Caitlin Cronenberg/Courtesy Republic Records

Views: A Drake Reaction Roundtable

MTV News dives into Drake's frosty swimming pool of an album

By Molly Lambert, Ira Madison III, Sasha Geffen, Meredith Graves, David Turner, Adam Fleischer, Hazel Cills, Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib, Meaghan Garvey, and Simon Vozick-Levinson

Lambert: I had this dream I was half-awake and listening to Views. The OVO symbol is a reference to Drake being for night owls. “Too Good” is influencing me, but Views feels like a companion bookend to Rihanna's Anti — the songs take place in the witching hours between darkness and dawn, on the world-touring road to the show, the after-party, the hotel. While every Drake album is about nostalgia and regret, Views feels decidedly more jaded. Maybe it’s because we’ve been here with Drake before — his desire for real love coupled with his pesky inability to commit, his enormous well-earned ego sheltering the fragile, insecure dude who can’t handle it when his exes move on. But if Drake’s psyche and way with phrasing are familiar, Views pushes his sound into a psychedelic nether space: samples worked into hallucinatory forms, spaceship synths landing in the distance, dvsn dropping in with a humpty Jodeci breakdown on “Faithful.”

Madison III: This is too soon after Lemonade, isn't it? I love Drake. I am a ride-or-die Drake fan. He is second to Beyoncé in my heart. But this is too soon after Lemonade. It must be. Because there's no possible way I could be this bored by a Drake album. I'm terrified that I'm bored by this album. 40's production has never been better. Sonically, this album reaches the pantheon of R&B — only higher is messiah or notes of Mariah. But as for the vocals … what is this album about? Why is it here? Drake promised this album two years ago, and in that time we got an excellent mixtape and a banging collabo with Future. The album, stalled for so long, should have been the piece that tied the trilogy together. It should've been worth the wait. But right now Zayn's debut feels like snorting cocaine compared to this Xanny.

Willis-Abdurraqib: This is a really high-stakes album for Drake’s career, especially if you are of the belief that If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late and What a Time to Be Alive don’t really count as fully realized studio projects. Drake’s paranoia has been a theme for his entire career, even when there was no visible target on him. Now that there’s one actually there, his dual obsession and discomfort with success bleeds into the music in a way that, as Ira said, feels boring in some spots. Maybe this album isn't too soon after Lemonade and Prince’s death — maybe it's just too long after Nothing Was the Same.

Lambert: I feel like Drake had that thing where you have a term paper due, and you suddenly feel inspired to clean the house and work on anything else you’ve ever thought about doing. It was obvious he was putting off Views for reasons more complicated than just wanting to get it perfect. He talked it up too much in advance; he seemed nervous. I was hoping Drake would delve more deeply into his fear of getting old and irrelevant — there’s that reference to wanting to be retired by 35. But Views is another affirmation of Drake’s powers. It's definitely not a meaningful cultural or political moment in the way Lemonade is, but it’s no slouch as a summer album. The middle chunk is like a sampler platter of songs to dance to on warm nights outside, and sometimes the slow songs remind me of solo Phil Collins in the best possible way. Why you gotta fight with me at Cheesecake?

Cills: This is an unbelievably paranoid record. It’s like the album equivalent to The Conversation — all these mentions of mind games and loneliness. “I got a price on my head but there’s a risk to collect it,” he says on “Weston Road Flows.” At one point while listening, I wondered if someone was actually trying to murder Drake. But it was funny to hear all the misgivings and chest-puffing on the album and then follow people posting quotes from his Beats 1 interview, in which he seemed to call everyone in the music industry from Taylor Swift to Kanye West a sweetheart.

Madison III: That cheesecake line cracked me the fuck up, Molly. I will admit I'm being hyperbolic. The middle of the album bangs, and the aforementioned "Childs Play" is dope and sleazy and egotistical in the best way only Drake can be. I love the Rihanna-esque songs, even if they kinda come out of nowhere. My favorite thing about Drake is that even when he fails, he fails upward. I'm invested in him as an artist because he's always trying so goddamn hard. This album doesn't feel spat out in a weekend. I can tell he took his time. All that said, though, the end result feels rote. How many times is Drake gonna go to the same well? Maybe it's harsh to compare it to Lemonade, but from "No, No, No" I've seen Beyoncé evolve into a brilliant, unstoppable artist. From "Best I've Ever Had" I've seen Drake become more aware of his consumers and less aware of himself. Or at least, he's not really revealing much about himself. We know as little about him as we do about the reclusive Bey and Rihanna, even though he gives more interviews. He engages with pop culture, but I feel like the majority of my engagement with him is projecting my own thoughts onto him. Maybe Drake is an art gallery. Maybe he's a highly curated collection of whatever you want him to be.

