“MVP, MVP, ‘09 all the way to sixteen,” Drake raps on the revised version of “Pop Style.” Ever since Big L proclaimed himself the MVP of rap, emcees and fans alike have felt the need to use a sport-related award in rap. It’s dumb. But at the same time, it’s kind of fun, it’s what we do, and if you think Drizzy has been rap’s most valuable artist for the last 7 years, you may have an argument. From 2009-2016 he’s evolved through stages, turning himself from “that actor from Degrassi who raps now” to a world-renowned pop culture icon. The first stage was mixtape Drake. Mixtape Drake rode off the momentum that Lil’ Wayne had capitalized on during his mid-00’s dominance and found a niche. This niche made him popular, a force to be reckoned with, but not necessarily a respected one. His new-found platform gave way to artistic Drake. Keeping a keen eye on the commercial side of things, Drake flourished in the eyes of critics’ with projects like Take Care and Nothing Was The Same. Drake’s corniness gradually became less so and the masses began to seriously consider Drake as an artist. Soaked in his stardom, next up was defiant Drake. This Drake was the most comfortable in his own skin. He had the perfect amount of cheesy appeal and masochism. This Drake bragged his way through two mixtapes, it ended Meek Mill’s career, and dapped DeMar DeRozan in his OVO jersey. The don had only one trophy to add to his case; a career-defining album. And that was supposed to come in the form of Views.
But It Didn’t
Views From The 6 was actually what it was supposed to be called this whole time. Drake switched it to Views at the last minute, probably because he says nothing about Toronto outside of the Vince Carter line on “Weston Road Flows.” The cover art shows a poorly photoshopped Drake chillin’ at the top of the CN Tower – Toronto’s defining landmark. The idea is cool in theory. On the cover of Views, Drake, in all his glory, is looking down on all his faithful Torontonians. Unfortunately for everyone, what he actually says once he’s up there falls… flat. Picture Moses on Mount Sinai reading like 6 Commandments, and then saying “fuck it” by winging the rest. This isn’t to say that Drake “wings” anything on Views, but there is this kind of “meh” feeling that surfaces again and again.
So what evokes the “meh”? Well, there are many places to point blame, the least of which is on the production which is solid despite its flaws. Noah “40” Shebib headlines the beat-making process, contributing to 12 of the 20 songs on here. His beats are a lovechild of Kanye soul chipmunk and cloud rap, sounding just as gorgeous as it did on Nothing Was The Same. “9,” “Weston Road Flows,” and “Views” all follow this formula and are all highlights. There’s also the catchy percussion on “Feel No Ways,” the hazy atmosphere on “Faithful,” and the dance hall bounce on “One Dance.” For the most part, the production here is fine. It’s the clunkers that halt momentum and keep it from being anything more than fine. Despite production credits from DJ Dahi, 40, and Kanye, the beat in “U With Me?” is woefully boring. “Redemption” essentially features five and a half minutes of Drake and a kick drum. “Fire & Desire,” also boring. Elsewhere, there’s the overly generic “Grammys” and “Pop Style.” Sure, there’s a lot of really good beats that you can throw on a playlist and blast it out the car speakers. But as a whole? Again, meh.
The Cringe Factor
Of course, the production is a highly subjective aspect. What is hard to look past is the cringe factor on Views. We encountered the same type of cringe factor earlier this year on Life of Pablo, where Kanye was saying shit about bleached assholes and having orgies at a dinner party. The difference between that and Views is that the cringe on Pablo fit the aesthetic. Life of Pablo sounded like a manic episode and the outlandish lines fit the mold. On Views, Drake is trying to be heartfelt and drops a line like “You toyin’ wit’ it like Happy Meal” it’s a real buzzkill. Or when tough guy Drake raps on “Pop Style”: “Got so many chains, they call me Chaining Tatum,” or “I get green like Earth Day” (“Weston Road Flows”), or the really confusing Chrysler-Bentley analogy Drake makes one minute into the album (“Keep The Family Close”). None come close to “Child’s Play” where Drake threatens to take a girl back to the hood because she doesn’t appreciate all the materialistic things Drake buys for her.
This ties in with the root of the problem on Views. Alongside the struggle bars, Drake is hardly saying anything interesting throughout. It’s the same material we’ve already heard for years: fame, friendships, women, and braggadocio. For someone who appears to live such a grandiose lifestyle, the way he represents it through his music is just, y’know, meh. It isn’t just that he’s uninteresting, it’s that he’s uninteresting for a long-ass time. Views runs for an hour and twenty minutes. Long albums work best when they’re captivating, when they follow an enticing concept, or when they lack filler. Views doesn’t meet any of this criteria. After all the waiting, the expectations, and the advertised hype, the overwhelming feeling you get after you’ve listened to this is “Yeah, and…?”
Ultimately Drake will laugh at every bloggers criticisms’ of Views while looking down on us from his giant stack of bills he’s acquired since Friday. As an artist, Drake is in a place where his name is so incredibly popular, every move he makes is golden. From a business standpoint, Views is a success, and there’s hardly anything that could have kept it from being successful. From an artistic standpoint, it’s disappointing. I mentioned earlier how Drake has evolved, stage by stage. On Views we get a sprinkle from his past. We get Mixtape Drake’s shoddy lyricism, Artistic Drake’s heartfelt cuts, and Defiant Drake’s bangers. It’s a fine album if you’re content with Drake staying in his own lane. But if Drake was planning on taking that next step as a highly-respected artist, he didn’t accomplish it. While other mainstream artists like Kanye West, Beyoncé, and Kendrick Lamar are producing ambitious, creative albums, Drake’s latest leaves him in a state of stagnancy and keeps him from being in that conversation.