What does the 6 God see?
Being one of the most talked about artists on the planet right now; Drake’s ‘Views‘ (formerly known as Views From The 6) was always going to be big. By far the most hyped album in hip-hop, the Toronto-born rapper/singer had a lot to live up to. Following last year’s incredibly successful project ‘If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late‘ (which earned him a Grammy nomination), people began to stir up the excitement for his fourth studio album on the OVO Sound/ Young Money Entertainment labels. Over that time, Drake has released a handful of singles and even a trailer for the LP, further feeding the incessant excitement that fans had for this thing. Well, it’s finally arrived via Apple Music and iTunes; but is it all it was promised to be?
The cover art, revealed 5 days before the album was dropped, shows Drake sat atop the CN tower in his home city. Combined with its title, I expected this to be an introspective piece, not just with Drizzy looking back at his past relationships; but his upbringing and experiences that shaped him into the worldwide celebrity and personality we all know today. The Canadian MC is well known for not being afraid to delve into his own feelings, and it’s a given to expect him to take the listener on a journey through his own psych, something he’s reinforced with every release even since his very first studio album.
It begins just as you’d expect, a hearty dose of reflection with the opening track ‘Keep the Family Close‘, one where he immediately discusses his trust issues with everyone that’s not blood-related. It’s stark contrast to most of what could be found on his previous release; oozing James Bond-like style with its smooth orchestral instrumentation and the occasional crash of drums that break up the verses, bridges and hooks. This isn’t a changed Drake; one still very much in his feelings, indicated by the opening line “All of my ‘let’s just be friends’ are friends I don’t have anymore“. It’s an incredibly effective opener and a cold-hearted introduction to the record.
If the opener sparked any thought that Drizzy might be leaving the trap-influenced sounds of his recent projects behind, then it’s quickly put to rest with the following track ‘9‘ and another a little way down the tracklist; ‘Hype’. The former is an icy cut that couples long, drawn-out synths with rattling snares, with Drake stating he’s put his city on the map; turning the “Six upside down, it’s a nine now“. The latter follows the same type of drumline but with a higher tempo and a loop of grimy snyth-keys that keep up a viscous tone as he seems to (yet again) adress his beef with Meek Mill, referring to their back-and-forth diss track marathon; “You tried to give ‘em your side of the story, they heard it, but they wasn’t hearing it“. The two juxtapose the first track majorly, but it doesn’t feel like he’s just jumping from one persona to the next, just asserting his piercing delivery in a hip-hop game that has labelled him ‘too emotional‘ for a long time.
The track ‘U With Me?‘ (co-produced by Kanye West) is a low-key track split into two parts; first with a heavy kick loop and the second with some hazy, rolling hi hats. Drake goes in and out of rapping and singing freely as he spits about his girl’s loyalty and the events that forced them to drift, something which he addresses constantly through subtle references and subliminal lines. The slow jam ‘Redemption‘ embodies the mind of the Canadian as her reminisces about a past relationship that caused him conflicting emotions. As listeners, we have no idea who the guy is talking about, but he conveys his trust issues with the opposite sex so vividly and thoroughly it’s engrossing to listen to. The fourth verse on this track is one of the best on the entire cut; with the 6 God going into great detail about his experiences with back-stabbers and disloyal women: “Damn, I’m not unrealistic with none of my women, I tell them if they ain’t with it then let’s just forget it, relationships slowin’ me down, they slow down the vision, guess I’m not in a position to deal with commitment“.
As the record progresses and the seasons change as Drake looks over the city, the middle section of the album takes a slight shift in tone as we get the more atmospheric dance track ‘With You‘, featuring fellow OVO signee PARTYNEXTDOOR. Perhaps reflecting their change of heart when intoxicated, the two describe their want for the women around them, while ‘Faithful‘ contrasts his earlier animosity for a relationship by saying he’ll be patient in waiting for a woman he knows he’ll be loyal to. The beat is heavy with sub-bass and some low-key trap percussion, with chipmunk’d vocals layered for the wonderfully soulful hook: “Working, working, working, working, ain’t ya? You don’t have no time to lay up, you just trying to be somebody, ‘fore you say you need somebody, get all your affairs in order, I won’t have affairs, I’m yours, girl, faithful, faithful, faithful, faithful“.
