As damn near anyone with an internet connection knows, Drake’s long-awaited 4th studio album Views finally dropped at the end of last month. If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late came out early last year, but that was considered a “retail mixtape”, whatever that means. Views is Aubrey Graham’s first official LP since 2013’s excellent Nothing Was The Same. Unfortunately for Lord Drizzler, despite great sales (which is to be expected), this album has gotten the most underwhelming reaction of any of his releases thus far.
Reviews from the major music sites have been mixed at best, and the opinions I gathered from my interactions with music fans have ranged from indifferent to negative, on the whole. Rather than slap together a knee-jerk reactionary review, I decided to let the hype die down, take a step back from the album, and re-listen with a fresh mindset. So, at last, here is OogeeWoogee’s review of Views:
Drake has a reputation for opening his albums well, from the poetic, piano-driven “Over My Dead Body” from Take Care, to last year’s anthemic “Legend” IYRITL. He doesn’t fuck that rep up here, as “Keep the Family Close” is an epic beginning to Views, complete with cinematic production that keeps the over 5-minute plus interesting. Drake’s writing appears to not have lost a step here, with lines like “someone up there must just love testing my patience/ someone up there must be in need of some entertainment”. The bar’s been set; looks like we’re in for another quality album from the Aubinator…
The follow up track “9” is dope overall, but the spacious, stop n’ start flow he’s been employing for over a year now, with pregnant pauses between each bar, is beginning to wear thin. And while I get how “tweetable” the hook is, let’s be real: it’s a little silly; but it’s fun, which is the bottom line. The next track “U With Me?” slows the fun down a bit, with Drake’s trademark relationship trouble-infused lyrics. Aside from “you toying with it like Happy Meal”, this one has some dope bars like “my girl is sponsored by Audemars/ that’s why she always correcting me when my timing’s off” (and don’t front like that “DMX shit/DM my exes” opener wasn’t slick). It helps that the production is consistently dope here and Drake employs a cool escalating sing-song cadence towards the end.
The production slips a bit on “Feel No Ways”, despite having the best hook so far. Things kick back into gear on “Hype”, as Drizzy recalls the chest-thumping, cold-blooded feel of IYRTITL over a banging beat. However, Drake continues to describe past events in his life so hyper-personally that it makes it difficult for the listener to tap into what he’s talking about. Also, cut the pseudo-patois accent out already, bruh.
The production carries the album forward though, as “Weston Road Flows”‘s production samples a Mary J. Blige classic quite well. Drake keeps the quotes coming with a cute meme reference (“I’m looking at their first week numbers like ‘what are those?!?’, I mean you boys not even coming close”) as he runs this hook-free track with pure bars. Consistency begins to a be an issue with Views though, as the next track, “Redemption” employs the same tired triplet cadence every rapper and his uncle are doing these days over the most boring production thus far. Lyrics like “there’s the bedroom where we get it poppin’/ just ignore the skeletons in the closet” are too few and far between to make the track work.
This 20-track album is already starting to drag just eight songs in, but “With You” does an excellent job of picking up the pace with a welcomed feature from PARTYNEXTDOOR, who kills this shit; got a good groove here. “Faithful” has more solid production, but the pitched up soul sample thing is far from innovative. Also, who decided this cut-and-paste Pimp C verse was a good idea? Although it’s solid (of course), this shit sounds very out of place on the record. Cool cadence though, Drizzy; give us more of those.
Another simple, catchy hook and more IYRTITL vibes emanate through “Still Here”, as the production keeps carrying the album. Drake, a 29-year-old man, says “I can’t fuck with you no more, you be acting extra” and succeeds in coming off like a 14 year old girl on Twitter. He’s a tremendous writer, and this shit is just lazy. The pair of dancehall-themed singles “Controlla” and “Once Dance” come next, bleeding into each other and proving that the latter was the only one worthy of making the cut. “Controlla” just isn’t as engaging, dwarfed by the catchiness of “One Dance” (proven by its #1 status on Billboard).
