Drake is without a doubt his generation's unrivaled superstar and an artist who's quickly rising through the all-time ranks with every new Top 100 hit and platinum album. An internet sensai capable of flipping rap beefs and ghostwriting scandals into sold-out festivals complete with memes projected behind him, he understands how to manuever in the digital era better than anyone. Like the Tyrannosaurus or the Triceratops in their age, he is perfectly evolved for his time and his environment.
The one weak link in Drake's armor is that, unlike the other acknowledged greats, he doesn't have a consensus classic album. Ask 100 people if he has a classic in his catalog, and if so what it is, and you'll get 100 different answers. I think that's because his music is so uniformly personal; every Drake song is only about Drake and nothing else. Unlike the other multi-platinum rappers of his generation, Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole, he never inhabits other voices and perspectives, never even acknowledges a world outside his own. The effect is to make his music prolifically relateable - very few know what it's like to grow up as a good kid in a madd city, but we all have enemies trying to drain us of our energy, we've all driven through our respective cities with our respective woes - but has fittingly limited his album's lasting impact on the world. Drake's albums have all been massively popular, hugely influential on pop culture, but they've never said anything more than what they said about Drake, and what that says about the millions who like to envision themselves as Drake.
It doesn't matter. Like he's transcended every other barrier before him, Drake's transcended the bounds of the mere album. His loose Soundcloud releases garner GRAMMY nominations, every song on IYRTITL, his so-called "mixtape," charted on Billboard. And so now we have VIEWS, an album two years in the making that feels less like a highly-anticipated album and more like yet another guaranteed blockbuster that only needs to actually drop to continue his streak of platinum albums. I predicted that VIEWS would in retrospect prove to be Peak Drake, the album that later signaled his moment of highest importance, and it's finally time to put the predictions and hypotheticals aside and get to the real thing. Finally.
As always, this 1 Listen review will be a gut reaction, stream of consciousness account of my first listen with no pausing or rewinding and no editing. Then I'll be back later, weeks or months from now, with a follow-up review that attempts to break down the meaning and importance of the album once I've had time to marinate on it. For a deeper explanation of 1 Listen reviews, click here.
And with that, let's do this damn thing....
1. Keep The Family Close
And we're off...by sheer coincidence I was just talking about compiling a list of all the audio clips of random women talking on rap records. Horns and almost jazz opening things up, this is definitely different, although the singing sounds like peak Drake. "All my let's just be friends" just became a caption on 40,000 Facebook posts. Oh shit, SHOTS FIRED AT CHRYSLER. Drake's a savage. We've heard this heartbroken crooning from Drake before, but this production is really different. Lush. Damn, and those drums just hit hard. Very Weeknd-esque. Dost thou sing withest the Auto-Tune Drizzy? Sounds a bit like it. The mixing and mastering on this is already excellent, shout out all my people behind the scenes making music sound amazing who never get the credit. Don't know how much I'll be coming back to this one, I'm a wife and multiple children past "let's just be friends" anthems, but I'm definitely intrigued. Distorted guitars, jazz cymbals, could definitely be some new sonic ground covered here.
Change of pace, these sparkling synths sound like a fairy having an orgasm. Switched it up to the raps here, shout out to Moms, apparently he's got to take pills to go to sleep now. His time hanging out with Future is finally paying off. Pretty typical Drake confessional, mid-tempo jam. Whatever that female vocal sample is, it's perfect. Way more impressed with the production than the vocals so far (only on song two though). Wait, does this song have a hook? Dude just rhymed "jang a lang" with "major thangs." That's exactly the kind of Drake line you make fun of at first and then find yourself singing along to at full volume the next time you're alone in the car. He's the master of those moments. Sneaky good moments. He'd die for it - die for what? The success? His city? Death wish Drake just doesn't carry any weight. This background noise at the end's got me still hooked though - is that another song? - lot of great small touches so far.
