On the night of April 28th, I arrived in Tallahassee to celebrate a weekend of my friends graduating, just as Drake dropped his new album Views (previously Views From The 6). I pulled into the driveway of my friend’s duplex when the album appeared on my Apple Music. I listened to the first song in the car, but decided that I wanted to give it a full listening to and not just hear bits and pieces in passing. I stopped playing it and waited for a moment in which I could soak it all in.
That moment took a while to come as I was bouncing between friend groups all weekend, trying to celebrate their monumental occasion. I ended up hearing a couple songs while I was out, and I tried to let them pass through one ear and out the other. Some of it lingered and from what I heard, I wasn’t too impressed. I couldn’t help but wonder, “Is this really the new Drake?”
Let me take you back. Drake’s journey to the top of the rap game began with some “unsigned hype” and a run as Lil Wayne’s Robin. He was dope. You could rap all the words to his songs. He made “YOLO” cool for all of two months. But he was also very much a punchline to many jokes.
“The Sprain Ankle Kid.” “The Miss Ya Ex Rapper.” Shoot! Does anyone remember the “Drake The Type Of” tweets in 2013? Did we all forget?
Take Care was of course a classic, and Drake gave us memorable anthems and great featured verses throughout his career. But when you asked somebody who their favorite rapper or who the hottest in the game was, Drake was never the “right” or “cool” answer. Kendrick, J Cole, Kanye, Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, Wale, Wiz Khalifa, Big Sean, Eminem, Rick Ross always seemed to be better answers at different points of his career.
But then 2015 came. The year of Drake.
Drake began the year with If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, a throwaway mixtape/album if you will. Not a full-frontal effort by Drizzy, but gave us a nice amount of Instagram caption-worthy songs to warrant our attention. Everyone was running through something with their woes in 2015.
Then the summer came and Meek Mill took to Twitter to call Drake out on his ghost writing. The attacks were vicious. Unlike anything we had seen between celebrities on social media before. Everyone sat back and wondered how Drake would respond. If he would respond.
He first dropped “Charged Up”, a song that people nodded to and respected. But before we could turn our attention to Meek’s clapback, Drake dropped another diss track in the form of “Back to Back” and the world stopped.
“Shout-out to all my boss-bitches wifin’ niggas!”
Meek’s career was over. People in Philly wept that day. It went on to be nominated for a Grammy. The Grammy committee couldn’t find five better rap songs than it that year. The Grammy committee couldn’t do it. It became a song that you wanted to hear, dare I say it?, back to back whenever it came on.
I digress, but Drake didn’t. Following, “Hotline Bling” became a national call-your-ex anthem. What A Time To Be Alive with Future kept our ears happy. Drake could do no wrong in 2015 and it carried over into 2016 with the anticipation of a true solo studio album, his first since 2013’s Nothing Was The Same.
This was it. This was going to be Drake’s crowning achievement. The work of art that cemented him not only as Number 1 in the game right now , but quite possibly one of the all-time greats. Views was going to be the climax of a year long symphony Drake had been conducting. His first true response to Kendrick’s “Control” verse. I was ready. We all were.
When I finally left Tallahassee on Sunday afternoon, I plugged my aux cord into my phone and hit the play button on the album. It was four hours to Tampa with no traffic, but with it being graduation weekend I expected a five to six hour trip. I was okay with it. I was ready to be taken out of the car and transported to Toronto.
Track 1 played. I nodded. Track 2. I did the same.
Around Track 7 I felt tired and pulled over at a rest stop to get a quick nap in. I wasn’t in Toronto. I was still very much in the car.
I ran through the whole album. And then I ran threw it again. I didn’t know what I was listening to. I was trying to find out, but one thing seemed clear… This wasn’t the magna opus that I was hoping for.
I took to Snapchat to vent.
My words on Snapchat didn’t come from a place of hate, but from a place of disappointment. Frustration. A “How could Drake do this to us?” place.
Let me clarify. I like Views. It’s a good album. I’m going to want to hear “Controlla” anytime I step on the beach for the next ten years. “One Dance” is so well put together that it’s a shame it’s less than three minutes long.
But when I take a step back and look at the album as a whole, I’m utterly disappointed. With the other giants in hip hop right now all taking risks and seemingly pushing themselves to their creative limits with their works (2014 Forest Hills Drive, To Pimp A Butterfly, Life of Pablo), I couldn’t believe the lack of effort that is seemingly displayed on Views.
There are no “HYFR” or “Tuscan Leather” verses. Any of the in-the-feels song aren’t half as good as those on Take Care. Even the bangers like “Hype,” “Grammys,” and “Still Here” would fight over the right to be the fifth best song on IYRTITL.
A couple friends who saw my Snapchat story tried upping my spirits about the album.
I tried to like the album. I’ve listened to it nearly double digits time in the last couple days. I’ve read analysis of it and the “Winter to Summer back to Winter” metaphor it’s going for.
But I can’t help but feel that I’m not missing anything. It shouldn’t even be that hard to find something. Great albums should make you feel a type of way. Make you feel sad or inspired. Make you want to pause and use your “Twitter fingers” to tweet a line you just heard. But it’s missing the tweet-worthy wordplay. It doesn’t make me wonder if the girl I took to the fifth grade banquet ever thinks about what could’ve been. I hear it and wonder if Drake has been spending too much time at Raptor games. If he’s been hanging out with Odell Beckham Jr. too much on Insta. It even makes me question the validity of Meek Mill’s statements and how much ghost-writers have contributed to his career.
Drake does not sound like the “drapes closed, I don’t know what time it is” grinding rapper. And that’s the saddest part. That’s what makes the album more disappointing than anything.
I spent the weekend watching my friends graduate and take major steps in their lives, and I think that’s what I wanted to see Drake do as well. Take a major step. Graduate into that “all-time great” domain. But I didn’t get that. I got a guy saying “You know what? I’m comfortable here. I’m not ready to graduate yet.”