Still No Classics: Drake’s ‘Views’ Album Is Near-Sighted

INGLEWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 08:  Drake performs at REAL 92.3's 'The Real Show' at The Forum on November 8, 2015 in Inglewood, California.  (Photo by Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images)

Still No Classics: Drake’s ‘Views’ Album Is Near-Sighted

Toronto’s golden boy stuck to the script a little too closely.

Published May 2, 2016

It’s interesting that Drake compares himself to NBA superstar Kevin Durant on his latest album, Views.

A clearer mirror would reflect LeBron James. Not the current multi champion, MVP and a variant of other NBA trophy tags — but instead the ‘Bron before his talents were taken to South Beach. At the top of this decade, it didn’t matter how many scoring titles or endorsement millions James accrued. They meant nothing to his legacy without a really big ring. Today, Aubrey Graham stands in that exact space. Music purists — both fans and critics — are grateful for all that Drizzy has done for this generation of music (raising the stock on Kanye’s 808’s & Heartbreak, legislating vulnerability as law etc). Now they only desire from the OVO chief what he hasn’t yet given: a classic album. Unfortunately, Views keeps that hunger alive. Unfair as it may be to expect perfection from anyone simply because they’re one of the best in their trade, it’s the music game we live by. And it’s the game’s history where we can find much explanation for why that almighty classic album still eludes hip-hop’s current king.

Every classic album offers one main ingredient: new-new. Whether a new perspective on an old subject (The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill), that same s**t via a new voice (Thug Motivation 101) or ideally something you’ve never heard before (Stankonia), a five-star composition must deliver or document change in some capacity. Drake’s latest doesn’t alter much. Mainly because, for all of the feathery vocals and standard outpour of emotion, he’s too consumed with being under 30 and wealthy to truly let us in. He keeps us at a distance without making us feel distant. It's a rare gift. This is the scentless ingredient to Drake’s powerful tonic. He gets a pass because he’s an exceptional writer. His pen glistens so that it often blinds the listener into mistaking visual lyricism for access.

“Weston Road Flows” is when 40 and his muse become one, allowing Drake to be his truest — simultaneously transparent and arrogant via flawless spit. On surface, the OVO standard “Redemption” and pop-lock official “Feel No Ways” sound like one of those beauties where Drizzy exorcises the demons in his rear view. He name-drops to make the reveal seem wider, positions his bars so the verse appears more confessional, so that foul s**t will smell more like fresh meadow (“I tried with you/There’s more to life than sleeping in and getting high with you/I had to let go of us to show myself what I could do.”). But we’ve been here before; he did this on “From Time,” to name one of several. Here's what we didn’t learn from Views: Drake is the best, being the best makes him a large target, rocks can’t ding his throne, female thighs remain ajar and his past relationships reveal wrong done by and to him. Topics which make up about 80% of his catalogue’s content. You would think an album title like this would inspire a different picture.

It’s hard to pinpoint whether self-absorption or arrogance is the anchor of Views. Possibly both. Where most rappers are criticized for having too many collaborations (see: The Game), there’s just too much Drake on this Drake album. That’s not a volume problem, but more so a percentage imbalance. It’s also not a criticism on Drake’s ability as a rapper or songwriter––he does what he does well. “Hotline Bling” is simply brilliant, and the sterlingly orchestrated “Keeping the Family Close” and global “Controlla” (where’s Popcaan?!) follow suit. But if you’re going to give salivating fans 20 tracks of music, an addition to or distraction from your tried and true must be included.

The title track may be the album’s apex. It wouldn’t be a question had the cut featured another top 10 MC. Maneesh’s track makes a beathead miss producer Bink! too much for it not to guest star another mic champ. It was a missed opportunity forViews to give us another “Light Up” or “Lord Knows,” and a reminder that Drake is a far better rapper than crooner. And he’s crooning a lot this time. The rare times he shares with the upper echelon: he and Rihanna’s collab eclipses itself by reminding us that Ri-Ri’s current single is just “Too Good.” He and Future also make a joint that couldn’t stand with What A Time To Be Alive's best five. Instead of allowing steel to sharpen steel, Drake would rather honor those not in his core fan’s playlists. The nod given to Juvenile on Take Care (“Practice”) and the Wu on Nothing Was The Same (“Wu Tang Forever”) has now landed at the paws of DMX, thanks to the Kanye West-assisted “U With Me?” Just wish ‘Ye would’ve told Drake that there’s no My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy without him being inclusive.

There can be a fine line between analysis and nitpicking. So the simplest context for place why any album isn’t crowned classic is its percentage of grade-A songs. The most basic qualification for masterpiece’s such as The Blueprint or Confessions being hung from music’s proverbial rafters is they don’t offer much to fast forward. Ask yourself: How would life be different if you never heard the PARTYNEXTDOOR-featuring “With You,” Kodak Black-influenced “Still Here” or stripper throw away “Child’s Play”? Where are this album’s “Worst Behaviour,” or “Jumpman,” for that matter?

But even the basic criteria of good songs is deceiving. Those good songs need to make a wave. Music critics refer to that wave as cohesion. Think Teflon Don andgood kid, m.A.A.d. city. For all of Drake’s gold flows and stellar production from both his entrusted and new composers, Views never creates a zone, never transcends the listener like So Far Gone or Nothing Was The Same did. It has no mission statement. Instead, Drake’s latest sounds like: between Apple Music and Toronto Raptors exec deals, dates with actresses from his favorite films, and bread breaks with music’s most powerful, today’s No. 1 hip-hop artist spent the last couple years recording some impressive music that couldn’t be held onto anymore.

But we knew that already.

Written by Bonsu Thompson

(Photo: Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images)


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