3. U With Me?
Phone's ringing, could we be looking at a "Marvin's Room" part two? Goddamn! He just sampled and quoted DMX. That's the biggest check the X man's probably received in a minute, God I hope he gets a GRAMMY from this. "Cut's too deep for a Band-Aid solution" might be the Drakest line in the history of Drake, it's the mayor of Drakeville, the governor of Drakesylvannia. First three songs have all been mid-tempo, that means there has to be a "Worst Behavior"-esque banger coming up. For a Drake at the height of his power and riches, this has been especially vulnerable so far. Very relationship focused. Yo, my man's just said, "You toying with it like a Happy Meal." Those are real words that just came out of his real mouth. I CALLED IT. Beat switch, and now it's got that rolling hi-hats vibe that I'm betting is going to explode into more of a banger any moment. And yep. There goes the bass kick. I'm vibing, best moment of the album so far, real energy here. I wouldn't be mad if the first half of this got cut and the second half was turned into a full song. Yet another slow, quiet fade out....
4. Feel No Ways
When I saw the song title I predicted this would be the new anthem, let's see if I was right. Some really early '90s drums and synths, another mid-tempo joint. More singing, more relationships, I can't remember another Drake album with this little actual rapping four tracks in, and that's saying something. It's not like he's any stranger to singing. The hook on this needs to be a monster....hmmm....I mean....it's something. I don't know. Again the production is excellent, but I'm just not getting any real energy from Drake here, even his simmering, brooding energy. Bunch of chops on the beat, now a string section is kicking in, the instrumentals have been incredible so far, oddly the vocals aren't matching. Drake's getting outpaced by his own production.
Ok, five seconds in and I know this is finally going to be the switch up banger. BOOM. Even Helen Keller could have seen this coming. Levitate levitate levitate. My head's nodding like I have a seizure disorder, shout out to Tiffany and Stephanie. Beat drops out so it can build into a huge chorus, this is going to murder live. Bonus Juelz Santana reference. I repeat, JUELZ SANTANA REFERENCE. I'll just come out and say it, what the hell's he talking about with this "Goofy" stuff? I must not be up on my Toronto slang. After this review I'm going to have to go blast this one in the car. Still feels like it's missing a little something though.
6. Weston Road Flows
Nice album sequencing, tracks have flowed cleanly from one to the other. I feel like I should know this sample, is that...Mary J. Blige? Goddamnit, that's the curse of 1 Listen reviews, I don't have time to stop and research. Drake just said "Wavy," let's hope he did a preparatory prison call with Max B. "I'm looking at first week numbers like 'What are those?!?!?!" Some good old fashioned chart shit talk (although he might not want to check the numbers of his own OVO signees.) And a TLC shout out! "I get green like Earth day." Man, he's really determined to drop the corniest punchlines imaginable on this one. Monique? I'm going to have to update "Every Girl Drake's Mentioned" yet again. Notable lack of big hooks on this album so far, usually Drake's strong point. First Take Drake, I bet you the man's going to start selling t-shirts with that on them. Every song's ended with some additional background audio so far, interesting....
Mid-tempo jam after mid-tempo jam after mid-tempo jam. I'm starting to fade a little bit and we're only seven songs in. I'm not saying I need Drake to make a ScHoolboy Q album, but this is so vibe-y, so wavy, it's hard to stay really engaged with. Or alternately, I'm not high enough (aka high at all) to get lost in it. We need to name this flow he kicks into halfway through, it's definitely his go to. Let's call it his...I'm Rapping But In This Slow Over-Enunciated Way That Allows Me To Easily Transition To Singing Flow. Name's pending. These raps have essentially turned into a list of female names. You know you've made it when women are selling your secrets to TMZ.
8. With You ft. PND
Yet another slower joint, although some interesting rhythms here. Isn't PND just Drake if Drake only sang? This one's got some real catchiness factor to it, against my better judgement I'm getting sucked in. Going into this I assumed Drake would have radio-ready song after radio-ready song stacked up, but this is really the first one so far. Is that The-Dream? Jeremih? I haven't spent all these years listening to Terius Nash not to be able to recognize his voice. A little surprised to be writing this, but probably my favorite song so far.
