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Drake, King of the Jukebox

Getty Images
Getty Images

The Wurlitzer 1015 Bubbler, an iconic jukebox popular in the 1940s, weighs 360 pounds and holds 24 records. At that capacity, a 1015 could barely contain Drake’s hits, including remixes and cameos, of just the past 14 months.

Views, Drake’s newest album, arrives just seven months after What a Time to Be Alive, the rapper’s duets tape with Future, which arrived just seven months after Drake’s last solo project, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. That’s about 50 songs, more than half of which have charted on the Billboard Hot 100. Not to be confined by terrestrial radio or standard Spotify revenue splits, he has also planted a flag with OVO Sound Radio, his flagship Apple Music program (launched in July 2015). It all adds up to a musical ecosystem that allows Drake to flood the market with his product and likeness, at an extreme pace and on unique terms.

Given such productivity, it’s little surprise that Views, once billed as a major adventure for Drake, now washes to shore as bark from a larger vessel that’s already passed. At 81 minutes, Views struggles to justify the great space it takes up in the shadows of songs like “0 to 100/The Catch Up,” “Jumpman,” and “Hotline Bling” — themselves singles so big that they’ve eclipsed the original promise of Views.

There are hits here, a handful of Rihanna-indebted tracks that blend dancehall and Afrobeat cadences. (Call it the Target electronics department riddim.) Measured against those bold dance numbers, however, the rest of Views makes for an incongruous and slovenly default. A whole grip of midalbum tracks are a jumble of caddish aphorisms so generic that I bet no one would notice if Drake were to hop back in, Kanye-style, to rearrange his bars and swap whole verses across those songs.

Any great disappointment with Views — and I do detect it — stems from the assumption that albums are Drake’s forte, his definitive craft, his ideal format. They’re not. They’re just massive dramatic cues for Drake, a stunt queen with killer instincts, to make the most of Universal’s marketing budget.

Since about 2013, the year that L.A. rapper Kendrick Lamar challenged Drake (and others) by name, detractors have rallied around the charge that Drake has no truly essential (“classic”) hip-hop album to his credit — that Drake is Nelly 6.0. Never mind that the real feat here, the real innovation, is Drake’s having kept himself in unbreakable Top 40 rotation for just about every season of the past seven years now — an unprecedented dominance. His jukebox overfloweth.

And remember: Drake won his spectacular feud with Meek Mill not just on the strength of his raps and the speed of his releases, but also by his bravado at the bully pulpit. Drake will bury Views in its own hit singles. After all, there’s rapping, and then there’s entertainment. There are good songs, and there are stellar performances. There’s art, and there’s karaoke.

This piece originally appeared in the May 4, 2016, edition of the Ringer newsletter.