Instagram Soundcloud Spotify

Drake’s Views: Music To Skim Through

Written by:

“Truthfully I wanna rap like Common Sense / But I did five mil; I ain’t rapped like Common since”

So spoke Jay Z on “Moment of Clarity,” thus giving hip-hop one of its most iconic, shocking, and honest lyrics.

Rap music is as mainstream as can be, but even the most high-profile MCs are engaged in a desperate struggle to achieve the staying power and commercial success that their cohorts in pop music claim with relative ease.

To put that into perspective, only ten rappers have made platinum-selling albums since 2009, and less than fifty songs given Billboard’s Hip-Hop/Rap genre classification (which is frequently dubious) have been No. 1 on the Hot 100 for more than two weeks. Ever.

For such a widely appreciated art form, those numbers are underwhelming. And that’s why Jay Z’s famous lines on “Moment of Clarity” have only earned him more respect. Despite blatantly referring to himself as a sellout, he rather starkly shows how hard it is to make it as an entertainer — especially a rapper. If Hov’s classic debut, Reasonable Doubt, established one thing about him, it’s that he’s a survivalist willing to do whatever it takes to advance in life.

Not long after his second album, he started to treat writing a song like conducting a surgical strike, targeting new demographics and sonic trends with complete transparency. And thus, he became the first truly ubiquitous rapper; at this point, it’d be hard to imagine Jay ever failing to debut at No. 1, go platinum, and sell out stadiums.

“I used to wanna be on Roc-a-Fella, then I turned into Jay”

So spoke Drizzy Drake on “Summer Sixteen” a few months ago. The Toronto singer/rapper has been a superstar for years now, but only since the beginning of 2015 has he been making power moves worthy of Jay Hova. He released two huge projects (If You’re Reading This and What A Time To Be Alive), handily won his beef with Meek Mill, and released a couple massive one-off singles (“Right Hand” and “Hotline Bling”). Indeed, within the last year or so, he’s reached that rarified degree of pop culture omnipresence that every mainstream rapper strives for.

So, as could be expected given the circumstances, hype for his newest project, Views From The 6 (now shortened to just Views), has been through the roof. Before its release, there was a rumor floating around that Views would be a double LP — one side would feature Drake in poppy, sing-songy form, while the other would be made up of trap-influenced cuts. That would’ve been sort of genius.

What we’ve got instead is a grueling, vapid record that’s way too long at eighty minutes. All the stars aligned for this dude — this is where he needed to show the world why he’s deserving of the unbelievable amount of buzz he’s gotten. And he failed pretty badly.

“There’s no more emotion for me to pull from / Just a bunch of playful songs that I make for fun / So, to the break of dawn, here I go, recycling the same old song.”

Those bars come from none other than Marshall Mathers, on his recent song “Guts Over Fear.” Here, Em cops to being a sellout similar to how Jay did on “Moment of Clarity.” But where Hov’s admission of guilt is clever and thought provoking, Eminem’s is just sort of sad. Most big-name artists make music that fits within their image, but that doesn’t mean said music has to be dull — Beyonce’s new album is a brilliant example of how a popular act can maintain their brand while coming up with compelling material.

Unfortunately, Views finds Drake stagnating like Slim Shady. I wasn’t too big on If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late or What A Time To Be Alive, but at least those projects exhibited interesting artistic progression as Drizzy took on much more imposing production and became a more commanding presence on the mic. Views, conversely, represents a huge step backwards. The OVO head honcho has never made a record that even approaches greatness, but his latest is still probably his worst body of work since 2010’s Thank Me Later — a record so bad that it’s evidently been expunged from popular consciousness since everybody just thinks of 2011’s Take Care as his debut.

This album is twenty tracks long, and damn near every song feels a minute or two too long and sounds exactly like a song you heard two or three tracks ago.

Since Drake is a two-faced actor trying desperately to convincingly juggle multiple disparate genres to fulfill his hollow ambition to dominate popular music, songs on Views come in three varieties: faux-Caribbean dance music (with a corny Jamaican patois included), downtempo ballads, and some bullshit trap rap.

The dancehall-lite is decent for what it is. And “what it is” is a Canadian man affecting an awful accent to sing some incredibly basic melodies over some nice, polished tropical grooves. So I guess that’s not saying much. The downfall of songs like “Controlla,” “Hotline Bling,” and “One Dance” comes with how static they feel. On each of these tracks, Drake only comes up with two or three melodic phrases and proceeds to repeat them over and over. “One Dance” is an especially egregious offender. Drizzy’s verses and hook follow pretty much the same simple melody, and that melody certainly isn’t good enough to carry the song for three minutes. The punchy piano vamp threatens to make the song entertaining, but it’s pushed way too far back in the mix, making what should sound vibrant and fun come off as timid and unsure.

“Hotline Bling” is a little more varied, but with a five minute running time, it seems to drone on forever. The song makes me think of the loops that play when you get put on hold; at best, these tracks are actually kind of catchy, but it doesn’t take more than a minute or two for them to get grating, and for you to remember that you had more important shit to do.

