Whether you like it or not, Drake is the biggest person in hip-hop right now.
Last year Spotify crowned him the most overall streamed artist of 2015, not just in his genre. With hits like “Hotline Bling” in the fall and his collaboration with Rihanna on “Work” earlier in 2016, Drizzy’s been climbing up in the charts. From his debut album, “Thank Me Later” in 2010, to “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” in 2015, every solo record he’s released has been ranked number one.
Aside from the numbers, Drake has been a figure of controversy in the rap community ever since he gained popularity. Starting off with his middle to high class upbringing and previous acting career in teen drama “Degrassi”, this “come up” isn’t one that a traditional hip-hop fan had seen. Couple that with his tendency to incorporate sentimental themes, with a healthy dose of singing, to his material and we have an artist that really hasn’t resonated with the genre’s purists. As radio personality, Charlamagne, said in an interview “Drake needs to concentrate on being the next Jay-Z, not the next Trey Songz.”
This argument shifted in Drake’s advantage during his highly publicized war of words with Meek Mill during the summer of last year. Meek Mill who, comparatively was the rougher, “realer” one, ended up taking an intense L when the Drake ended the dispute with “Back to Back”.
With last year being one of his biggest, “VIEWS” is Drake’s most highly anticipated record.
The album starts off with a girl saying “it’s a little chilly out there, how you can stand there is beyond me” as howling winds blow away into the first song. This, along with the album’s cover, give way to what feels like an album made by winter in Drake’s hometown of Toronto, or now frequently known as, the six.
This record has a very cold atmosphere that feels like it’d be perfect to bump throughout the frigid season. Even the more energetic songs give off the feeling that while it’s party, you’d still have to throw on a coat to smoke outside the club.
As Drake’s musical right-hand man, Producer Noah “40” Shebib has brought some of his best work. Collaborating with a number of notable producers such as Kanye West and Boi-1da, he still put it all together for an epic, yet sleek, sound.
On the emcee side of this duo, Drake is still evoking the same themes his fans love him for, but with a new perspective. He goes in on his relationship and trust issues with a confident attitude. This new found conviction gives the emotion he displays a mature touch that makes it easier to take seriously.
Drake and “40” have remained in the comfort zone, sonically, yet have made one of the best albums within that sound. The most noticeable, and really the only, change is that they’ve taken their pop crossover to the next level. Out of 19 songs in the tracklist, 11 of them feature singing in a major way. Nonetheless, the sound stays in the aesthetic Octobers Very Own (OVO) has formed over the years and there are no overly glossy or sugary instrumentals. Instead, we got a varied bag of either upbeat or emotional cuts of R&B/Pop. When it comes to the more hip hop oriented songs, Drizzy definitely still has flow .
The first verse off of “Hype” is one of the most energetic moments of the album.
Now, if you weren’t on board with what Drake brings musically, this album is not going to convert you. Mainly because while they’re executed in one of the best ways we’ve seen them, all the aspects that have made some people dislike Drake are still here. He’s still making vocals-oriented music that deals with the strain that fame can have on love and friendship. With over an hour of runtime the album can become monotonous to someone who isn’t already invested in the kind of narrative Drake has. Some songs feel like either they hit the same note as others or just could not be there and the album would be just as good yet more concise. Like with the song “Grammys” that just sounds like a leftover from What a Time to be Alive.
The record’s former title, “Views From the 6”, was rather telling of the music we ended up getting. A collection of songs that show how Drake and “40” see the music. While their vision barely changed, their execution has improved. The two biggest heads in OVO have delivered something that fans of this aesthetic and musical style will appreciate. However, the sound and themes are so similar to what we’ve seen before that the album can’t be a classic for the overall hip hop community.
Similar Sounds: The Weeknd, Rihanna, Ty Dolla $ign, Anderson. Paak
Highlights: “Keep the Family Close”, “Hype”, “Feel No Ways”, “With You”, “Redemption”
Lowlights: “9”, “Grammys”, “Fire & Desire”, “Summers Over Interlude”