2016, Music

Views (2016) by Drake

Drake is kind of ubiquitous where I live. I am from Toronto, I have lived here much of my life and I am a Raptors fan. It is hard for me to avoid Drake the media figure. But, despite that, I don’t really know Drake the musician. There are good reasons for that. One of them is that I don’t listen to hip hop. Another is that I was living in Hamilton without the internet when Drake’s first three mixtapes and first album came out. I’ve heard his name so much and heard him talk too much – and annoy me – on Raptors broadcasts but I’ve barely heard his music even nearly 20 years after his first mixtape came out. I suspect this is not the album to start with but here we are.

Unlike most artists, I actually know the very moment I was first knowingly exposed to Drake’s music, I just don’t know what year it was. I was at a Jays game many years ago. It was definitely before this album came out as I lost my fan pass before this album came out. A song came on and I thought it was just one of the worst things I had ever heard in my life. And, as I was having that thought, my friend said “I fucking hate Drake.” And I said “Ohhhhhhhhh, this is what Drake sounds like!” because I had heard his name a ton, seen his face, but never knowingly heard anything by him before. I don’t know what the song was but it obviously was a hit because it was being blasted in the Dome.

Later on, “Hotline Bling” became the first song I was totally, consciously aware of to cross over into my musical consciousness when it briefly took over. (I don’t listen to the radio, so songs have to be pretty massive for me to encounter them.) It’s notable that Drake put that song as the last track on an 80-minute, 20-track album, as if he released this in another era and wanted to force people to listen to the entire record.

There are some tracks that are quite catchy, with some decent hooks, but plenty that don’t have strong melodic elements and I forget them pretty quickly. There’s just too much stuff here, but I suspect that’s a criticism that can be lobbed at numerous acts now, not just rappers. (My understanding is that it’s only gotten worse in the 2020s with people trying to game the Spotify charts.) If you asked me to name even half the tracks here, there’s no way I could do it.

I sort of know Drake’s reputation for lyrics but I can’t say I had heard enough of them. And, sure enough, he seems to live up to that rep here. His lyrics seem to be nearly entirely about himself and his life. And, well, all I can say is I could not care less. This is one of the reasons I don’t really like (a lot of) hip hop: I have nothing in common with Drake (especially now that he’s rich) and when he’s rapping or singing about being the greatest rapper of his era (or ever), or he’s rapping about the trials of success, or whatever, there’s just nothing for me to connect with. I’m only five years older than him, and I attended elementary school 7 km away from his elementary school, but it’s as if we’re from two different worlds. I’m sure that says a lot about the class and racial divides in Toronto that I haven’t had to deal with but I mostly bring it up because even with a rapper this close to me in age and geography, I just don’t relate.

The production, for me, is far and away the most interesting aspect of the album. But I have this nagging suspicion that maybe it’s not as original as it sounds. My very limited exposure to Kanye suggests that the most aggressively weird stuff here might be indebted to him but I really don’t know anything about that.

I’m utterly at a loss to know what to think about this. Is it good? I have no idea. I suspect it’s not amazing, as it’s way too long and way too self-obsessed. But I have no idea. I do know that the raters on RYM don’t like it, and there’s over 12,000 of them. So I’m going to take that into account.

5?/10

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