Review: Drake - Views

I was driving when I first heard Drake's Views. This was a conscious decision, as I've always believed that the best way to experience rap albums for the first time is to take 'em for a ride. Literally. This is especially true with Drake albums. Car speakers were made for the crisp flows, intricate production, and masterful boardwork I've come to expect from Drake albums.

Views had none of that. In fact, I remember it sounding really really flat on my first go-round.

I blamed my sound system. I blamed the aux cable. So, I tried listening through my headphones. And not just any headphones. For this special occasion, I selected my in-ear Beats, capable of pulling even the faintest of subtleties out of any sound. Uh...uh. It made no difference.

I'm used to Drake albums grabbing my on the first go, even if I never actually gravitate to them immediately. This was different. I just couldn't get into Views at all. Struggle bars everywhere. Beats were coming in flat, as if every song was one instrumental shy of solid.

The most frustrating thing about Views is that it's haphazard--a hodgepodge of Drakeisms with no discernible sense of focus. It's all over the place. The first half is filled with ramblings and slow-motion chest pumps. The latter half shows his softer side with World Music-inspired jams sprinkled in between.

Drake albums have always tried strike a creative focal point, whether it's the complexities of fame on his first two outings or the playground braggadocio of .

His last solo outing, If You're Reading This It's Too Late, was all chest-out and vicious. It was enjoyable. Views has Drake trying on different shoes, all of them familiar. Different views, same Drake.

Views feels like a missed opportunity to explore Drake's nimble flow over a thematic musical terrain.

Some of the most memorable tracks on Views are the ones where Drake extend his featherweight flow to experimental grounds, as on "Controlla," "One Dance" and "Too Good." I would have settled for an entire album of Caribbean-flavored jams with Rihanna along for the ride.

For all its inconsistencies, Views has a consistent backdrop: Drake's native Toronto. His hometown, fondly referred to as "The 6," originally inspired the album title (previously dubbed Views from the 6). It also sets the nostalgic vibe on Views. Recollections of humble beginnings and references to Fluid Lounge and Ceesay's Sporting Goods keep Drake's past in view.

But some names remain unchecked. If you're into subliminal rhymes, Views serves up plenty of fodder for hip-hop social media memes. On "Still Here," he chides: "I see your girl all the time, I can't tell if she's yours or mine." On the title track ("Views"), he barks: "F--k being all buddy buddy with the opposition. It's like the front of the plane, n---a, it's all business / But I haven't flown with y'all n---as in a minute."

There's so much whining on this album I needed a six-pack of Leffe to get through it. He wonders, "when my sh-t drop would they listen?” He gripes about “trying to satisfy everybody” and women “who chose a side that wasn’t mine.” At some point, he even whines about doing the number two.

I’m not making this stuff up.

It used to be fun hearing Drake taunt the competition. His taunts sound tired these days ("Do your favorite rapper like my son"). We get tame boasts like, "The most successful rapper 35 and under. I'm assuming everyone's 35 and under."

Where it used to be fun hearing Drake concede his relationship shortcomings, his references to failed love attempts sound icy and condescending. On "Hotline Bling," Drake whines about an ex-flame "wearing less and going out more." On the Rihanna-assisted "Too Good," he sings "You take my love for granted. I just don't understand it."

Where Drake albums typically feel like an enjoyable ride, Views feels long and exhausting.

Best Tracks:
"With You"
"Controlla"
"One Dance"