In an Interview with Fader last September 2015, October’s Very Own co-founder Oliver El-Khatib released information about what was then titled “Views from the Six,” calling it a return to their formula: “We’re just really getting back to basics and not giving ourselves any sense of deadline. Just letting it happen naturally. That’s how we’ve always done it. When it’s done, it’s done. If we love it, we love it.”
Drake hasn’t left headlines since, and with it the hype for his fourth studio album. There were news about billboards teasing “Views” in Toronto. Then came the pop-up stores. News about Drake linking up with Skepta and Boy Better Know was a big introduction to the grime scene. After that came the track listing, featuring who else but frequent collaborators Rihanna, Future, PARTYNEXTDOOR, and Majid Jordan. Then came the memes—Drake is a meme machine and he knows it. And who can forget the Meek Mill beef?
Drake fans know how different he is in albums compared to his features, and his features were a plenty leading to “Views.” Beginning with a song with Beyonce, Can I, to “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” and “What A Time to Be Alive” to the memerrific Hotline Bling and finally, Pop Style andOne Dance, Drake displayed his musical range as well as his influences. The Fader interview reignited a love for Drake’s music that catapulted him to stardom, and expectations were set.
“Views” is a mix of the old and the new Drake—a little bit of the introspection from “Nothing Was The Same” (Keep the Family Close), a little bit of shameless honesty from “Take Care” (Too Good and Redemption) , and a little bit of aggression reminiscent of Summer Sixteen and Back to Back (Hype). The Houston drill scene which Drake represented once before pledging fully to the Six still has a presence in the album. A welcome and well-anticipated influence is the Caribbean influence made apparent by the use of Caribbean vernacular and the dancehall infused tracks. Expect the catchy 11th track, Controlla, to reach airplay soon.
Drake’s music, critics say, call it a genre of itself built on a formula that utilizes reflection, aggression, introspection, and sentiment, taken into twists and turns through Drake’s capacity for inflecting his voice. Drake is no doubt a master at changing flows, from singing to rapping back to singing. Reading into the lyrics is another layer you can explore into, and a fact that Drake grasps well enough. “Views” is a cohesive, musical experience that stands well even when taken apart to individual tracks. The airy, subdued production Noah “40” Shebib brings to the table punctuated by Drake’s voice, The Toronto sound Drake and his crew have solidified, has cemented itself into this album.
But here is where the album falls short—what’s next beyond the conversation of losing friends, navigating relationships with lovers, and flaunting riches? The fragile, Marvin’s Room-era Drake that was (and still is) in all post-breakup playlists, is not in “Views.” The Drake you heard inJumpman isn’t here too. None of the songs in “Views” pierce the heart further than Drake’s previous songs. It’s not a clamoring for the old, because it’s still the same formula that made Drake into a pop icon and a hip hop standout.
Perhaps Drake has built up his persona using the wrong blocks. Let’s admit it: we don’t know if Drake is still the emotionally distant lyricist that made us feel okay to share our soft side. In 9, Drake compares his achievements to Michael Jordan (I wanna do major things / MJ in every way / I just don’t fade away). In Too Good, Drake turns his shtick for the late night message to an admission for a booty call (I wanna benefit from the friendship / I wanna get the late night message from you, from you). He has pushed himself into a corner thematically, and the self-consciousness he projected with his previous projects has been rendered into an almost selfish preoccupation. And it’s not something that looks good on Drake.
Where does he turn to now? He turns to his crew for an eclectic sound that could hopefully replenish our ears. Drake is so good at adopting other musical styles that he’s flipped it over its head and made it his own. Look to Migos’ Versace, ILOVEMAKONNEN’S Tuesday, and almost all of The Weeknd’s music post-”House of Balloons.” It’s no wonder Drake and The Weeknd aren’t linking up again, as Drake mentioned in his interview with Zane Lowe. What people would call biting other artists’ sound, Drake responds with Keep The Family Close (And it’s all because you chose a side / You’re supposed to put your pride aside and ride for me / Guess it wasn’t time / And of course you went and chose a side that wasn’t mine).
Which makes you think: what is Drake looking at atop Toronto’s CN Tower? Some fans hoped, myself included, to be homage to Toronto based on the album title. But the title changed, and what we’ve been given with “Views” is Drake looking towards what he sees through his eyes—enemies, women, and lowkey swag. I wouldn’t call it Drake being stagnant, because what else do we expect from Drake? My only fear is he fails to find a change of scenery. Some views can get tiring.
Image from Hypebeast