9. Faithful ft. Pimp C & DVSN
I'm not about to guess what Pimp C would and wouldn't have rapped on if he were alive, but if he hated "Big Pimpin" because it was too pop, I wonder what he would have thought about this. And it's official, the best rap verse on this album by far belongs to Pimp. Obvious shout out to Drake's Houston people. Goddamn this production is great. Don't know if he made the beat or just oversaw it, but "40" really is a genius. Between this and "With You" the album's picking up a bit, it's hit a nice little groove. DVSN coming through with the real Jodeci-esque harmonies, I'm not mad. Wish that sound made a comeback, R&B's too "I'm too fucked up on pills to harmonize" for my liking right now.
10. Still Here
This one has some real potential to explode, be the anthem "Hype" almost was. And yep. There it is. When the drums hit, whatever that horn/synth sound is, this is what I was expecting a lot more of from the go. I won't front, I'm doing that little elbows out, bob and weave dance in my seat right now. Drake's hitting all these different pockets...whoa, what the fuck was that? It sounded like someone passed out on the MPC there for a minute, just a blast of noise for a few seconds. Still not sure I'm that excited by it, haven't been particularly excited by much so far, but I'll definitely take it.
I know this leaked a while ago but I haven't listened to it yet. Not because I'm morally opposed to listening to leaks or unmastered material, sometimes I just have other things happening in my life than listening to Drake leaks. Anyway...Drake essentially sings the exact same way about the exact same things every time - isn't this just Marvin's Room or Just Hold On over a mid-tempo beat - but why fix what isn't broken? Word up to Jodeci. Controlla is the kind of thing everyone's going to sing along to even though no one. Not mind-blowing, but a good song. Accomplished exactly what it sent out to accomplish.
12. One Dance ft. WizKid & Kyla
Who's better at these kind of songs than Drake? Ok, other than Rihanna, who's better? Although he's seems like an inescapable force in the U.S., in the U.K. Drake's never had huge success. Problem solved. You'll never be able to convince me that Drake getting close to Skepta and sampling a Kyla song that all of England knows wasn't a strategic plan to invade England, and that shit worked. Drake's going to play a show in London and every bloke and...gal?... are going to lose their goddamn mind. Could he actually be an under-rated singer? This is hypnotic, contagious, it felt like a hit the first time I heard it and it's only burrowing itself deeper inside my brain now.
13. Grammys ft. Future
The better half of What A Time To Be Alive is here to bring some energy. Did Drake just do a "jeez" ad-lib? Very Young Thug of him. Yeah, this beat is really hitting. What a coincidence, he just shouted out "Big Pimpin," great minds think alike. Top 5 no debating, apparently. Depends on what we're debating. This one's got a little bit of menace to it, it's getting me in my zone. Could have used this about five tracks ago. Future's lowkey murking this right now, which is the only way he ever murks anything. Ok, well, now the two best verses on this album belong to Pimp C and Future. It's like Drake is the singer who gets the rapper to drop a verse on his songs to give it a little edge. This one's going to have some serious replayability. (Yes, it's a word now. What are you going to do about it?)
14. Childs Play
Fourteen songs in, staring at another six before the end, starting to fade. I could use a little pick me up. And here it is. Whoooo.....that beat though. Why you gotta bring the Cheesecake Factory into this Drake? What did the factory of cheeses ever do to you? She took your Bugatti to CVS to buy tampons? What an incredibly specific story. Oh shit, the bass is really hitting now. This is excellent. I don't know if radio's going to be cool with lines about riding dicks like a soldier (soldiers are renowned dick riders?) but gut instinct, this is the best song so far. Could be a big hit. Quotables, catchy beat, rapping, singing, this one hits everything on the Drake checklist. I'm gonna have to look up that sample, no time now, already onto the next.