There’s really no argument when it comes to who’s best at conveying emotionality in a hip-hop game that (much of the time) denounces it. Half-singing, half-rapping – it doesn’t matter, Drake can bring vulnerability to the hardest of beats.
Towards the middle section of the LP the quality struggles to keep up with the earlier production, highlighted especially by the lacklustre ‘Grammys‘, featuring frequent collaborator Future. The song sounds like a cut straight from their duo project from last year; ‘What a Time to Be Alive‘, one which I didn’t rate that highly at all. The track before this, ‘One Dance‘ is enjoyable with its dancehall inspired beat, but the different layers are mixed so poorly it feels unfinished and out of place among such well-crafted instrumentals that Noah ’40’ Shebib (and others) should be highly commended for. It’s much of the same for the more atmospheric banger ‘Pop Style‘, with its ominous production that doesn’t feel fully finished and is especially disappointing when you find out Kanye’s verse from the pre-album version was cut, leading Drake’s “chaining tatum” line to leave an even more bitter taste in the mouth.
On the more positive side of the production spectrum (a side which is thankfully much more prevalent), the record elevates to greatness with the track ‘Child’s Play‘. It begins with these double-time clapping samples, with Drake backed by a choir as he croons “Bounce that shit like woah” until the rumbling bass is introduced and compliments it brilliantly. On the hook the track does a complete 180 turn and the clapping is turned into crisp snares, turning it from an R&B hit to a trap anthem, right after he hits his girl with “Momma is a saint, yes she raised me real good, all because of her I don’t do you like I should, don’t make me give you back to the hood“. Savage bars over a stellar beat; essential Drizzy Drake.
This doesn’t however mean Drake’s lost his touch when it comes to the more soulful, old school -sounding track on this record. The Mary J. Blige-sampled ‘Weston Road Flows’ is a throwback to his childhood and growing up on the street of the same name. The song is one long verse from the Canadian, detailing the memories that made his upbringing and how it contrasts to the world around him now, even throwing in a joke reference to the famous meme “I’m lookin at they first week numbers like what are those“. It’s pretty much the same story on the penultimate track ‘Views‘ (essentially the ‘roll credits’ tune of the record), another fine sample from 40 and Boi-1da as Drake wraps up his record in style. The track emanates the sound and flow that could be found on his early records, with 90’s-like percussion and a fiery melody that sounds like it was pulled straight from the archive of Kanye in 2004. The 6 God tells of his journey on the long road to success, even from the very beginning when it was only him and his mother: “I dropped out right before I graduate, six credits left, my mama had her saddest day, ‘It’s only up from here, I promise, you just gotta wait’, and she took my word for it, that’s all I had to say“. It’s a nice throwback that I’m sure Drake and 40 inserted for the more seasoned Drake fans out there, and it works well enough to serve as a fitting end to a excellent record.
That is until the most over-played song of the past year ‘Hotline Bling‘ suddenly appears. But since it’s a bonus, we can let that one slip.
Although the massive cult of Drake-haters will tell you otherwise; it’s really okay to love ‘Views‘. The 6 God has proven time and time again, even with his mixtapes, that he can deliver a consistent quality of music and solidify himself at the very top of the game. He has nothing left to prove now, he is simply making he best music he can and it’s evident here. Over most of the 20 tracks he keeps up a sense of finesse and a sleek, stylish persona even while conveying the utmost emotional fragility that a rapper possibly can; standing tall on a pedestal that many have tried (and certainly failed) to grasp. The man is one of the most talked-about artists on the planet, and on this record he’s more than backed up his claim to the throne. Only time will tell if ‘Views‘ end up being his classic, but nevertheless it’s an incredible achievement for an artist that so many people wrote off years ago.
Highlights: Child’s Play, Hype, Keep the Family Close, Views, U With Me?