The internet reckons that when Drake brags, “I don’t run out of material” on the track ‘Hype’, he’s hitting back at Meek Mill, the Philadelphian rapper who accused him of using ghostwriters. The internet is probably right, but Drake’s boast also feels like a direct statement of intent.
This fourth album, which arrives on the wave of huge crossover hits ‘Hotline Bling’ and ‘One Dance’, has an epic running time of 81 minutes – Drake’s longest yet. Given that its 20 tracks generally tackle the same theme – namely the trials and tribulations of Toronto-based singer-rapper Drake – ‘Views’ should be a slog. But remarkably, his signature brand of downbeat introspection remains gripping.
The album was originally titled ‘Views From The 6’ after his nickname for Toronto, but though his hometown is a recurring theme, Drake is only really interested in its influence on him and vice versa. “Blew up and I’m in the city still, I’m still here, dog,” he notes proudly on ‘Still Here’.
Elsewhere, Drake shares his relationship troubles (“Why do I settle for women that force me to pick up the pieces?”), his trust issues (“They still out to get me cause they never got me”), the pressures of having so much money (“All these handouts, man, it’s getting outta hand”) and, of course, his own awesome success (“They cannot f**k with my legacy”). He also recalls an embarrassing squabble at restaurant chain Cheesecake Factory and shows more self-awareness than he is sometimes given credit for: “Lately I just feel so out of character/The paranoia can start to turn into arrogance,” he admits on the title track.
With collaborator Noah “40” Shebib co-producing 13 of the 20 cuts, ‘Views’ sticks to Drake’s murky hip hop sound, but there are brilliant chinks of light. ‘Weston Road Flows’ is Mary J. Blige-sampling R&B, ‘Controlla’ and ‘With You’ have glitchy dancehall-style beats and ‘Child’s Play’ is a banger based on New Orleans bounce hit ‘She Rode That D*ck Like A Soldier’. ‘Too Good’, a pouty duet with Rihanna, already sounds like his next big smash. Some will argue ‘Views’ is no great leap forward but, on this evidence, hip hop’s king of whinge still reigns supreme.