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WPGM Recommends: Drake – Views (Album Review)

Since Take Care, Drake has been on an unstoppable upward trajectory. His career thus far has been a relentless force, carving out his own path in the world of Hip-Hop and R&B. Hailing from Toronto, Drake is influenced by his city, it’s in his cadence, his sound, it’s his persona. To the media, Drake is the poster-boy for Toronto, and for some, Canada. When If You’re Reading This… was released, it marked a new era for Drake, not only in sound but in character. The Six god was born and from that day forward, he’s been the reigning god in his personal heaven, Toronto.

What does it take to be the Six god and what does it mean? Well, it means the quintessential modern man of Toronto, the title is the embodiment of pride and love for the city. To be the Six god, you need to be the champion of where you’re from, and you need merit to be the spine of such titles. Drake encapsulates it all, his godly status is due to his success, which is undeniable. He’s the most successful rapper from his city, crediting it to his city; Drake and Toronto are symbiotic, and it appears one couldn’t exist without the other.

With great power, comes great responsibility, and like any ‘god’, people look to you. People look to Drake to deliver well-written, arrogant raps and soul-bearing, vulnerable slow-jams, and as of late, Pop music. His relationship with the Pop genre hasn’t been unfamiliar or hidden, in fact, many people consider him to be a forefather of ‘Pop Rap’, a breed of mainstream Hip-Hop with Pop stylings.

Drake’s significance is the birthing of what people have come to call the ‘Toronto Sound’, with OVO Sound being the foundation and main proponent of this movement and trend. Alongside his longtime producer Noah “40” Shebib and Oliver El-Khatib, the OVO Sound record label was born in 2012. It’s a machine, and a staple to the modern Canadian Hip-Hop community, with in-house producers such as Boi-1da, T-Minus and Nineteen85 to name a few.

The recording artists signed to OVO all embrace the new ‘sound’, hailing from the provinces within one of Canada’s biggest cities. Together, the artists are a collective of pioneers partly responsibility for the influx of deep, murky and sorrowful music. Their sound can be categorised by sexual nature, honesty and bravado. It joins the dawn of a new era, an era of vulnerability within masculinity, the acceptance of showing emotions and it speaks to the youth today.

OVO’s sound mirrors the culture that’s flourishing thanks to the ever growing open-mindedness of the world. Drake is an engineer of this sound, alongside his OVO Sound co-founders. His success is proof of his ability, along with his influence on the new breed of gloomy, hazy rap. In “Back to Back”, he claims to have the ‘midas touch’ and that’s hard to dispute, whatever Drake touches, it turns to Gold.

However, there are competitors to the Six god mantle, and there are those who don’t agree with the self-proclaimed rap deity. From Brampton, Tory Lanez has been the most vocal, taking subliminal and not so subtle hints at his fellow man. He doesn’t agree with the notion of Drake championing the Toronto sound. It all began when Drake ‘dissed’ Tory on “Summer Sixteen”, where he raps “All you boys in the new Toronto want to be me a little”.

Now, Drake never commented whether it was directly aimed at Lanez, however, Lanez felt it was. He responded in a freestyle, and then in October last year, he continued to blast Drake. Tory stated via Twitter, “this whole calling Toronto the ‘6’ thing… It’s not cool bro”. It’s all a bit complicated, isn’t it? Regardless of the back and forth, does Lanez have a point? Drake’s initial diss, shows his self-belief about who he is, and his importance to the city and sound.

On the other hand, Drake has been accused of being a culture vulture by his peers (Meek Mill, for one) and Hip-Hop fans alike. The accusation is that Drake jumps on the hottest trends, incorporating them into his music and using other artists’ to widen his audience. Drake uses the current culture, of whatever is ‘hot’ in the music scene and makes it his own, furthering his reach and success.

The entire Six god phase could be an example of using culture to bolster his ego and career. It began with If You’re Reading This… and its continued for now, but the question is, how long will the Six god last until the moniker is phased out for something more relevant?

Another artist who could contest Drake’s claim is The Weeknd. Since his mixtapes, the Canadian R&B singer has propelled into the limelight, with hit singles “The Hills” and “I Can’t Feel My Face” from his Grammy winning album, Beauty Behind The Madness. For a long time, Drake has been the face of Toronto, and those who are signed to OVO stand with him, but those who aren’t, pose a threat.

Not only is The Weeknd’s success a probable threat to the Six god, he’s also heavily responsible for Drake’s early success. The Weeknd said in an interview with Rolling Stone that “I gave up almost half of my album. It’s hard. I will always be thankful”. Again, where does that leave Drake? Among other claims from people that he has ghost-writers, is he entitled to dub himself the proponent of the Toronto sound, can he really be the Six god? Even some of his most devout ‘followers’, have began to show doubt.

With all the daggers in the dark and ‘he said, she said’ claims, the significance of Drake’s new album Views is crucial, this could be the definitive moment of the rapper’s career so far. This could be his peak, the highlight of his reign and he has a lot to prove. It’s the pinnacle moment, with all the climactic build-up, Drake cannot do anything but deliver, if he doesn’t, his fall from grace will be devastating.

If You’re Reading This… set a new level for him, it was a precedent of quality and to many, it was his best album that wasn’t really an album (it was released as a mixtape). Combining the success of his aforementioned album, with the rampant build-up to Views with the success of “Hotline Bling” and more recently, “One Dance”, the rapper is surely destined to succeed? If he does succeed, then this will be the singular moment in his career, where his success shall triumph over all, Drake will conquer. If he fails, Views will crumble and the Six god will be no more. Dramatic and exciting stuff, really.

