The front cover of Views, the fourth studio album from Canadian emcee, Drake, sees the man himself sitting atop Toronto’s imposing CN Tower. And while it didn’t take long for confirmation that the picture is photoshopped, it’s still a fitting metaphor for the enormity of this LP.
Extensively promoted with pop up stores in New York, LA, and Miami, among other places, there was always going to be a huge amount of hype for this anticipated release from a man many regard as one of the greatest rappers living today. That hype is certainly rewarded, but the metaphor offers the gargantuan nature of this album, which isn’t necessarily a good thing.
Let’s first deal with the obvious – Views is long. Very long. With a running time of 81:05, the album feels slightly Wagnerian in scope. And with 31 producers listed - Kanye West and British grime veteran, Logan Sama, among them - it gives you an idea of the exhaustive manpower that was required to reach the summit.
Nonetheless, Keep the Family Close is a wonderfully daring way to start proceedings; Drake opens with his trademark melodious rapping, but over Hollywood-esque strings, and an organ rather than a beat. Of course the trap beats aren’t far away, and the quotables also surface quickly: “I can’t sleep these days ‘less I take one / if they don’t have a story these days, they’ll make one”, Drake confesses in 9. However, following track, U With Me, is the first warning sign that there will be a few songs that simply can’t justify the length of Views.
Weston Road Flows has much more of an old school hip hop feel, with its Destiny’s Child sounding vocal sample and bare bones drum sample. Here is the track which is possibly the lyrical highlight of the lot: “I get green like Earth Day” and “used to have secret handshakes to confirm our friendships / now they just shaking my hand to hide the tension” are just a few of the lines which leap out at you. And as far as boast songs go, Grammys is a strong piece of indulgence. The trap beat is hard hitting, as are Drake’s swipes at his rapping colleagues: “Heard you never claimed the hood / heard the hood claimed you”.
But inevitably, songs which should have been reserved for a B-Sides album keep cropping up along the way; Redemption and Faithful feel like filler, and filler is the very last thing you need when you’re wading through an hour and a half of music. In Pop Style, Drake uses a vocal inflection that makes it sound as if he’s groaning rather than rapping. And considering you’re fifteen tracks deep at this point, it almost comes across that he’s knackered, although it may just be our ears that are losing energy at this point.
Thankfully, Rihanna turns up to bring some restorative Barbadian sunshine on Too Good, an enjoyable number in which Drake and Rihanna quote each other and end up duetting. The wavy ambience of Fire and Desire is a strong slow number, meanwhile title track, Views, sees the emcee on fire lyrically: “my wifey is a spice like David Beckham” will be greeted with cheers from UK fans, and “you don’t worry about fitting in when you’re custom made” is just pure gold.
We close with Hotline Bling, a song perhaps more notorious for Drake’s dancing in its music video rather than its music. It’s a fantastic ending note, just a shame it takes us 77 minutes to get to it.
Views is a good album, no one can deny that. It just begs the question: why does Drake always tries to do the impossible? To have an album that is great from start to finish at over 80 minutes isn’t only extremely difficult, it would be inhuman if it was. Yes, the weaker tracks are a rarity here, but they do just enough to throw Views out of its stride, a stride which could have been totally imperious. It’s a beautiful thing, to listen to an album from start to end, but the truth is that hardly anyone is going to set aside an hour and a half to listen to one. A Gustav Mahler symphony, perhaps; a Drake album? No. Undoubtedly though, Drake’s view from the top remains glorious, and there’s no sign of him coming down.
Review by Adam Protz