I think that that kid on that album that I heard sounds real
fuckinguninspired. 40 continues to progress; Drake, you do not. I miss the Drake that starts the waves, not hops on other waves. I miss the drake that pushes the fuckingagenda. – Joe Budden
(only in your mind, Drake. Only in your mind)
After spending more than ten weeks at the top of Billboard, Views is on course to be one of the biggest
selling streaming rap albums for the newer generation. Since so much time has passed since its release, you either consider it a great body of work consistently falling in line with the rest of Drake’s discography; or you’re on the side that believes this is Drake’s worst album to date. Personally, I’m with the latter statement. If you’re judging based off stats alone all signs would point to this album topping the rappers sophomore album Take Care, which is critically acclaimed as his best album; and rightfully so. But once you dig deeper into the project that couldn’t be further from the truth.
While I initially reviewed Views when it dropped (you can view it here), with all of the conversation and debates that have taken place since then I decided to go a little more “in depth” while also comparing it to his previous albums.
Money just changed everything, I wonder how life without it would go. From the concrete who knew that a flower would grow. Looking down from the top and it’s crowded below, my fifteen minutes started an hour ago.
It’s only right that we begin with each album beginning. Fireworks was the mainstream, commercial introduction to what kind of artist Drake was and could be. While it’s not my favorite out of the openers, it serves as the foundation for what could come. Instead of coming out the gate swinging with hard-hitting punchlines and a bass heavy beat, he opted to go a route that was more subtle, going along with a more mellow style that would become the blueprint to his true sound. In Drake fashion the song captures the rapper opening up about relationships (as we’ve become accustomed to) ranging from concern that his foreseen success would tarnish the friendship between himself and Wayne, his first rumored romance with Rihanna and the downfall of his parents’ marriage. It also isn’t a bad look that he secured a feature from Alicia Keys in her pre-Girl On Fire form.
All these people really discussing my career again, asking if I’ll be going platinum in a year again? Don’t I got this shit the world wanna hear again? Don’t Michael Jordan still got his hoop earring in?
Over My Dead Body is another mellow opener but this time around his confidence and ego are a bit more apparent than previously before. “I think I killed everybody in the game last year man
fuck it I was on though” that sentiment was nothing but facts since Drake was absolutely dominating the previous year, so his improved confidence in his capabilities was earned. This domination even vamped up the notion that any other rapper who challenged his spot at the top would get destroyed in the process. “Don’t make me take your life apart, boy, you and whoever the fuck gave you a start, boy.”
By far the most impressive album opener is Tuscan Leather. With its three beat switchups that sample Queen Nippy’s I Have Nothing this was definitely a blatant attempt to prove that Drake could in fact deliver a hard-hitting, all rap track to keep his name in the “who’s the best rapper” debate. For six minutes he’s able to brag and boast while effortlessly riding the beat changes. All of these positives come to a halt once Views comes around.
Keep The Family Close, while having some bold, orchestra-based production, has to be one of the most dragged out openers out of his official albums. Drake goes back to the more melodic style this time around, but his vocal performance falls flat and gets stale before the song comes to an end. It doesn’t help that the track is also boring lyrically. “Always saw you for what you could’ve been, ever since you met me like when Chrysler made that one car that looked just like the Bentley, always saw you for what you could’ve been” I mean…..okay. The downfall of relationships has been what his music has been about since the very beginning, but the problem here is that there’s no growth to that narrative. While it’s more than evident that Drake isn’t a lyrical miracle there has always been something behind what he talks about, this time not so much.
