The classic Hans Christian Andersen short story The Emperor’s New Clothes comes to mind when describing the hype surrounding the release of Drake’s new album, Views. The tale of two weavers who promise to create an outfit that is invisible to anyone unfit for their position is well matched to the presentation of the world’s most popular rapper’s fourth studio album.
In that tale, the weavers’ well-crafted lie about the magical powers of the garment was made all the more effective by the townspeople’s reluctance to let the emperor know he stood bare. Aubrey’s fable differs in that he is both the weaver and wearer of this sonic textile, and whether you’re worthy enough or not to see its colours is something you might be afraid to admit.
Drake’s album openers are some of his most anticipated work. “Keep the Family Close” gives off a confessional vibe even with its shocking snare clashes and contrasting brass stabs. Relative newcomer Maneesh’s overall sparse production is sharp and really sets the album’s tone. It almost feels like a Drake we’ve heard before, which is surprising given the camp’s penchant for hunting new flows.
But all of that is forgotten by the time “9” starts up. He says it right off the top, “Fuh di dogs dem yuh know,” it’s a true synth-backed banger dripped in hometown pride.
To be honest, 95 per cent of Drake’s global listeners may never understand the Big Apple, Glenn Lewis or Jelleestone references, but us Toronto natives from that generation get a warm little tingle when we hear those lines.
As is the punchline-laced “Weston Road Flows”. To be honest, 95 per cent of Drake’s global listeners may never understand the Big Apple, Glenn Lewis or Jelleestone references, but us Toronto natives from that generation get a warm little tingle when we hear those lines.
That said, there is also a big world music feel to the album. Of course, there are the pure R&B tunes like “Redemption”, “Fire & Desire” and “Childs Play”. But tracks like “Controlla”, “Too Good” featuring Rihanna and of course “One Dance” featuring Wizkid & Kyla seem obviously aimed at the international market.
Then there is the obvious lack of features. Most notably the removal of Popcaan from the aforementioned “Controlla” and The Throne’s absence from “Pop Style”. While the masses will probably boo any DJ that plays the album versions in the club, the solo versions of both songs sound whole in the context of Views’ other pieces.
The 6ix God faced some of his toughest challenges last year and emerged largely unscathed.
He also keeps the production close to home, employing mostly Canucks like Maneesh, dvsn’s Nineteen85, Frank Dukes and, of course, 40 and Boi-1da. It’s sample heavy, diverse and effective – by far the best part of the album.
Admittedly, the pressure is on. Drake is at his apex, and a household name. Rih, Ye and Bey all recently dropped strong solo efforts that are making Billboard’s sales tracking even more confusing. And, to top it off, the 6ix God faced some of his toughest challenges last year and emerged largely unscathed.
Views is definitely a strong album, but it isn’t his best. And at a time where an immediate “classic” or at least an undeniable body of work could have extended the reign, it may instead signal the beginning of abdication. This album had to connect immediately with listeners and make you forget names like Take Care and Nothing was the Same. Instead, we got the Drake we are familiar with. A great artist that is comfortable on the throne.
It’s as they say though, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Views’ genius may be hidden within Scarborough slang and local references, but at a critical point in his career, it doesn’t push any boundaries.
The robe woven treads over very familiar ground. The emperor may be satisfied with his new garment, but most of the masses will be afraid to speak to his nakedness. And, although the emperor may suspect something is awry, the procession will continue.