Views has been two years in the making — two years of anticipation, rumours, leaks and loaded expectations. Originally called Views from the 6, it was imagined that the album would propel Toronto culture into mainstream America, cementing a position of power for the little city that could.
Spearheaded by Noah '40' Shebib's production once again, VIEWS is a transitional album, timed to bring Toronto from the icy winds of its winters into its warm summers. "You're not from the city, I can tell," Drake raps on "Still Here," invoking an exclusive experience to VIEWS that, at times, only Torontonians will understand. A certain level of nostalgia permeates VIEWS from start to finish, cemented by Drake's odes to Toronto landmarks, intersections and people, such as Fluid Nightclub, Big Apple (now the owner of the streetwear brand D.R.U.G.S.), singer Glenn Lewis and, of course, Rexdale rapper Jelleestone, whose single "Money" is sampled on "Weston Road Flows." "Views" and "One Dance" (produced by Nineteen85) tell the stories of Toronto summers, while "Hype" and "U With Me?" find Drake addressing several artists, locally and abroad, who've capitalized on success.
Produced by 40 and Stwo, "Weston Road Flows" epitomizes the feeling of VIEWS — not just in its references, but its dynamic layering of voices, woozy bass and heavy percussion. 40 weaves strings and orchestra hits into "Keep the Family Close" and tambourine into "Childs Play," expanding his palette while retaining the sonic template he created and perfected on Take Care and Nothing Was the Same.
The Winans, Mary J. Blige, DMX and Popcaan are also on the list of sampled artists: Mary J. Blige's "Mary's Joint" pulls "Weston Road Flows" together, DMX's "How It Goes Down" gets flipped into "U With Me?," one of several melodramatic stories about failed relationships ("Faithful," "Redemption," "Feel No Ways") and although he was replaced by Beenie Man on standout dancehall cut "Controlla," Popcaan's mega-hit "Love Yuh Bad" is reimagined for the Rihanna-featuring "Too Good," a standout even if Drake's poor patois provides a certain comic relief amidst the sombre album.
Views stands in stark contrast to the aggressively braggadocio nature of 2015's If You're Reading This It's Too Late, and a far cry from the seductive club hits that adorned What A Time To Be Alive, yet somehow, it still reveals another layer of Drake we've yet to see. It's a slow album, but through multiple listens, we're treated to the same complexities, but personal and musical, that have made him such a fascinating figure throughout the past decade.
And yet, this is the first album Drake's released that makes his future feel uncertain; there's an air of bitterness here, a sense that the many bridges he's burned over the years have made the top even lonelier than it once was. So while he still has fame and fortune, VIEWS raises the question of whether Drake can still "Keep the Family Close," even if it's all taken away tomorrow. (OVO Sound/Young Money/Cash Money/Boy Better Know/Republic)