"I made a decision last night that I would die for it." - from “9” by Drake.
Sounds like this Canuck wrote this album on a throne in the compound with the D’usse on deck. Maybe red wine. I envision an unloaded pistol on his desk, and an iPhone with yet another conversation with someone who just doesn’t fucking get where Drake’s at. Views is the soundtrack of our inescapable push-and-pull with our bearded, Larry the Lobster-bodied Aubrey; the very tango that keeps him adorable when he’s courtside and a fucking supervillain otherwise.
Since If You're Reading This It's Too Late, it’s difficult to shake the darkness of Drizzy; his complaints became decisively vindictive for every “Energy” and “Star67” in his oeuvre. It’s not precisely a heel turn, but I can’t trust his forgiveness all the way. How the hell can I when he compares a relationship to a car knocking off another car? Is it fair to call this unnamed person predictable like we haven’t bore witness to Drake sonically throwing his iPhone across the room like this for almost a decade now?
When Drake mentions “Someone up there” on “Keep the Family Close,” does he mean a label executive or a DJ or the staff from Hooters on Peachtree or Meek? I think this means God and all their angels. I think Drake’s speaking of God laughing at all his plans from Heaven, like so. Drake may claim the Holiness in the name of Weston Road, but mortality still hangs from his sleeve and snow tires can still go on his credit card if you’re down to fuck. It’s a measured trope that keeps the balance of every Drake record: enough weight to handle the heavy while ensuring the petty will never perish.
"They think I had the silver spoon, but they’ll get it soon. I still got something left to prove since you left me room." - from “Views” by Drake.
So why does this record feel emptier than before? Where its predecessor took the first real step of highlighting the paranoia of Drake’s success, Views elects to gallivant through its excessiveness while forgetting to follow all of its own tracks home. Dropping an 82-minute album in 2016 is an interesting choice - that can easily be hailed as excessive by its own right - but Drake’s choice to do so is a mere confirmation of the victory-lap feel we get throughout this piece. Every effort sounds summer-ready thanks to the excellence we’ve become accustomed to through 40 and Boi-1da, alongside standout performances by Maneesh, bringing a cinematic whirlwind of orchestra and guitar solos that don’t sound corny (“Keep the Family Close,” “Summer’s Over Interlude,” “Views”), Niggas are still out to get him, he still (thinks?) he owns his exes, his mama still raised him right, and he’s still that kid in the basement.
The presentation isn’t unfamiliar or unpleasant to the ear, but therein lies the paradox that will follow Drizzy as he hits 30 this year: will he sacrifice to push forward in the name of innovation or continue to do what works since he can’t risk his riches or compromise his allegiances? When you sell over 600,000 in a day, there’s obvious difficulty in feeling incentivized to go ‘head and switch the style up - a la Curtis Jackson - but formula proves a bit more negative on Views given the excess of Drake is notably less potent than before.
"I know everything. I know everything that’s being said about you. I know everything that’s being said about me. I’m very in tune with this life." - from Peak Drake, FADER 100 cover story by Leon Neyfakh.
Not like Aubrey loves taking potshots at Kendrick or anything, but some of the writing on here regresses to near-Thank Me Later levels. There’s enough cornball left to laughably forgive (“Have you comin’ all summer like a season pass”) but it’s equally jarring to hear “You toyin’ with it like a Happy Meal” and subsequently wonder where Quentin was in that writing room, if he was around at all. Not to mention how Drake serves as a placeholder for Future Hendrix on “Grammys” - resemblant of how the latter ceaselessly washed the former song-for-song on WATTBA - some of the best guest spots are no longer featured on the album cut.
Unlike Pablo-era Kanye taking “Wolves” down from TIDAL to fix it, Views is missing a notable stunt verse from Yeezus as well as the ether Popcaan brings to “Controlla.” Still, there’s plenty to love about PARTYNEXTDOOR and Jeremih trading croons on “With You.” While the Pimp C homage was a cool footnote, dvsn used the end of “Faithful” to somehow sound like every member of Boyz II Men at the same damn time. Another close listen reveals the subtle details illustrating moments of candid extravagance; Drake’s moved on from nonconsensual voicemail rips to literal beach sounds and snippets of conversations with the woes, and Amber Rose.
The memeability profile is still climbing in the Drake context: his verses, like his online presence, are painstakingly meta to the point where he’ll utilize the lightspeed nature of digital pop culture to capitalize on us (the consumers) before we dedicate a single character to Drake on the front lawns of cyberspace. it’s the precise formula that made the “Hotline Bling” visual so malleable, and drives the best Views moments, cringeworthy or otherwise. Don’t expect the searing monologues about his upbringing; His lightskin tendencies lead to him gettin’ cussed out at Cheesecake Factory. He group DMs his exes and describes a woman thinking like a read receipt. Hell, the 6 God had a Snapchat filter on release day and a meme generator to perch himself upon anywhere in the world. Wheelchair Jimmy couldn’t pull that off when he was rapping to Ashley.
"I don’t know what else is left for me. After this, there’s no one a threat to me" - from “Hype” by Drake.
Views will undoubtedly ring all summer sixteen, and the rest of it; I plan on screaming “A LOTTA NIGGAS CUT THE CHECK SO THEY CAN TAKE THIS FLOW!” into many summer evenings from a car window. But if Views signifies our entrance into the third act in the saga of Heartbreak Drake, danger may certainly be afoot. Will his albums sound more like product drops, mere symbols of mainstream staying power through streams of amalgamated content? Is Drake veering too far into a brand to the point where his desire to shift the formula - perhaps expanding upon how “Kids are losing lives, got me scared of losin’ mine.” - begin to slowly fade further into a machine engineered for him to sell and succeed no matter what?
I’ve recently reconciled with the fact that I’ve listened to Drake for a third of my life. Not my adult life, but my entire life. I had Room for Improvement, I remember “Replacement Girl” and I remember the backpacker with the waves in his head that rocked over the same beats as Evidence, idolized Little Brother and was “gettin’ Seinfeld on some Jerry and Elaine shit!” Time elapsed and Aubrey finessed his way to pop superstardom, while riding and killing the waves of several individuals he wouldn’t dare call his contemporaries. (See: the Migos flow, “Cha Cha” and “Tuesday”). Views should feel like mere icing, but it leaves substantially more questions than it answers. The near-flawless cohesion and searing emotional transcendence aren’t as bountiful as previous efforts, but the highlights are sure to capture you as every poorly aging Drake record does. You’ll find some dash of perseverance, or petty, to push you through the normalcy of life. If there’s a time to worry - when Drake functions more as a service than an artist - it hopefully is not right now.
Michael Penn II (aka CRASHprez) is a rapper and a former VMP staff writer. He's known for his Twitter fingers.