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Is Drake’s ‘Views’ Actually a Good Album?

Two years after the release of Drizzy’s most polarizing project, two Ringer writers debate its merits

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Of the many points of contention within the Drake fandom, one’s take on Views falls right up there with controversies of alleged ghostwriting. Like most Drake content, the album performed remarkably well—it’s spent more than 100 consecutive weeks on the Billboard 200—but whether it is a good album is still up for debate among fans. When T.C. and I first met, we bonded over our mutual love for Drake, only to find that we had very different views on Views. Since April 29 marks two years since the album’s release—and since I always saw T.C. for what he could’ve been, a Views fan—the timing is perfect to convince him that the most polarizing Drake album is actually good. —Virali Dave

T.C. Kane: Greetings. Views is bad. That said, I’d love it if you tried to convince me otherwise.

Virali Dave: Right off the bat, one of the things I love about Views is that it gives us all the little Drake things fans have come to know and love. We’ve got the boy in his feelings, telling the rap world he’s the best in the game, talking about how he provides for his loved ones, and reveling in all his absurdist, quippy glory. Drake’s definitely well aware of how great his bars are for the ’gram. He says so himself on “Hype”: “I don’t take this shit for granted / I do my own propaganda.” Some other gems from Views: “I group-DM my exes,” “I had to let go of us to show myself what I could do,” and “That pussy knows me better than I know myself.” Of course, one-liners are quintessential to all Drake content, even those appearing on his lesser playlist More Life. But what we get in Views is a good snapshot of who Drake was in 2016, basking in the success he built for himself and experimenting a bit with his sound while remaining unabashedly on-brand.

Kane: That may be true, but if Views contains all the little Drake things, you have to admit it contains way, way, way, too many of them. The album is 81 minutes long. I refuse to believe there are people who actively enjoy a front-to-back listen of Views.

Dave: Front-to-back listening is just one of many ways to listen to music! I’m with you on the idea of the album being too long, but I listen to it more in singles than in its entirety. Views gives us a bit of all the things we enjoy. “With You” is a fun summer song, perfect to drive to. “Fire & Desire” is groovy. “Redemption” and “Still Here” give us classic aggrieved Drake. Among others, we get a RiRi feature (“Too Good”), which every Drake album could benefit from. And tell me you didn’t dance even a little bit to “Controlla,” “One Dance,” and “Hotline Bling” when they came out. The spring and summer of 2016 were a good time for music; we got Chance 3 and Noname’s Telefone a few months after Rihanna blessed us with Anti and Kanye dropped Life of Pablo. Even with all that gold in rotation, I had Views on repeat.

Kane: I’ll concede that if you were to cut the number of songs considerably and rearrange them, you might make a decent album. But as it stands, it is an absolute chore to get through. By my count, there are 216 seconds of intros, outros, and straight up dead-air across the first five songs on this album. I’m talking long stretches of people walking in snow. That’s three combined minutes of nothing! And those three minutes of nothing are still better, on the whole, than those first five songs.

Dave: “Feel No Ways” is so great! You don’t get featured on the Insecure soundtrack for nothing.

Kane: “Feel No Ways” is tolerable, but here’s the other thing: You can’t fall back on the “There are some good songs!” argument when Aubrey himself billed Views as his bid for a classic. There’s even a theme to the track listing! It’s supposed to start in winter and then go through summer and back to winter, which is meant to showcase the “two extreme moods” the seasons cause in Toronto. I think it’s a damning indictment of Drake’s ability to make a concept album that he thought throwing a bunch of snow sounds at the end of songs would make them winter-themed.

Dave: Regardless of whether it’s a classic—and it’s not—it’s still good! Wouldn’t you say the album still brings you joy? To be a Drake fan is to appreciate Views in its multitudes: corny one-liners, quick bars, and all. Beyond being funny and fun to engage with, the album also shows complexity. Drake gets a lot off his chest here, so while Views is still something he made with an audience in mind, it’s also an album he made for himself, which makes it so much more compelling than a mixtape of straight hits. On the song “Views,” especially, it seems like he’s not rapping at anyone in particular—no woman he’s trying to chase, no lesser artist he’s trying to dis. This one’s for himself, proving once and for all how far he’s come. “If I was doing this for you I’d have nothing left to prove.” Views is his trophy! You seem to hate a lot of these songs, which makes me wonder, do you even like Drake?

Kane: I do like Drake! I just think that the best Drake albums find him distilling his many personas into only those that are the most necessary and least annoying. Take “Connect” from Nothing Was the Same, for example. He uses a baseball metaphor to croon about taking a chance on finding love, and it’s as painfully corny as that description makes it sound. But it’s so idealistic and free of cynicism that you can’t help but feel him.

Dave: *Drake voice* I agreeeee. “Connect” is a great and fun song, very 2013 Drake. It’s exciting to learn that he’s capable of making non-NBA sports references. The boy contains multitudes.

Kane: The other side of that coin is Drake reveling in his status as the biggest rapper alive, and sounding like he enjoys it as opposed to being burdened by it. Nothing Was the Same (if you can’t tell, my favorite Drake album) opens with a six-minute toast to his own success in “Tuscan Leather,” and it’s one of the increasingly rare moments of sincerity in his discography. We can’t verify his stories about his childhood or his relationships, but we do know how undeniably massive his popularity is, and it’s fun to hear him experience that in real time.

Dave: All of what you just mentioned is on Views, too! Biggest Rapper Alive Drake meets Provider Drake on “Redemption,” where he talks about how he’s been financially giving back to those around him post–Take Care success. “Who’s gonna save me when I need savin’? Since Take Care, I’ve been caretakin’.” Then there’s this line on “Hype”: “I feed my family with this / So don’t play with my money this summer, I’m serious.”

