Enjoy the Views, even though what you see looks awfully familiar.
There comes a time when your approach to the game has to change if you are looking to extend your career. It’s what separates the good from the great. It’s the difference between legends that live forever and those who occupy a space in an era. It’s the distance between Ja Rule and Jay Z, Dwight Howard and Shaquille O’Neal and Floyd Mayweather and Zab Judah. Regardless of how good players like Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant have been, eventually they had to add a new wrinkle to their game or risk being figured out. Those tricks that wowed audiences will eventually become old. The moral of the story is this: You don’t want to be figured out.
And, right now, Drake has been figured out.
Fortunately, he still has time to evolve as the rest of the universe hasn’t caught on but Views is Drake slamming into a creative wall and then idling in neutral. He’s still ahead of most of the competition but he’s at risk of being caught if he looks over his shoulder.
Views is Drake being a pretty average Drake. And for some, that will suffice. But for others, the shtick is growing old and begs for Drake to challenge himself to do something different.
It’s fascinating when you really think about it. He’s not quite over the hill at 29, but he’s been in the game long enough to be called a veteran. The world is a different place now than it was when he broke through back in 2009 with So Far Gone. Back then there were few rappers who wore their vulnerability as a badge of honor. Today it is the norm. Everybody is an emotional wreck on record. Being considered “soft” isn’t such a bad thing anymore.
The problem is that he’s spent the last eight years doing the same thing that got him here. Sure, he does it better than anybody else. But he’s still doing it. The game eventually has to mature and evolve. Limits need to be pushed when you want to become the greatest. Or, you can coast along and allow the naysayers to have the final call on your career.
It also doesn’t help that his lack of depth has been exposed.
By now, you should know what to expect from a Drake album. If you don’t, here’s a quick rundown:
The stories are identical and so is the music. It hasn’t even aged. There’s a bit more horsepower underneath the hood but the body type remains the same. Eventually, somebody is going to make a Chrysler that looks like your Bentley and you’ll feel like an idiot when the poor man’s version of your style is co-opted. That’s why Drake has got to evolve if he’s looking at the long play.
Look, Views is an exceptional collection of songs but it lacks cohesion and does nothing to demonstrate any progression. He hasn’t grown as an artist. In fact, the single most alarming thing about Drake is that the ever-changing world that surrounds him has had no affect on his music. Over the past couple of years, his musical peers have demonstrated a startling form of evolution. Beyonce went from pop star to the Black star of feminism. Kendrick Lamar went from telling his Compton story to doing a deep dive into the history of our African American narrative. J. Cole evolved from a man about himself to a man on a mission to ensure that he wasn’t out of touch with the world surrounding him. Kanye West, for better or worse, has become extraordinarily experimental in his approach. The stakes are higher for all of the aforementioned. But Drake? Well, he’s just doing the same damn Drake thing. Apparently, we were wrong for expecting anything else.
From the outset it’s obvious that his scope is limited. He’s still navigating the same feelings that he wanted to distance himself from on So Far Gone. But what’s worse is that they consume him on Views.
“All of my ’let’s just be friends’ are friends I don’t have anymore,” Drake croons on the album’s opener “Keep The Family Close” before diving into everything that makes a Drake song: success in the face of trust issues and betrayal. Ironically, he laments on the song’s second verse “You’re so predictable I hate people like you” without realizing that he’s become the subject of his own song.
He’s like hip hop’s Hulk Hogan because you know he’s going to tear off the shirt, hulk up, hit you with the big boot and the leg drop to end it. It works beautifully over Maneesh’s production ripped right out of a moody 70s era gangster flick. But you already kind of expected that.
Hulk Hogan Drake for a majority of the album. He leg drops the competition on the braggadocio “Hype,” rips off his shirt to get the ladies hot and bothered on the ode to an ex-girl who lacks understanding on “Redemption” and hulks up with Macho Man Randy Savage Future as they bask in their musical glory on “Grammys.” While all of these songs are serviceable, you already know what’s coming. And because of that, these songs are relatively stale in the temple of great music that has defined Drake’s career.
