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Why Drake's Best Song of 2016 is "Redemption"

'Views' isn't a classic album, but standout "Redemption" is classic Drake.
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The scene in Juice where Bishop pulls the Smith & Wesson trigger, murdering the innocent store owner, shows the very moment he discovered the power in a handgun, a power he yearned to have, but never manifested. He was no longer a weakling, a doormat, he went from mouse to menace as the adrenaline rushed through his veins. With each pull of the trigger, with each life lost, he became more intoxicated by the control and sovereignty.

Bishop’s transformation is similar to current day Drake, a rapper who has conquered the world. There was a time when he was also more mouse than monster, a popular pinata, but gradually, more confidence could be heard in his boast, more swagger in his brags. Each album release represents him pulling the trigger, finding power in his popularity.

Views marches to the beat of a slower drum, it feels more like an R&B album for the winter than a summer scorching rap project. The candy-coated pop records are serving their purpose on the charts—pure domination. What I found less amusing than Drake’s crossover into dancehall are the songs littered with lyrics that constantly remind us how Drake’s success compares to others—all the unnamed rivals that lay beneath him.

While the rapping is minimal compared to any other Drake album, when he does deliver bars they feel stale, banal one-liners, punchlines that are more corny knee slappers than jaw leaning jabs. Out of all my gripes with the album, my main complaint is in having to listen to a king shine his crown—an act that’s only slightly more entertaining than judging an Olympic snail race or watching competitive paint drying. The narrative of how popular and powerful he has become is one that he has rapped about in the past with more vigor and passion, but at the very height of both, he is at his most boring.

Albums are rarely all bad, amongst the shortcoming there’s always an exception, and “Redemption” is the standout on Views. More than any other song that has been released this year, “Redemption” is the track I've played the most. On the surface, it’s a classic Drizzy special about longing, desire, and reflection on a failed relationship. But there’s a tenderness that is reminiscent of the man who recorded "Marvin’s Room," and not the possessive “Hotline Bling” egotist. It gives a small glimpse, a selfie of the world’s biggest rapper and his inability to receive redemption from women in his past. This is one of the few moments on the album where it doesn’t feel like Drake's portraying an image, but rather being honest and confessional. Women have always been the center of his universe, since the days of “Best I Ever Had” women have mused some of his best songs.

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Within “Redemption” you see the isolation and paranoia that is reminiscent of the album cover—loneliness that is articulated as Drake sits atop Toronto’s CN Tower. The fourth verse is an introspective walk through the clouded mind of a man who isn’t able to trust—who do you confide in when there’s a price on your secrets? Recalling the lawsuit with Erika and “Marvin’s Room” is a small detail that he has never mentioned, but shows it continues to weigh on him. As he grows deeper in thought, the already minimal production gets thinner, a moment of clarity told to the kicking snare and the whisper of a sample.

“Child’s Play” is another song from the album that captures more of what I want from Drake—in the first verse, he takes us through a dinner turned heated argument at Cheesecake Factory. It seems so normal until you realize that Drake isn’t some regular customer; if he causes a scene it's a big scene, and he knows it. “Child’s Play” does a great job in juxtaposing the world's of a famous rapper who is living a life far from what would be considered normalcy with a partner who doesn’t care. There’s nothing odd about his woman picking up tampons at CVS except she takes his Bugatti and not a Buick. The fact he boasts about giving away Chanel bags like hugs is an odd brag but seem very fitting of Aubrey. It’s easy to envision all these things happening in his life, but they’re rarely highlighted. I prefer Views when I feel that I’m getting an accurate view into where Drake is at in his life - an approach that he once perfected.

When all the hits fall off the charts, when the album sales begin to dwindle, when we’re talking about Drake in the past tense, the songs that will be remembered won’t be what was the most popular, but which were the most sincere. The same qualities that he was once ridiculed for—the soft, sensitive, emotional rapper—is what was missing on Views. If rapping is truly something that he plans to do on the side, hopefully, it’ll be more reminiscing and confessions, more “Weston Road Flows” and “Redemption.”

Beefs, ghostwriters, women—the life of Aubrey Graham is far too stormy and chaotic to deliver an album with the dullness of a butter knife. There's been plenty of moments when Drake seems to find his voice, glimpses of a rapper who isn’t afraid to drop the persona and let honesty be his shield and sword. For all the power he has gained, he’s lost what once was one of his most endearing qualities.

I’m no longer worried about if Drake will drop a classic album, more so if he’ll ever tap back into classic Drake. “Redemption” is classic Drake and the song for any fans missing the artist he used to be.

By Yoh, aka Views From The Yoh aka @Yoh31

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