the album’s highlights is on the tail end of this album, when Drake’s ups his pitch a few notches to close out the track. He displays a more possessive and insecure romance in this track, which is overall more acceptable than that godforsaken “You toying with it like Happy Meal” line.
“Hold On, We’re Going Home Pt. 2,” also known as “Feel No Ways,” comes up next, with a very familiar dancehall sound. Drake does a good job of melodizing over these sorts of instrumentals, and it’s easy to appreciate the quasi-retro sound since he doesn’t overdo it. The “feel a waaaaay” is a great singalong, and the bass, typical of dancehall music, makes you want to rock and sway to the music. But where’s Majid Jordan?
Drake does some of his best work over floating background vocals, and the Mary J. Blige sample on “Weston Road Flows” does justice. The “what are thooooose” meme reference and sewing lines are worth a chuckle and chin rub, respectively. This track reminds me a bit of “The Ride” in terms of background vocals, transitional storytelling, and firm braggadocio. Definitely one of the three best tracks on this album, “Weston Road Flows” embodies every characteristic of a go-to Drake track. It even adds a slight switch-up at the end.
Unremarkable and rather dull is the trend that flows into the next few tracks. After a fairly-decent first third of the album, it hits a major slump starting at “Redemption.” This track has a few emotional jabs, but they’re overall just jabs, as the song as a whole doesn’t do much to blow me away.
“With You” might include the worst PARTYNEXTDOOR feature out there. Nothing about his performance here is even par, and it’s hard to gather the concept of this song. What makes it worse is that PND’s presence dominates this track, to the point where it seems like a poor excuse for an interlude. This might be the worst song on the album.
To cap off the worst three-song stretch of Views, we have “Faithful.” As a big fan of UGK, I was already disrespected by the simple fact that the name Pimp C was anywhere on this track list. I’m not certain what Drake was trying to achieve by throwing him onto this album, but he did not achieve it. To make matters worse, Drake’s rap flow on this track is almost unbearable. The bass line is obnoxious and the sample might as well not even be there. And we get more struggle bars:
“That pussy knows me better than I know myself”
“I wanna get straight to the climax, have you coming all summer like a season pass, I’ma turn you out, like pitch-black”
dvsn did what he could to save the track, but to no avail. This also might be the worst song on the album.
The aforementioned pseudo-international tracks are both sonically pleasing. While I slightly favor “One Dance” due to it being more upbeat, both songs adequately serve their purpose, although the question of appropriation is still in the air. Drake has no business saying “ting” is what I mean. Removing Popcaan from “Controlla” was another move that brings his motives into questioning. This duo is operable. As previously stated, I can’t be sure what caused Caribbean Drake to emerge, but seeing “Work” and its success cannot be outside of the realm of influence.
“Child’s Play” is, ironically, childish. Drake discusses the antics of his woman acting out, so to speak. But his response is hiding car keys from her because he took his car without permission. Sonically, there are no real issues with this song; it’s just rather confusing in terms of content.
If you enjoyed the house vibe of “Take Care,” then you’ll likely enjoy the vibe of “Too Good.” Drake and Rihanna combine for another jumpy and hyper-melodic record. As the duo meanders over how difficult it is to talk to someone they used to be intimate with – while also somehow being haughty enough to declare themselves too good for the other’s expectations – they reminisce on how they could have possibly come to this point. The duo works well together, much like last time, however this track is a bit less effective and less focused. Still, in and of itself, the track operates fine, especially on the tail end of the album.
Majid al Baskati floats through and through on “Summer’s Over Interlude.” An extremely short track with a sharp an acute message, he sings of a summer fling that ends with the girl wanting more, and Majid knowing that it’s going nowhere. The guitars flying both above and below him, placing him in the center of a sour dichotomy. As the theme commonly goes, I’m left wishing that this track was longer than two minutes.
“Fire and Desire” features a nice Brandy sample to introduce and close the track. The pulsing bass line rides, and Drake glides over it with his sentiments. This track could use a bit more layering, as there are too many empty spots in the song which I feel could be occupied to increase its emotional impact. However, this track is definitely not a miss.
ANOTHER GREAT SAMPLE. As previously stated, Drake hardly misses on the right sample, and that holds true with the title track, “Views.” As Drake talks about his “thoughts too deep to work em out with a therapist,” this track has a vibe very similar to “The Ride.” He lets the beat coast itself on a few occasions. The Winans’ sample floats in the background. He recounts the last few years of his life in comfortable, reminiscent content. The instrumental is solid, but has the potential to be phenomenal. However, for the sake of not judging what can’t be seen, I’ll leave “Views” where it is, at the top of the track list in terms of quality.
Views sits somewhere between Nothing Was The Same and If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late in terms of quality and overall sound. As Drake’s career goes further and further, he seems to have less and less regard for the styles and flows that brought him to prominence. Although it’s only present on a few songs, the trap flow that Drake adopts really waters down the quality of the album as a whole, and there are too many rough patches and tracks that are acceptable, but not really quality. This sits at the bottom of the list as far as commercial releases, and Drake sounds more uninspired than he ever has. He meanders through most of this album, and the result is a bunch of loosely-woven tracks that entwine into a directionless and droll listen.