Ever wonder if Drake is getting too comfortable with his success? 2015 was the year that Drake proved himself to not be the soft crybaby that Internet memes thought he was. His mixtape, If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late had Drizzy dealing with critics and haters by rapping his ass off over darker and more street-wise beats. You could hear Drake enjoy breaking his pretty-boy charm to dare haters to knock him down on tracks like “Used To,” “Enemy” and “Know Yourself.” Then came the summer of singles like “Charged Up,” “Right Hand” and the nasty “Back to Back,” which will keep Mr. Nicki Minaj looking over his shoulder for years to come (oh and that other song with the 1-800 number and the sweaters). He took a brief but goofy victory lap with Future on What a Time To Be Alive and then disappeared into the cold of Canada to plan his next move. Maybe in the midst of hanging with Steph Curry, hyping up the Toronto Raptors and doing the two-step in nice sweaters, the artist formerly known as Jimmy Brooks must’ve realized he’s looking down on his peers from the comfy throne he now sits on.
Now he’s got 19 new mission statements from his views at the top of the mountain, hence the title of his fourth studio album, Views (formerly Views From the 6). Once again under the executive production of BFF Noah “40” Shebib and a slew of others, Views may be the quietest Drake album yet. There’s nothing sonically exceptional here as most songs have either a smooth R&B groove, a low-key street beat or a tropical-tinged island sound. The beat work of Kanye West, Boi-1da, Metro Boomin and Jordan Ullman (of Majid Jordan) put Drake in an atmosphere akin to Take Care: low-lit clubs with liquor and weed in the air, Drizzy probably buzzed and thinking about all the things that’ve changed since he became famous. His friends only hit him up when they need something, his girls aren’t as trustworthy anymore, his enemies can’t seem to one up him and even the street he grew up on feels so foreign to him. Sure, Drake’s enjoying his success with women dancing for him with Hennessy in hand and the dumb riches that come with it. But he still isn’t sure if being famous is all that Jay Z’s “Big Pimpin’” video hyped it up to be.
Right from the get-go on “Keep the Family Close,” Drake feels abandoned sitting atop the CN Tower as he notes his “’let’s just be friends’ are friends [he] don’t have anymore/How do you not check on me when things go wrong.” Shebib’s beat sound like the opening to a Bond film or a play, pulling back the curtains to reveal rap’s loneliest Lothario. Drake then wants commitment from his latest girl on “U Wit Me?,” using lyrics and wordplay that’s classic Drizzy with a DMX snippet opening the song then Drake’s opening line “on some DMX s**t/I group DM my exes,” and using grey iPhone text paragraphs to describe mind games from his lady. “Feel No Ways” has Drake letting go of a girl who was holding him back, only to regret letting go of her on the slow jam “Redemption” and the PARTYNEXTDOOR collab “With You.” But Drake knows a relationship goes both ways and tracks like “Controlla” and the Rihanna collab “Too Good” feature Drake offering his all to the woman he desires. On the standout “Faithful” with Pimp C and OVO Sound signee dvsn, he chooses to let the girl go and become successful on her own as he remains solo waiting for her and he thinks it’s the sexiest thing ever. They sext while he goes to the studio and even talk as Drake’s about to get another girl. That seems to be a good lead-in to “Too Good,” as Rihanna admits to loving another man while Drake longs for “benefit from the friendship” or the “late night message” to come over. Much like Take Care, the intimate moments where Drake muses on his love life are bare and pretty remarkable.
But Drake is still Drake, and Drake wants to tell you that he’s extremely successful. “Pop Style,” “Hype” and the Future collab “Grammys” are brag raps about Drake’s riches. There’s corny lines (“Got so many chains they call me Chaining Tatum”), money over everything mottos (“Momma hit my phone and said rap’s no good/Better than her telling me the check’s no good”) and even bragging that the album you’re listening to is amazing (“Views already a classic”). On top of these songs being mostly boring and don’t have the beat work to be party jams, it throws off the entire mood of the album. Views feels much more like Drake coming to grips with the loss of basic intimacy and connection to others due to his fame instead of him shouting “LOOK AT ME, I’M THE BEST” from that photo shopped album cover. Just when you start understanding the vibe of outstanding tracks like “U Wit Me?” and “Feel No Ways,” you get distracted by him laying the Meek Mill beef to rest on “Hype.” Views is definitely mood music, something for late night contemplation and self-reflection, which is a surprising change of pace from the man who walked around 2015 like a boss.
Views is an interesting alternate way to culminate a year of work, but it doesn’t have the immediate impact one would think. Drake doesn’t seem sure what he wants to do: take a victory lap or take stock of what’s left him in his pursuit of success. Last year, Drake proved himself as a rapper, but now he’s trying to prove himself as an artist and it doesn’t entirely blend together. Views is in no way shape or form a bad album, but it’s a touch underwhelming because this is mostly stuff we’ve heard from Drake before. Big money but lonely boy? It’s Drake default setting when he should be evolving.