Views is Drake’s best album so far. From beginning to end, it’s a consistent, cohesive and cinematic experience. It’s both moving and confident, while walking the line between who Drake is artistically. He’s managed to create a body of work that truly reflects who he is, not just as an artist but a human being. Whether it’s the lyricism or the instrumentals, it fits within the vision of Views and throughout the 19 (20 if you include “Hotline Bling”) tracks, you’ll finally understand what this project means to him.

The album begins with the melancholy, slow and grandiose “Keep The Family Close”, and it’s Drake setting the tone for Views. It appears to represent the change in seasons, beginning with Winter. The opening line is “It’s a little chilly out there…”, then after some wintery sound effects, the instrumental builds up, and the strings come into play. With Drake opening up about how he “can’t depend on anyone anymore“, it’s a downbeat beginning and it’s powerful.

Drake’s vocals are smooth, he sounds defeated and to an extent, finished. The beat begins to rapidly build, erupting into an orchestral break. Followed by a snap in Drake’s flow, though he still sounds wounded. Gradually, the song ends in a dramatic fashion. It makes a statement, and caused me to scratch my head, because it echoes the sound of a beaten man, not a successful, wealthy rapper.

“Keep the Family Close” transitions softly into “9”, which carries on the defeatist sonic approach. The tracks that follow are both downbeat and introspective, it’s the most vulnerable Drake has come across in a long time. There’s a definite lack of bite, until “U With Me?”, which portrays both sides of Drake, and it’s an indicator of Views overall sound. The song samples DMX, who he channels in every aspect throughout the four plus minutes. The first three tracks gave me chills, they’re atmospheric and dense. They’re woven together by sheer emotion and sound, epitomising what music should be.

Sonically, Views is cold like Winter, with glacial instrumentals combined with the whole ‘Toronto Sound’; sombre, sometimes volatile synth lines, erratic drum patterns and haunting bass lines. Views draws from various influences, it isn’t solely rooted in the Toronto aesthetic, it pulls inspiration from Dancehall, Pop and even Grime. An example of this would be “Still Here”, where Drake spits bars with ease, over an interesting beat, featuring a next-level Drum N’ Bass-esque break. Occurrences such as this contribute to the vast amount of influences that are carefully injected throughout.

It’s a multifaceted juggernaut of sound. It’s quite threatening to think about. Furthermore, the usage of samples is impactful and clever, they add to the songs, their uniqueness drips and splashes onto the musical canvas, creating an album of personal and musical experiences. Instrumentally, Views is minimalistic yet somehow complex and sublime. It’s carefully layered and beautifully composed. It’s a cinematic experience from start to finish, with only “Hotline Bling” breaking the narrative. A strange choice of song to finish such a grand album, both in scope and career significance.

Prior to “Still Here”, Drake begins an unstoppable run of brilliance, beginning with the PARTYNEXTDOOR assisted track, “With You”. After “Still Here”, the strength of the album’s composition really shines, ending with “Too Good”. It’s a streak of sonic perfection, and it marks a triumphant centre-piece to the overall oeurve. It showcases all aspects of Drake, the variance in sounds prevents the listening experience from becoming redundant, or tiresome.

Following “Too Good”, we’re treated to “Summer’s Over Interlude”, with Views’ tempo slowing down once more, and it’s all the better for it. It doesn’t become overwhelming, bringing the listener back down to earth. Before “Too Good”, you’re taken on an eclectic musical journey, and afterwards it connects back to the measured pacing that Views begins with.

It goes full-circle. There’s something interesting about the slow-building introduction to the album, in the sense that throughout the seasonal shift, the mournful and braggadocious underbelly remains. Throughout the album, the theme transitions from one polar opposite to the other.

Briefly, touching on the features, which aren’t as big as expected. Views features a couple of collaborators we’ve come to expect. However, each feature compliments their respective song. They’ve been placed with that in mind, each voice, personality matches the content and vibe of the song that they’re featured on.

The calibre of features is interesting, there aren’t any ‘standout’ names, but then again, does there have to be? In fact, I’d go far as to say, Views’ sense of self-importance is higher than any possible feature, overshadowing them. Although, Rihanna’s feature outdoes “Take Care”, so look out for that.

The final track of Views, just so happens to be the title-track, which within itself is a statement. The song is an introspective slow jam, rounding off the album nicely. It sounds celebratory, and after two years of craftsmanship, it’s fitting. Moreover, the introspective nature correlates with the entire theme of Views, all the themes come back to the one thing that’s key to this album, and that’s the artist, Drake.

It’s both an un-guarded and fiery album, masculinity is built and then torn down in the following verse. It’s a rollercoaster of humanity, which shines through in Drake’s lyricism. It’s very much a Drake record in terms of content. The Six god hasn’t changed there. The slower tempo at times may deter fans of If You’re Reading This… which is a much more aggressively arrogant display of Drake. Views is a mirror, showing who Drake is. It’s the flaws, the successes of a man who comes from Toronto and the love for his city.

Views is an amalgamation of Drake through the years. It’s diverse and succinct with strokes of perfection. It’s a masterclass of artistry, demonstrating that Drake knows himself better than anyone else. His self-assurance pays off. Not only does it solidify him as the Six god, but it’s a warning to his competitors. It’s clear that Views has been carefully crafted, its whole creation has been deliberate. Views is Drake’s magnum opus.

Purchase Drake’s Views on iTunes here.

Words by Jake Gould

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