I will say, however, that one of the only good songs on Views is a take on this tropical dance music style. “With You” is a fantastic song which sees Drake trade warbling auto-tuned melodies with OVO signees PARTYNEXTDOOR and dvsn. The instrumental here is stellar too, combining massive drums with fluttering synths. The song simply feels alive, leaving Drake’s usual penchants for melodrama and corniness at the door.

I’m only going to gloss over the trap influenced cuts on Views, because they’re all as lame as can be, and a far cry from the bangers he helped put together on What A Time. “9” is loaded with struggle bars like “All these handouts, man, it’s getting out of hand” and “Keychain go jang-a-lang, I wanna do major things.” Worst of all, Drake sees fit to pause for almost a full measure after every line, as if you needed that time to really soak in the embarrassingly elementary lines. “Pop Style,” meanwhile, features a dark, brooding instrumental from Frank Dukes, but yet again, Drizzy hits with one lyrical dud after another. At one point, he brags, “I got so many chains, they call me Chaining [sic] Tatum.” There he is, ladies and gentlemen, the most famous and buzzed about rapper of the last half-decade. God help us all. Where are those ghostwriters when you need them?

Major props go to Future, who manages to liven up “Grammys” despite one of Drake’s worst-ever verses and a mess of a beat courtesy of the ungodly combination of 40 and Southside.

That Views would combine dancehall and trap music isn’t surprising, considering both of those styles have been integral to Drake’s massive success within the past year or so. Within that time, however, he’s mostly abandoned the downtempo crooning that’s found all over his older material. This move made a lot of sense considering the fact people like The Weeknd, Childish Gambino, Jhene Aiko, and PARTY have all found massive success in running with this style and, quite frankly, are better songwriters than the man himself. What’s more, most of his biggest hits (“The Motto,” “Started From The Bottom,” “Hotline Bling,” etc.) have come from his work in other genres, so it stands to reason that he’d put alternative-R&B behind him.

But for seemingly no reason beyond the fact that it’s part of the Drake brand, Toronto’s finest has come back to the realm of balladry with a vengeance. In fact, he makes the bold decision to start Views off with five minutes worth of icy, defeated crooning. Here’s the problem: “Keep The Family Close” features stellar marked by some dynamic live instrumentation that he doesn’t mesh with in the least. As the backing music hits huge crescendos and fades back into easy grooves, Drake’s vocal performance is more or less static; he just keeps on singing emotionlessly and at the same volume like an awkward robot no matter what twists and turns the song takes. Every time I revisit the track, I find myself wishing that a more experimental MC like Kanye or Kendrick had claimed this beat to attack it with the energy it deserves.

“Redemption” is tied with the late-album cut, “Childs Play,” for Views’ Most Shockingly Bad Song award. The former is two or three minutes of material stretched out for five (perhaps you’re seeing a running theme here). There’s absolutely nothing interesting going on in this track in terms of lyrics, vocal performance, or instrumentation, but I would imagine it functions well as a sleep aid so it gets a few points for utility.

“Childs Play,” on the other hand, is surely one of the worst songs Drake has ever come up with. Its concept is just sort of disgusting, as Drake gets into petty quarrels with a love interest from a bad neighborhood, giving her the passive aggressive ultimatum of behaving how he wants or else he’ll “give her back to the hood.” Even more cringe-inducing are the song’s first few bars, which describe a fight they had at the Cheesecake Factory, and how Drake hid the keys to his Bugatti from her after she took it out to pick up tampons from CVS. Misogyny is a pretty deep-rooted part of hip-hop, as are a number of other immoral, abrasive, and potentially offensive attitudes — as always, I firmly believe it’s not what an artist says, it’s how they say it. And the way Drake describes this broken relationship (which I genuinely hope is not based in fact) is creepy as fuck.

I could probably write about why I dislike this album forever, so I’ll just put it bluntly: as a full project, Views is a shambling wreck that seems to never end. But I doubt Drake and his team are betting on anyone sitting and actively listening to the album the full way through. Hell, it doesn’t even seem like they were betting on anyone actively listening to a single track the whole way though. Which brings us back to Drizzy Drake’s main inspiration:

“Do you fools listen to music or do you just skim through it?”

So said Jay Z on his legendary collaboration with Eminem, “Renegade.”

Drake is the exact type of fool Hov is directing his barbed bars at. Drizzy makes music for the era of fleeting sound bites — snap stories, vines, and tweets. He makes songs for a time when music is so accessible that we can just throw a song on for a minute, mainline a cathartic hook, and move onto the next one.

Drake makes music that begs to be skimmed through, not listened to. That’s what makes him worse than his superstar contemporaries — Kanye, Future, J. Cole, Kendrick. That’s what keeps him from becoming the next Jay.

And that songwriting mentality is what makes Views a garbage attempt at creating an impactful album.