A huge part of what makes Drake’s music so appealing is the emotion he puts into it, making it relatable. An underrated gem like Karaoke displayed a youthful Aubrey dealing with yet another relationship fail but it was one of the first songs where I was introduced to this side of him, which I quickly learned would be a big part of his overall image. The mixture of elements of R&B made his appeal even stronger. Songs like Find Your Love, Shut It Down (sidenote: “you finer than yo fine cousin, and yo cousin fine but she ain’t got my heart beating double time” he really said that) one of my personal favorites Doing It Wrong and the If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late track Jungle all showcase Drake’s inner Jodeci, the only thing he’s missing is an all white outfit and a desert. Now, Drake is no ones K-Ci but his vocal growth and understanding of his limitations have been displayed nicely throughout his career. Views’ Fire & Desire does a good job of bringing back those old Drake feels, everything from the vibe to the Brandy sample are executed well; but the problem still remains that he’s singing the same ol song from six years ago.
Over the course of his career he’s been able to work with a number of people who are great in their own right and have made a name for themselves. As was briefly covered earlier, Queen Keys herself was featured on Fireworks before she lost our attention, songwriter The-Dream added his vocals to Shut It Down, pre-Blue Hov is on Light Up (“Oww,
hoes turn they heads like owls, I’m the man of the (h)our”….okay Jay) and of course Young Money CEO Wayne and labelmate Nicki make their appearances on Drake’s first two projects. Each featured artist provided nice additions to each record but by the time Views came around not only had Drake regressed but so did the features. Grammys sounds like a What A Time To Be Alive leftover with neither of the rappers providing content that stood out. While preparing to do this write up I sat through With You for the first time and realized immediately why I always skipped it. Drake tries to capture lighting in a bottle a fourth time with Rihanna on Too Good but much like the Unapologetic track Nobody’s Business, the song doesn’t vary in terms of lyrics and just sticks to the two repeating the others previous verse.
By the time his sophomore effort came around it was evident that the “sensitive” and “he’s not a real rapper” comments got to him a bit because this is is when the commercial raps that were present on the debut were shelved and replaced with more “hardcore” bars and songs that showed he could stand on his own. This is also when the trend of personal songs that weren’t based on intimate relationships came into play. Look What You’ve Done, The Ride, Tuscan Leather to name a few. This was one thing that Views did manage to deliver with the album’s title track and Weston Road Flows; but the other rap records are lackluster at best. 9 is okay for what it is but Still Here, Hype and Pop Style are all simultaneously bad both in terms of lyrics and production, at least if the raps aren’t up to par you could get into the beat but that’s not the case here. All strive to be this headbanger with nothing that would make one’s head bang. I shouldn’t mention the Chaining Tatum line on Pop Style but, there you go and you’re welcome! “Girl let me rock rock rock rock rock your body” “Keychain go jang-a-lang” Hype (the entire song) who thought any of this was acceptable? In all actuality Summer Sixteen (which proceeded Views’ release) and 4PM in Calabasas (which came after) are both better than the four previous songs.
I will acknowledge that what Drake has been able to build with his brand and following are amazing and they do make him a “pop star” his latest efforts feel like a steps backwards that he knows he can make and people will still applaud,support and eat up. His status as this superstar outshines his musical abilities, to which he allows and that’s fine. But the proclaiming to be one of the best to ever do it and the even bolder statement that “Views is already a classic,” and to some that may very well be true, but I didn’t hear anything from this album that would even hold up in an argument if the topic came up. Some would even say that an artists’ previous work shouldn’t be compared to their latest effort to which I strongly disagree. How else would we know what they’ve improved on or have gotten worse at? What about personal growth? How else would the tweaks be determined? Like the way MJ progressed from Off The Wall to Thriller, while there were only subtle tweaks made, they were apparent regardless of which album you prefer. Or how Beyoncé evolved from Dangerously In Love to B’Day? There is no other way than to compare the artist’s work that came before their current project.
Drake has shown the he has it in him but the overall pop star persona has taken over and at this point I don’t think he’ll look back, at least not anytime soon. I don’t blame him. Views is now a triple platinum project and you can’t deny that even if Drake isn’t the best rapper in The Leaders of The New School he is certainly the only one doing those kinds of numbers, regardless of if they’re legit sales or streams. I’m just hoping this trend of mediocrity doesn’t crossover into his next album.