First Impressions: Drake's Views
It's been a long time coming but the wait is finally over; Drake's Views (previously titled Views from the 6) is out, after two years of buildup. Now the question is, does it live up to the hype? The short answer: yes—just barely.
Views is packed with 20 tracks of exactly what we've come to expect from Drake: equal parts boastful rapping and heartbroken crooning, mixed together and poured over syrupy hip-hop beats and hip-stirring dance grooves. 20 tracks give him plenty of space to try on all his different hats, but unfortunately Views doesn't have enough variety to justify the 73 minute running time. Consistency has always been a double-edged sword for Drake: on the one hand cranking out hits on a regular basis is how he's become one of the biggest and most relevant artists alive in today's singles culture; on the other hand when he releases 20 songs at once we're reminded that he achieves persistence at the expense of predictability.
Having said that, there isn't a single bad song on the album, and even after only a few preliminary listens there are plenty of memorable moments. He takes a more cinematic approach to the intro of Views, singing melancholically over an orchestral beat which somehow still doesn't deviate much from his usual sound. "Controlla" is an early standout, and finds him basking in the Caribbean dancehall influences he loves to absorb into his own style.
As many have learned from the ghostwriter controversies that have surrounded Drake from time to time, he's at his best when he's collaborating. "With You" is a breezy low-energy summer jam with PARTYNEXTDOOR that's not all that earwormy, but somehow still lends itself to dozens of repeats without growing stale. The two songs destined for the charts more than any others are the previously released "One Dance" and likely followup single "Too Good," both of which feature guest vocals from female singers. The latter is a fantastic duet with Rihanna that interpolates a silky, groovy sample of "Love Yuh Bad" by Popcaan (another example of Drake thriving off of dancehall influences).
Drake curated some noteworthy guest spots on Views, but it's actually more important to look at which artists didn't make the cut. Popcaan was supposed to appear in the flesh on "Controlla" but was cut from the track—surely a big blow to the Jamaican star. Another big name that's missing from the final product is UK rapper Skepta, who many thought was going to break out in America on the back of a strategic Drake feature. This is Skepta's second strike after he recently missed a crucial Coachella gig, and it could cause a chain reaction that will determine the course of UK rap and its international growth (for more on this, check out this article). But the biggest missing features are Jay Z and Kanye West. The two rap kingpins were originally given guest verses on the single Pop Style, but on the album version Drake replaced their verses with his own. This says all you need to know about Toronto's king of hip-hop. Most rappers would kill for a Jay Z or Kanye verse on their album; Drake had both, and scrapped them at the last minute (Kanye still made the cut elsewhere, since he produced the DMX-sampling hidden gem "U With Me?").
There's no better proof that Drake's part of the new hip-hop A Team—his career is at a point where he can make a more successful album by not leaning on last decade's stars. Sure, he might not be the best rapper alive. Even though he runs the game, he plays it with a handicap—if we heard other top tier rappers like J. Cole or Kendrick Lamar spit some of the lines he does, we'd scrutinize the lyrics a lot less forgivingly. But none of that matters when you're Drake. Views is another snapshot of an artist who has his finger on the pulse of a generation, and rarely misses in its eyes when he gets up to bat.