Review by Andrew Novoa
In 2009, fresh off of the release of So Far Gone, Drake sat down with Complex to talk about his new fame, breakout mixtape, and home city of Toronto. When asked about his city, Drake’s response was measured, but hopeful-- “They say it’s the city of hate; we’ve never really had that icon. Someone where we can say, ‘that’s our hometown hero.’ I’m not saying that I am that guy yet, but I think that I’m well on my way.”
If he wasn’t a hometown hero then, he sure is now. Drake has put this city on his shoulders and single-handedly brought its music scene (The Weeknd, Tory Lanez, Partynextdoor, etc.) to the forefront of hip hop. No one cared about Toronto when Drake began rapping, but you can bet that no one is looking away now. The name of Drake’s newest project, initially titled Views From the 6 but later shortened to Views, speaks volumes about how far the city has come. He doesn’t need to specify that the views are from Toronto; you know where they’re from.
Within this context, unreasonably high expectations were inevitable, and ultimately these expectations are the album’s undoing. Drake promised too much, the hype was overwhelming, and the album is not as earth-shattering as it could have been. Because of this, many will find the project to be underwhelming.
But this album has some incredible music. I love it more every time I listen. It’s long, but it contains all of the things we love about Drake and adds some new elements to the mix. The best part of it all is that he doesn’t try to be anything he’s not. A lot of these songs sound like Take Care, and that’s ok. Drake is just doing what he does best.
Another thoroughly enjoyable part of this album is the bravado Drake brings. In “Hype” he declares, “Views already a classic.” Even more audacious, however, is his decision to put “Pop Style” on the album sans Jay and Kanye. One can imagine Drake releasing “Pop Style” originally and saying, “Aye, this song’s pretty dope. But you know what would make it even more dope? If I were the only one on the track. 40, run it back.” If you don’t already think that Drake has taken the throne from Jay and Kanye, this song should make you reconsider.
This album has songs to trap to (“Hype,” “Pop style,” “Grammys”), songs to dance to (“One Dance,” “Too Good,” “Controlla”), and songs that will have you all up in your feels (“Redemption,” “Keep the Family Close,” “Fire & Desire”). This isn’t the classic that some thought Views would be, but it’s also not a bad album in any sense of the word. A lot of criticism will revolve around the fact that there is “nothing new” on this album, but if Drake’s biggest crime is being himself, I’ll live with it.
Track by Track Review
I know it’s unusual to review the album artwork along with the songs, but there’s no way I can sit back and say nothing about this. This artwork is trash. The dreary photo of the CN tower is completely incompatible with the energy-filled dancehall tracks such as “One Dance” and “Controlla,” and the photoshop job of Drake sitting on the tower seems like a bad joke. I actually went into iTunes and switched out the artwork because it was bothering me so much.
“Keep the Family Close”:
Beautiful start to the album. Drake crooning about a girl that have did him wrong? Yes, please. I’d like to think that when Drake talks about keeping his family close he means the city of Toronto. Really pleased with this opening track.
Two tracks into views and Drake is already repping his city harder than anything we’ve ever seen from him. The area code for Toronto is 416, and the track is 4:16 long. Coincidence? Doubtful. One thing I will say about this track is that it is not super memorable, and on an album that is the length of some feature films, it’s hard to justify its inclusion.
“U With Me?”:
“You toyin with it like a happy meal.” Ok, Drake. Kanye and 40 really killed this beat. And wow, the violins that come three minutes in are really powerful. At one point Drake remarks, “I made a career of reminiscing,” and that has never been more true than this song.
“Feel No Ways”:
This is my favorite song thus far. The beat is so smooth and Drake’s voice flows naturally throughout the song. This is one you listen to late at night when you’re all up in your emotions.
This is a song made to bump with your crew. I love R&B Drake, but this album needed this hard rap flow. We also needed cocky Drake to make an appearance, and this definitely fits the bill. “Views already a classic,” he proclaims.
“Weston Road Flows”:
10 seconds into this song and I can tell it’s a winner. Beautiful Mary J. Blige sample. This is some “5 AM in Toronto”/”30 for 30 freestyle” Drake. Just straight bars. Also, did Drake just say “What are those?” Love it. Hitting Rap Genius later to dissect these lines.
Ohhhh Drake don’t do it to me. This sounds like “Marvin’s Room” part 2. “Why do I settle for women that force me to pick up the pieces?” he ponders. I understand that this isn’t new territory for him, but I still can’t get enough of these songs.
Partynextdoor and Drake are an absolutely lethal combination. The notes that Party is hitting on the hook are absolutely destroying me, and Drake bodies his verse (as expected). This is another standout. Next song.
This song leaked a couple weeks ago, so I’ve been bumping this for a while. Pimp C’s verse still goes hard, and Drake plays to his strengths by combining singing and rapping seamlessly in his verse. But dvsn’s part is new, and I cannot emphasize how happy I am that this feature was added to the song. The notes Daniel Daley hits around 4 minutes in are absolutely debilitating. How can a human voice make those sounds? Incredible.
This song goes surprisingly hard. Something interesting to note is that in every song about Toronto, Drake has made sure that he’s the only one on the song. I respect that.
This song also leaked recently, but as with “Faithful,” changes have been made. Popcaan is nowhere to be seen on the album version, and I’m honestly pretty sad about it. That being said, I still love this song and the energy it brings. It’s impossible to listen to this without wanting to dance.
What more can be said? This song is an absolute smash, and everyone knows it.
Drake and Future both sound at home on this song, but the song lacks cohesion because the two never really interact or trade bars. The first and second half both go hard, but they sound like completely different songs. Critics who felt that the two lacked chemistry on What a Time to be Alive will feel the same way about this track.
Real casual flow here. One of the best parts of Drake’s music has always been his ability to tell stories from his personal life, and he certainly does that in this song. “Why you gotta fight me at Cheesecake. You know I love to go there.” Can you imagine Drake and his girl causing a scene in a Cheesecake Factory? Legendary.
Where are Jay and Kanye? A little worried initially because Ye’s verse was my favorite part of this song when it was released as a single. Turns out well though, because Drake brings the heat on this new verse. This song has grown on me so much since it was first released, and I’m really excited about this new addition.
The chemistry between Drake and Rihanna is unbelievable. I know that the relationship between them is getting drawn-out and blasé, but when these two are on a song together, it’s absolutely electrifying. I actually fell on the ground when I heard Rihanna’s first line. Can’t get enough of these dancehall vibes.
“Summers Over Interlude”:
Oh, wow. This interlude is beautiful. Well done.
“Fire and Desire”:
R&B Drake makes his final appearance on Views. This is that Take Care Drake that we’ve been missing in our lives. Great track.
The moment I heard the sample in the beginning, I was on board. The production here is reminiscent of “6 PM in New York”, but this song is considerably better. Stellar way to end the album.
Not sure I agree with the decision to throw this on as a bonus song. “Views” felt like a proper ending, and this track changes the vibe in a big way. If he was looking to include 20 songs, I would rather have seen “Summer Sixteen” on this record. That being said, I did love this song before pop culture wrung every last bit of life out of it.
Songs you need to listen to:
“Feel No Ways”
“Weston Road Flows”
“Since Take Care I been care takin’”
“Last night, I got high as your expectations”
“On some DMX shit, I group DM my exes”
“Got so many chains they call me Chaining Tatum”
“You toyin’ with it like Happy Meal”