On the October 12th episode of HBO’s The Shop starring LeBron James, best friend Maverick Carter and a slew of athletes, rappers, and celebrities hand-picked uniquely for each episode, Drake stopped by to speak on his career, family, fatherhood, and the Pusha T beef of Summer 2018. He said something that might have been more personal than he realized. He was speaking with Bron and Mav about challenges and how those who coast at consistent victory aren’t respected by many if they never have to overcome hardship.
2016’s Views came just a few months after the last shots had been fired between fierce adversary Meek Mill. The Summer 2015 beef between the two caused the first real chink in Aubrey’s armor. Even if he defeated Meek in convincing fashion with diss tracks “Charged Up” and “Back to Back,” and kept on delivering hits beyond that, his pen has constantly remained in question. For many, he could never be looked at the same.
Views had been waited on since 2014. Between the initial announcement and the inevitable release, he put out two full mixtapes (If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, What A Time To Be Alive with Future), a number of big singles (notably “Hotline Bling,” “One Dance”) and the usual strong features (“Work,” “100,” “Blessings”). The hype only grew over time, and the expectations soared to heights that Dwight Howard couldn’t reach. People expected and demanded perfection already, but it seemed to peak at in this period despite the huge asterisk next to Drizzy’s name.
As a result, there was a clear struggle to gauge the album objectively or in one universal way upon its release on April 29th, 2016. That wasn’t a new thing in music, but with Drake, there’s an especially strict criterion. Purists rejected the pop star status he was on the cusp of and questioned if he even wrote the lyrics on the album.
The numbers from the singles made people question the album’s true first-week impact. He was still singing and now “trying to be Jamaican.” There was too much going on for the fans at that time. As time has shown with Drake, the initial takes are never the lasting takes. His platform only leads to crazy expectations and hype upon each release, but it’s the uninhibited ear that can come to understand Views for what it was. A victory lap around Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
In his Beats 1 interview with Zane Lowe he spoke about the pride he felt for the city of Toronto and how he recognized there was a void to be filled. The transcendent talents are those who have enough influence to stand behind another thing and make it just as powerful. Drake turned Toronto into “The 6,” becoming global ambassador for Raptors, hosting the madness that is OVO Fest, NBA All Star Weekend, and more. But all of that aside, it was the pride and consistent boosting of his city that makes it such a force today.
This album was an inward look at himself, the place he holds on his back, and his growth as a man. He opted to tap longtime collaborators Noah “40” Shebib, Kanye West, Boi-1da, and some of the usual suspects feature-wise. Rihanna, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Majid Jordan and Hendrix joined the 6 God once again, along with WizKid, Kyla, dvsn. and the late Pimp C.
Musically, there was a clear edge due to recent events he’d gone through but also sense a paranoia. The man who once said “diss me, you’ll never hear a reply for it” and operated like a patient hitter in baseball was swinging his bat at a whole lot more pitches these days.
He found it difficult to trust all people, and not just women as often expressed on the R&B side of his music. “Hype” was his dismissal of all nonsense and drama, though we know just a few months later he found himself in more of that with Joe Budden and Tory Lanez. “U With Me?” sampled DMX but of course there was a lightskin flavor sprinkled on it. The man who seemed to be yearning for love was still questioning if women were really there for him.
He proved yet again he and Rihanna were a formidable duo, trading uncertainties in the upbeat bop “Too Good.” “Controlla” was the song of the summer, curating a record-breaking number of slow whines. The flow switch on “Redemption” feels like a two-act play, opening with singing and morphing to the almost talk-rap he has mastered over his career. He’s as vulnerable as he ever had been previously, but simultaneously embracing the villain role he had to adopt in order to truly silence Meek. That bully status was perpetuated by fans, but he surely went with it.
Because the album wasn’t what people wanted or hope it would be, many called it a flop and said it signaled Drake’s decline. The success of More Life and Scorpion would clearly say otherwise. What it did do was put Drake beyond the line of being solely a Hip-Hop artist. His pop appeal was solidified here and he surely leaned into that a bit in an effort to dominate multiple arenas. It may not have been the album many wanted, but it garnered Drake the success he aspired toward.
It’s crazy listening to “Do Not Disturb,” the closer of More Life where he reflects on being “an angry yute when he was writing Views.” The way his anger manifested is very different from other rappers we know and love, yet through fury, he pumped out multiple feel-good jams. I mean, when you make a track like “Back To Back” in the middle of beef which goes on to play in clubs to this day and be nominated for a Grammy…where are your limits really?
Put that album on for the one time, sit back, and reflect on where you were the first time you heard it. The songs that you couldn’t take off repeat. The debates the album created when considering the best albums of 2016. The 13 consistent weeks at #1. Summer 2016. Drake gave us that, and more. All from a place of anger, paranoia, and doubt. Thanks, bro.