15. Pop Style
I thought this was song was reheated leftovers when it first came out and after repeat listens, somehow Kanye's the only one who sounds like he really cares. And now he's cut both Jay and Kanye from the final version? Was it because of the negative feedback? If you're going to cut two huge names, why not just cut the song entirely? Weird. Well...now it's just a song featuring no too-short Jay verse, no interesting Kanye verse, and Drake sounding like he accidentally drank Future's lean thinking it was really Sprite. 20 track album, you gotta just bite the bullet and cut this if you're gonna cut the verses.
16. Too Good ft. Rihanna
Rihanna's had two number songs with Drake on the feature tip, let's see if the same works in reverse. It's more of that island vibe, same lane as "Work" and "Controlla." Going into this album I thought more of it would have this vibe, but not particularly. Yeah, this shit's going to be a huge smash. Might as well start printing up the platinum plaque right now. Drake's somehow never had a #1 song in the U.S., this could easily be it. Pop excellence. The video for this is going to explode the internet. "Free time is costing me," yet another super-Drake line. He's the master of those kind of cheesy relationship punchlines, and they always work. Who's this on the end? A sample, or a live singer? I wish Vegas would take bets on this kind of thing, I'd put down my entire savings on this becoming a smash.
17. Summers Over (Interlude)
Some real soul as an interlude, who is this singing? Goddamn. I mean, goddamn. Who is this??? How is the best minute and a half on this album about to come during an interlude by a singer I can't place? This is...my brain just melted out my ears and my heart's now somewhere in my throat.
18. Fire & Desire
You know the song's going to be en fuego because the song title rhymes. This one's got 40's fingerprints all over it. R&B samples sped up, underwater synths. I'll have to check the production credits after. Real slow jam style, do we really need another song like this on the album? They're all starting to melt together in my brain. I guess he needs something for the Magic City strippers to grind to in the champagne room. "I've got Zs for these other girls, I'm sleeping..." I'm telling you, this man has no shame when it comes to the R&B punchlines. Somewhere near the top of the album this might have worked better, but 18 songs in, I have to say it feels like filler.
Title track, the last song (excluding the bonus), this better be a lituation. (My apologies if people don't say that anymore.) Soul sample in the beginning - ooohhhh, that beat is just....that beat it...that beat is the kind of thing you marry someone to. SHOUT OUT POSH SPICE! Definitely the next in line in that "5 AM in Toronto" legacy, confessional raps that hit hard. He's letting the beat breath, which is a good thing because it's incredible. I hereby challenge Drake to a basketball game, no way he's "dropping 40 even with liquor in my system," and I'm not exactly the second coming of Kobe. Anyway, Truman Show references, fever references, they all work. This entire album could just be this instrumental 40 times and I'd buy it. Really the only song I've been next-level excited about, he saved the best for last.
20. Hotline Bling (Bonus)
Honestly, I'm exhausted, I'm cutting the album off now. These reviews are more tiring than I'd like to admit, I'm sitting here typing with a towel over my head to soak up the sweat - blog game Steph Curry. What, like there's anything left to say about "Hotline Bling"? At this point that song feels like it came out a year ago. (Rap Facts: It really has been almost a year since it came out, nine months if you're gonna get all "well actually" on me.)
As always, only time will determine the historical impact of this album, 1 Listens don't claim to do anything more than attempt to capture a moment, but even so, I feel confident saying this won't become the uncontested classic album Drake was missing. There are just too many "pretty good" songs on here, really too many songs period, and it doesn't feel like it adds up to anything lagrer.
Again though, I don't know how much that will matter. Scratch that - I know it won't particularly matter. Drake's momentum right now is so massive that he just can't be stopped. VIEWS going platinum is a foregone conclusion, memes will be launched, quotes will be quoted, arenas will sell out so thousands can shout the hook to Still Here along with their hero. This album won't get Drake an inch closer to Best Rapper Alive status, but that's clearly not a title he's been interested in chasing anyway. It's a surprisingly slow album, a bit of a shock from a rapper who's been so masterful at commanding attention, but with Drake you never know, this could just be the set-up to his next major accomplishment.
VIEWS is the next move in Drake's long-term chess game, and he won't stop until he's the king.
By Nathan S, the managing editor of DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.