Now we’re past the halfway mark, and it’s already clear that this LP has too many damn tracks. Take Care has nineteen, but it had very consistent production, and Drake delivered some of the best melodies and bars of his life on it. So far, Views is paling in comparison. “Grammys” is a highlight, with another welcomed feature to break up the monotony, this time from Future. He steals the show here with lines like “I wear the chain like a bowtie/ I wear the ring like a .45″. He single-handedly saves the record, as the production quality dips into yawn-worthy territory again here.
Things pick back up beat-wise with “Child’s Play”; while the extra emotional subject matter gives Drake haters more fodder to label him “soft”, it’s a good track with an authentic 90’s R&B vibe. “Pop Style” was my personal favorite single off the project, but this motherfucker took Kanye’s entire verse off the album version, and even re-recorded Hov’s intro! Why, Aubrey, why?!? Look, we know you got washed, but you didn’t have to remove that verse; put the good of the song before your ego. His replacement verse is admittedly nice, but not “we went way, way past the line of scrimmage/ Throne is back up in it/ in the field like Emmitt” level nice. Ye’s verse could’ve been kept on in addition to Drake’s new one and the song would still clock in at under 5 minutes. Just a bad move on the part of whoever allowed this.
The next track is another letdown, as Drake collabs with Rihanna hot on the heels of the awesome banger “Work” with a generic run-of-the-mill relationship drama song, “Too Good”. How the same guy who penned “The Ride” could write “I don’t know how to ask you if you’re OK” and be alright with it is beyond me. Even good lines like “I got high as your expectations” don’t save this one. I will say the dancehall flavors are much more pleasant when done by guests or samples like they are here.
Thankfully, the next track, interlude “Summer’s Over” is fucking gorgeous, featuring vocals by Majid Al Maskati of Majid Jordan. It ends too soon; if only there were more featured singers on here. “Fire & Desire” is more fat that should have been trimmed, with the chipmunk-soul aesthetic of the production becoming tiresome and lines like “I got Z’s for other girls sleepin’ on ‘em” coming off trite and corny. You’re a lot better than this, Drake.
The album’s final ‘real’ track (Hotline Bling” is a bonus tacked on to include its massive number of streams), “Views” might be the best on the whole thing other than the opener, with quotable bars galore (“fuck being all buddy buddy with opposition/ it’s like the front of the plane, nigga, it’s all business/ but I haven’t flown with y’all boys in a minute”). The hard as nails soulful beat and cocky lyrics are reminiscent of “Tucsan Leather” from Nothing Was The Same, but that’s exactly the problem with Views: Drake’s done it all before, and done it better.
Look, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every one of Drake’s projects thus far. I didn’t love If You’re Reading This… when I first heard it, but it grew on me like a Canadian fungus. I really wanted to, and expected to, love Views. But the sad truth is, Drake has plateaued; and while it’s not embarrassing, it’s certainly boring. There are some very good tracks here and despite a few missteps, consistently dope production from Noah “40” Shebib. Most of the blame lies with the 6 God; his writing is lazy, his concepts tired and repetitive, his cadences and deliveries unoriginal. Drake ends the title track with an appropriately arrogant-yet-still-paranoid quote: “If I was you, I wouldn’t like me either”.
The thing is, I do like Drake. He’s undeniably talented and I dig the vast majority of his work. I just liked when he was more genuinely sure of himself, more innovative, more interesting, and more hungry. I don’t think Mr. Graham is done by any means; the album is selling well and he’s still one of the most influential, popular artists on the planet. He’s got a lot of juice left; I just didn’t enjoy this particular flavor as much as the others. The good news is, he’s already back in the studio, almost as if he knew this album wasn’t up to his usual par, working to get back in fighting shape. Looking forward to the next chapter, my man.
But put Yeezy back on “Pop Style” though.