Toronto’s Raptor shoots a three-pointer again.
This Canadian rapper/singer has already earned a legendary status and he is aware of it – otherwise he would not be bold enough to sing about it in a song titled – surprise, surprise – “Legend”. Aubrey Graham, better known as Drake, is one of the most significant contemporary hip-hop artists. His previous releases, including an absolute masterpiece album Nothing Was the Same, set the expectations of the rap audience really high. Now he is back with the new full-length LP, Views. Does it meet these expectations? It does, but it also leaves room for minor reservations.
The new record does not present the listener with a significant change in style – Drake still clings to his clever mixture of rap and R&B, which has probably made him the second most recognisable Canadian after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The songs maintain a healthy balance between singing and rapping. Drake’s lyrical delivery reminds us of such prominent New York rappers as Jay-Z and Notorious B.I.G, especially in the laidback rap song “Weston Road Flows”. When it comes to the instrumentals, Views contains a varied collection of both old-school hip-hop sounds and mainstream, pop-like beats. The latter seem particularly successful, as “Hotline Bling”, a danceable hit single, reached the top of Billboard’s Hot Rap Songs chart.
Although he sticks to his trademark style, Drake is far from being repetitive. What is new on this album is a (moderate) change in the lyrical content. Typically emotional, the rapper engages in even deeper self-reflection and retrospection, reconsidering his past relationships, friendships and themes such as honesty and loyalty. The opening track “Keep the Family Close” exemplifies Drake’s intentional focus on such themes. Of course, there are still several songs in which he indulges in braggadocio and attacks other rappers (as in “Hype”, in which he responds to rumours spread by his enemies). Nevertheless, he approaches these seemingly braggy and aggressive topics in a more mature, thoughtful way (I don’t know what else is left for me/After this no one is a threat to me/My enemies wanna be friends with my other enemies/I don’t let it get to me).
Some tracks, however, may appear a bit disappointing. One may have a feeling that Drake damages the overall coherence of the album by including too many songs. Such tracks as “One Dance” and “Too Good” (embellished by a guest appearance of Rihanna) are solid pop songs with potential for commercial success, but they seem to stand out and do not match the rest of the album. Fortunately, there are few such songs.
Drake is a talented artist, though he is far from being perfect. His new album may not be as good as his previous LPs and critics will probably not dub it the best rap album of 2016. Still, his charm and charisma are still present and this is what makes Views a solid, decent record. Perhaps it may appear less revolutionary than his past productions, but it seems unreasonable to expect an artist to produce ground-breaking records only. Drake’s new album maintains good quality and should satisfy his fans. This, probably, is what makes one a mature, fulfilled musician