Drake dropped Views — his fourth studio album that, until a couple days ago, was named Views from the 6 — late Thursday night via Apple Music and iTunes. While he released his previous studio effort, Nothing Was the Same, in September 2013, the 29-year-old Toronto rapper has endlessly teased Views for more than a year while remaining at the center of seemingly every pop culture discussion.
Of course, since Nothing Was the Same, Drake’s star power has grown exponentially. He dropped his remarkable mixtape-in-name-only If You’re Reading This Too Late in early 2015, nearly scored a No. 1 on the Hot 100 with the internet sensation “Hotline Bling,” nabbed an actual No. 1 on the Hot 100 with his appearance on Rihanna’s “Work,” and collaborated for a successful single with Nicki Minaj and a full album with Future.
And those moments were just the ones he logged in the studio. Drizzy also got caught up in ghostwriting allegations, took on rapper Meek Mill, hosted Saturday Night Live, opened his own pop-up shop, became the global ambassador for the Toronto Raptors, and received Toronto’s Key to the City.
Undoubtedly, Views arrives at a pivotal moment in Drake’s saga. But after a week spent mourning Prince’s death and obsessing over Beyoncé’s latest masterpiece, how does the hour-plus, 20-song sprawl of the album stack up? Below, highlights from EW’s first listen.
Drake continues to be the internet personified…
The Toronto rapper isn’t contemporary music’s most iconic artist or its most revolutionary one. But he’s crucial in today’s music landscape because he sort of embodies internet culture. Think about it: He’s easily meme-able, periodically amusing, sometimes annoyingly out-of-touch, and above all else, ubiquitous. The guy coined YOLO.
In the spirit of his now-iconic “code for the Wi-Fi” line, Drake packs Views with references for the social media generation, constantly reminding listeners that, yes, he also uses an iPhone. “All that gray in our conversation history,” he spits on the Kanye West-produced “U With Me?” alluding to how little he’s contributing to a chat with a flame. “Three dots, you thinking of a reaction still.” And like a true millennial, he recites internet-speak aloud: “LOLOL I’m glad you find this s— amusing.”
…So, naturally, he addresses the Meek Mill beef once again as a song-length subtweet
Drake appears to have completed the “is that a world tour or your girl’s tour?” stage of his Meek Mill disses. But the MC still can’t let the conflict go. “I hate a rapper especially,” he seethes on “Hype.” “They feel the same but they hide it / They just discuss it in private / Don’t get along man, we tried it.” And he pulls known Meek affiliates like Chris Brown into the mix when he raps “My enemies want to be friends with my other enemies.”
Because he doesn’t address Meek by name, Drake could feasibly be referring to his frosty relationship with prime competitor Kendrick Lamar. But he’s rarely approached that rivalry with this degree of vitriol.
Views isn’t full of “Hotline Bling” knockoffs — or If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late instrumentals
Drake nodded to the prevailing styles on “Hotline Bling” and If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late with his lead singles “One Dance” and “Pop Style,” respectively. And while Drake projects always have a certain degree of sonic consistency — that’s a benefit of working regularly with a producer like he does with Noah “40” Shebib — Views dips fluently into multiple genres. “9” showcases the chilly synths that more or less define Drake’s OVO Sound label, while “Controlla” cops the dancehall-inspired aesthetic that Rihanna mastered on “Work.” Drake also utilizes more traditional hip-hop sounds with the silky R&B on “Summers Over Interlude” and the chopped-up soul on “Weston Road Flows.”
Drake might’ve teased an impressive guest list, but Views is his party
Kanye West, Rihanna, and Future all had a hand in Views, but none of them steal the scene. Despite West’s production credit on “U With Me?” — and Drake’s suggestion that the two almost did a mixtape together — Ye’s musical fingerprints are barely evident. And Rihanna and Future’s supporting roles cover little new ground; Drake’s appearances on their recent studio albums (Rihanna’s “Work” and Future’s “Where Ya At”) prove far more rewarding.
Drake gives the second-tier guests on Views even less time in the spotlight. After multiple standout moments on If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, OVO Sound labelmate PARTYNEXTDOOR gets a frustratingly short verse on “With You” and even has to share the song’s closing chorus with Jeremih. Elsewhere, Drake resurrects the late Pimp C for an appearance on “Faithful,” but truncates the verse after only a few bars. Most shockingly, in the Views version of “Pop Style,” Drake has replaced Jay Z and Kanye West’s contributions with a fresh verse of his own.
Like most rappers, he’s obsessed with his legacy
Rap artists big and small love to contextualize themselves among the genre’s all-time greats, and Drake’s no exception. On “Weston Road Flows” he boasts that he’s “the most successful rapper 35 and under” — a clever way of skirting the fact that, in a playing field that also includes Kendrick Lamar and A$AP Rocky, he’s probably not the most skilled rapper — and on the unsubtle “Grammys” he brags that he’s “top five, no debating.” The most fascinating wrinkle? Drake barely even raps on smashes like “Hotline Bling” and “Hold On, We’re Going Home.”
He’s still striving to be relatable, but with mixed results
Drake always manages to nestle in “he’s just like us!” moments between the endless references to Bugattis and Audemars. Views‘ prime example comes on the first verse of “Child’s Play,” where Drizzy laments, “Why you gotta fight with me at Cheesecake? You know I love to go there.” Drake adds that “this is a place for families that drive Camrys and go to Disney” before inexplicably commenting that “you super childish, you go to CVS for Kotex.”