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Like it or not, Drake has cemented his role as the epitome of Toronto’s hip-hop soundscape. On his latest album, Views, (previously promoted as Views From The 6) Drake crystallizes that Toronto sound, crafting 20 tracks his listeners will find familiar. Cold percussion and distorted backing vocals are mainstays of this album, and as usual, Drake’s vocals shift between rapping and singing to suit each track. The impact of these various elements are largely successful, though admittedly, sometimes inconsistent. (Looking at you, chipmunk voice effect.)
Thematically, Views mostly sticks to Drake reflecting on romance and relationship woes, his standing in hip-hop’s hierarchy, and feelings of distrust and betrayal. He frequently references his hometown, which we evidently still have to call “the 6” at his behest. Listeners may enjoy lines such as, “Been flowin’ stupid since Vince Carter was on some through the legs arm in the hoop shit.” The themes Drake covers are familiar to his fans, or hip-hop fans in general, but he explores them in a way that is simple and emotionally honest.
Drake assembles a large cast of contributors, each bringing their own flourishes to the final product. Noah “40” Shebib, who has long been producing Drake’s albums, crafts high quality beats that mesh well with Drake’s delivery.
And the artists featured in Views are largely welcome additions. PartyNextDoor anchors the track “With You” using distorted singing. Rihanna, Popcaan, and others help reinforce the West Indies aesthetic interspersed throughout Views. Kyla and Wizkid’s vocals on “One Dance” make it a standout pop number. Continuing his previous collaboration with Drake, Future makes “Grammy” noteworthy. “The Summer’s Over Interlude” is a jazzy piece with terrific vocals by Majid Al Maskati of the duo Majid Jordan (it is a minor travesty that he is uncredited). By contrast, the addition of rapper Pimp C on the song “Faithful” detracts from the final product. The verse delivered by dvsn on that same song lands well, making Pimp C’s inclusion all the more confusing. But on the whole, the featured artists on Views are a boon.
Balancing rapping and singing has always proved difficult. While both are present on Views, they are certainly not represented in equal measure. This album is rather pop-heavy, a little too much for my tastes, but you can’t please everyone. However, whether you gravitate towards Singing Drake or Rapping Drake, there is something for you on this album.
Back in 2009 Drake rapped about dropping a mixtape that sounded like an album. Then in 2015 he released If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, classified as an album by his label, but for all intents and purposes, it was a mixtape, as Drake himself said. So what sort of release is Views? The answer may be “something in between.” It seems mostly like an album, polished songs flowing together seamlessly. Occasionally though, it seems to draw on styles that were the low point of previous works. In any case, Views is best when it is innovative and pushes Drake’s sound forward.