He certainly doesn’t make it easy, does he?
Despite announcing the release of his fourth LP in 2014 and only officially dropping it this year, Drake’s entire career has seemed like a rush. Between then and the release of ‘VIEWS’, he’s put out two commercial mixtapes – one alone, and one in collaboration with Future. Now that his fourth album’s out, he’s already preparing for the release of more music.
Is there a need? Absolutely not. We’re reaching Drake saturation point and this album is the proof.
On ‘VIEWS’, it is largely apparent that Drake has become a parody of himself. On Hotline Bling, it works. Or it would, if you can overlook for a minute the sense of entitlement he has over the woman he’s singing about. It’s Drake fronting about a booty call, only for his pride to unravel and his own hurt to be exposed – all in a pastel-pink dance pop package. The questionable dance moves, the polo neck and the Timberland boots all featured in the video see Drake finally acknowledge and buy into the commercial identity the media has built for him. It’s funny. It’s tongue-in-cheek. Above-all-else, it’s intensely catchy.
Beyond that, his regression as a rapper and a lyricist is astounding. On Child’s Play, he whines, “Why you gotta fight with me at Cheesecake / You know I love that place”, referring to the popular American restaurant chain, Cheesecake Factory. Whether it was a deliberate move in the way of product placement, or just an attempt to prove even Drake can out-Drake himself, it’s one of many horrible lyrical-set-ups in his many documentations of his sour relationships.
Keep The Family Close, as an opening track, is frighteningly disappointing. At five and a half minutes long, it’s indulgent and repetitive, lacking structure, with overly-aggressive percussion.
On U With Me?, ultimately a re-hash of ‘Take Care’s drunk dial anthem Marvin’s Room, he talks about group DMing his exes. in the same breath as name-dropping DMX. He’s still as bitter and brooding as he was six years ago, to the point where long-time listeners will now struggle to resonate with what he’s saying. He makes an uncomfortable attempt at vocal scales towards to the end of the track – a feat he manages, just barely.
It’s frequently debated whether Drake deserves the title of being a ‘feminist rapper’: a moniker which is obsolete and irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Drake was one of the first within his genre to speak openly about his emotions within romantic relationships. Older lyrics see him celebrate women and their successes, given them an identity beyond the “sex object” stereotype that has been generated within hip-hop. However, often on the same track, he becomes a victim of his genre, and his lyrics become demeaning and misogynistic.
Some quips can be overlooked. However, the intro to Redemption makes for frustrating listening. “Why would I tell you I’m 30 away if I’m not on the way? / Why do I settle for women who force me to pick up the pieces? / Why do I want an independent woman to feel like she needs me?” He continues to perpetuate the ideal that woman are emotionally unstable, and that without the support of a man, they will struggle to progress in their lives. As Drake continues to explore this tired theme, it’s getting harder and harder to believe that the women are all at fault when it comes to his failed relationships.
On ‘Take Care’, Drake was celebrated for his exceptional and experimental sample-use. Thankfully, this continues on ‘VIEWS’. Hotline Bling’s reinvention of Timmy Thomas’ Why Can’t We Live Together is what made the track the international chart juggernaut that it was. Drake took a gamble on Wiz Kid and Kyla – two relatively unknown artists from Nigeria and Britain respectively – on One Dance, but it paid off. Drake has succeeded in bringing dance-hall – albeit a more palatable re-imagining of it – to the mainstream.
PARTYNEXTDOOR and Jeremih assist on ‘VIEWS’ highlight With You, another soft-dancehall bop. Drake attempts a pull-back here, attempting to show that he isn’t totally incapable of being a mannerly gentleman, dropping the hard man act for three minutes.
Last year, when Drake headlined Coachella, he and producer The Boy admitted that ‘VIEWS’ needed to “advance the hip-hop game as hard as Kanye West’s ‘808s & Heartbreak’ did”. The Boy followed up by saying that “his days of releasing lay-up bangers that everyone loves right away are over.” Neither of these statements are applicable to ‘VIEWS’. Drake’s fourth record doesn’t see him crash and burn, as it does. The rapper should consider applying the brakes on any plans for new music soon.