This cockiness comes from a lot of places—knowing how much he’s grown as an artist, but also how far he’s come financially—and it’s angrier than we’ve seen before. There are definite tonal shifts from who he was on Take Care or If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. We see a man who is harder around the edges while still showing us the sensitive side we’ve all come to love. Earlier in his discography, we got glimpses of Drake when he was significantly less well off. It’s something he’s mentioned on basically every album, including on Views at the beginning of “Weston Road Flows”: “Back when we couldn’t buy pizza / Cause we were down to pennies.”

Views is Drake showing us his growth, giving us who he was in that moment: someone more focused on moving on than falling in love, more focused on getting shit off his chest than working toward a come-up. Without Views, in which Drake was able to get some of that anger out of his system, we wouldn’t have all the upbeat hits we’ve gotten lately, nor would we have Scorpion to look forward to.

Kane: I’m in the camp that believes Drake could always afford pizza and likes to embellish his struggle a bit, but OK. Maybe our disagreement about Views stems from the fact that we just look for different things from Drake at the end of the day. What would you say is your all-time favorite Drake song?

Dave: “Look What You’ve Done.”

Kane: No way! That is also my answer, as well as the only correct one.

Dave: It’s a very underappreciated song. I love it because of the way Aubrey manages to be vulnerable, something he’d be better off doing a lot more. “LWYD” is Drake struggling with his self-perception while also wanting to provide for his mother and being unable to believe he’s come as far as he has. It’s heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. One line in particular really gets me—“Know that I’m your sister’s kid / But it still don’t explain the love that you have for me.” That bit right there, Drake questioning how he could be so loved, wondering how even a blood-related aunt or uncle could believe in and support him, gives us a glimpse of a Drake we don’t always see: unsure of himself, human. Drizzy rarely gets that open, rarely gets so vulnerable in a way that feels genuine rather than curated.

Kane: I’m tearing up over here. Which reminds me, there is not a single song on Views that comes close to matching that emotional impact.

Dave: Views is him five years later, a bit hardened and assured with a lot more success under his belt and in the bank. The boy has earned his come-up (in more ways than one) and he’s pissed he was ever doubted! Views captures this side of him more successfully than his latest releases, which find him focusing too much on making hits and fitting into the zeitgeist with well-intentioned pseudo-generosity and feminist celebrations of women. These recent releases are Drakelike attempts at supporting women and helping people financially, but they fall flat. Giving back is about more than throwing hunks of cash at strangers or for some vague after-school program, and feminism goes beyond women just vibing out to Drake. It’s not surprising, I’ll admit; half-assed but successful attempts at garnering approval are on-brand for Drake. But bops and bangers, while fun, don’t allow enough for Vulnerable Drake. He’s so far gone.

Kane: See, I disagree. I think “God’s Plan” is good, and so is “Nice for What.” It feels like Drake is at a place where he understands what fans want from him, and he’s delivering it with confidence and without bitterness. That’s part of what makes Views so tedious for me: It sounds like he was having a miserable time while making it. Whether it was the pressure from the lofty expectations getting to him, or his vision being compromised, or the fame simply wearing him down, the anger just wasn’t a good look for him.

Dave: Of course he was angry! Nice for what?! Views is the boy from Take Care grown up and being upset that he was ever questioning himself to begin with. The album is an illustration of the anger that can sometimes come with healing. It doesn’t exist in isolation; it comes with feelings of love and joy and pride, but it is still potent. Views is the healing he needed, allowing the release of anger he needed so that he could go forward and churn out more of the hits he knows everyone else wants. “My enemies want to be friends with my other enemies / I don’t let that get to me.” Views is a snapshot of the artist in flux. Imperfect, but still growing. More successful, but still dealing with the insecurity of years of not being or feeling that way. Drake still being Drake, a lot of this is fairly tactless—but still incredibly endearing and fun to engage with.

Kane: We agree that Views is not Drake’s best project, and not one that will likely be remembered as essential or genre-defining. We also agree that Drake is in a different place personally and professionally than he was in the spring of 2016. The rollout for Views was as laborious as the album itself turned out to be, which certainly fed into the idea that it would be Drake’s magnum opus. With the upcoming Scorpion, the expectations are comparatively light: Fans aren’t anticipating a deep dive into his backstory or a portrait of his city. I know you’re not a fan of his recent singles, but do you think it’s possible that this is the exact set of circumstances he needs to create his best all-around project yet?

Dave: Best for whom?

Kane: Let me put it this way: 30 years from now, when people look back at the Drake era, will they understand his impact solely through his chart performance and album sales figures? Or will he put together one definitive project that communicates his importance to the landscape of rap and pop music? Drake was still finding his voice on Take Care and the projects that preceded it, and Nothing Was the Same is too understated and has too few of his greatest hits to qualify. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late is aging well musically, but the ghostwriting rumors surrounding it and its status as a “commercial mixtape” leave it feeling like a throwaway in his catalog. More Life has already faded fast in the year since its release, and—despite some compelling arguments on your part—Views just isn’t it. Do you think Scorpion has a chance to fill that void?

Dave: Going back to my bops-and-bangers comment, I think Scorpion is going to have a lot of hits. Fans are probably going to love it, and it’s going to top the charts for months. Maybe we’ll get another Drake-Rihanna collab and some more shameless lyrics about the women he’s been with and the money he’s made. I don’t think I’ll love it in the context of Drake’s discography; I don’t anticipate seeing more of the vulnerability Drake shared on our favorite songs. But there’s no use pretending I won’t be listening to it on repeat all summer, or that his lyrics won’t end up as captions on all of my Instagram posts. At the end of the day, it’s Drake’s world, and I’m happy to be in it. Truly, what a time to be alive.