There are moments where he gives us a little something different or just shows off his skill. Stwo and 40’s rehash of Mary J Blige’s “Mary’s Joint” for “Weston Road Flows” is vintage Drake as the ‘90s era R&B backdrop allows the 6 God to dig through his past and flex a little lyrical muscle. He’s exponentially clever with his nod to Toronto staples such as Vince Carter’s wicked 2000 slam dunk competition exhibition and reminds you of times when he was sipping Hpnotiq with fellow Canadian Glenn Lewis. These are moments where Drake reminds you where he’s from while boasting that he was great then even though we’re just now realizing it.
If there’s one thing that Drake demonstrates better than most is his innate ability to comprehend the frequencies that make us feel at ease. The harmonies and melodies he draws upon are equal parts soothing and infectious. What you might not like after the first listen will have you subconsciously singing it by the fifth listen. It’s a Drake staple. His music eventually seeps into your pores. For myself, “Hotline Bling” didn’t catch on until after several listens and I found the hook trapped in some dark corner of my brain that I didn’t know existed.
“With You” is the perfect example of Drake manipulating us with a catchy tune. It’s the kind of song that will be blasting out of convertibles with the top down this summer. The same can be said for the dancehall infused “Controlla.” This is “grind down the nearest girl with a nice butt” music for the fellas and “put it on him, girl” music for the ladies. It’s undeniable and is perfect for those extra late night sessions when the club is winding down and you’re on the hunt for something to take home for the night.
But the album fails Drake’s stranglehold on the industry with 20 songs of average Drake — which is still essentially better than most — but fails to excel past another ho hum All Star appearance for the man we hoped would push himself to Steph Curry levels of greatness. Especially when you consider the strides his contemporaries have made over the past couple of years. It’s evident that this is a good album, but a missed opportunity nonetheless.
The other issue with views is that it is so haphazardly sequenced that it lacks continuity. It plays like a mixtape of loose songs strung together over the past few years. There’s about three or four different themed EPs that could have been carved out of this album. You have the Soul Sample Drake EP that is lead by brilliant sampling of The Winans’ “The Question Is” on “Views” and could also feature “Weston Road Flows,” “Summers Over Interlude” and “Keep The Family Close.” Then you have the Riddim Tings Drake EP where the Canadian taps into his dancehall vibe with “Controlla,” “One Dance,” “With You” and “Hotline Bling.” You also have the Hey Baby, It’s Drake…And I’m Emotional EP with “Redemption,” “Fire & Desire” and “Feel No Ways.”
In smaller doses, Views would have been perfectly fine. But as it is, it’s too bloated and aimless.
This would have been expected and accepted on If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late… but not from something he’s been allegedly working on for a couple of years. Or, maybe this was Drake resting his starters because he feels that he’s far enough ahead to not worry about what’s behind him. But the music industry is fickle. If you rest in complacency long enough, you can end up becoming Ja Rule. And, eventually, a 50 Cent will expose you (and probably hijack the methods you used to get there and integrate them into his style).
What Views ends up doing is reminding us just how exceptional Nothing Was The Same truly was. This pales in comparison when it comes to tinkering with styles and flows while plucking a diverse palette of beats that gave the album a distinct feeling of diversity. None of that is present here.
There’s nothing wrong with challenging Toronto’s finest to dig deeper and give us more. This is the true definition of constructive criticism because we’ve come to expect great things from Aubrey Graham. But he can no longer toil in the same emotional dredge that he presented to us seven years ago. It’s time to evolve and prove that he’s deeper than fights at the Cheesecake Factory and corny bars about having so many chains that he needs to be called “Chaining Tatum.” He’s stagnated while everyone else is stepping up his or her respective game.
We know who Drake is but we’re not quite sure if he’s lived up to his potential. He needs to give us something with depth and cultural connotations while showing the world that he cares about more than strippers and how he stacks up against the competition. Let us know that you are growing as a person and have more to offer than an emotional pillow of feathery feelings.
These Views are all too familiar and it’s time for us to challenge Drake to show us something different.