Lambert: “Lately I just feel so out of character.” Drake knows we miss the old Drake, because he misses the old Drake too. Views is a love letter to home, a place Drake hardly ever gets to be. I do think that there’s a complacency on show here lyrically — what’s left to desire when you have a pool bigger than Kanye’s pool, an Experience shower, a grotto, and almost any woman you want? That leaves Drake to obsess about the last few women he can’t have, for various reasons. Despite all the money and power, as per usual, Drizzy dwells on the one thing nobody, no matter how rich or successful, can ever get back: the past. Toronto is his “Rosebud.”

Geffen: Outside of fighting at the Cheesecake Factory and “Controlla,” I’m not hearing a ton of new lines that have the potential to circulate through the pop-culture lexicon the way snippets of “Know Yourself” and “Energy” and “Hotline Bling” did last year. Maybe they’ll reveal themselves on third or fourth listens. But maybe Drake is less focused on sound bites this time around, and more invested in texture, momentum, flow. Views is a self-contained ecosystem, sleepy but dense, eager to be understood as a whole and not a quarry for memes. “Hotline Bling” and its bonus-track designation acknowledge that instant-gratification side of Drake’s work, but also distance the rest of the album from it. Maybe that’s what the Pink Floyd nods — the way the bass on “Keep the Family Close” echoes “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” and the drum work that “Summers Over Interlude” borrows from “Breathe (In the Air)” — are there to do: contain this thing as an album with quotes from a band that helped define what an album is and does.

Willis-Abdurraqib: I agree on the lack of pop culture staple lines, and I feel like that is a really good thing. So much of If You’re Reading This and What a Time felt like meme chasing. And, of course, there is "Hotline Bling" clumsily tacked on to the end of this album where I feel like it doesn’t exactly fit. But beyond that, it feels like the scope of this project is more focused on something that will last beyond the quick blogs and Twitter takes. Ultimately, that’s what I appreciate about the approach Drake has taken to his “proper” studio albums, compared to his quicker releases. This album is less than 24 hours old, so who knows if it will last in the way that his previous studio albums have, but I think there’s enough here to carry us through a summer, at least. Too many of these songs would sound good with car windows down. Or on headphones while walking in the city, for folks on the coasts.

Cills: Just want to take a second to shout out “you go to CVS for Kotex in my Bugatti” on “Childs Play.” I mean, come on.

Vozick-Levinson: If we're talking memorable lines, I'd like to take a moment to admire the breathtaking absurdity of "9" and its central image: "I turn the 6 upside down, it's a 9 now." Here's a guy who already single-handedly popularized one silly nickname for his city via sheer charisma and ceaseless repetition -- but that's not enough for him. He's trying to make fetch happen twice! And it's probably going to work. I can only applaud the audacity. I'm making fun of "9," but I actually like the song a lot; it would have fit nicely into the first half of Nothing Was the Same, my favorite Drake album, and the onomatopoeic singsong on "Keychain go jang-a-lang, I wanna do major things" is already stuck in my head. I do hope he's cutting the Hendrix estate a check, though.

Lambert: I’m only a little bit disappointed that “Fire & Desire” isn’t a cover with Drake doing the Rick James part and Rihanna as Teena Marie, because at least it’s still a babymaking jam.

Madison III: Can we get a "Lover Girl" cover? Drake has covered "These Days," so literally nothing is off-limits.

Graves: If every collaborator he chooses is as cool as Babeo Baggins, he can cover whatever and whoever he wants … meanwhile, over here in Grandma Zone, I fell asleep at 9:45, and now that I’m up, I can’t get Apple Music to work. This is MTV — one of you Illuminati mothers must have Aubrey’s phone number. Can you call him and tell him to sing the songs into my voicemail?

Turner: Meredith, take my phone! The weather is too shitty in NYC to not be enjoying Views. I’m far too deep of a Drake stan to act like I don’t already love this album even a few listens in. He sounds a slight bit bored — my god there are garbage lines ("I’m looking at first week numbers like ‘What are thoooose’”) — but goddamn goddamn if “Controlla” into “One Dance” isn’t the smoothest transition he’s done. Initial Drake opinions are always a bit hit-or-miss to me: If You’re Reading This It's Too Late felt a bit bland the first couple times I heard it, but now I can't count how many nights I looped “Wednesday Night Interlude.” There's no point pretending I’m not going to give this album a hundred listens. Whatever crevices I fall down will have plenty of time to reveal themselves.

Fleischer: Not sure that I’d agree that Drake is less aware of himself, Ira. Would be interested to hear more about what you mean by that. He’s certainly aware of his place in rap and his reach as a creator of cultural moments and lexicon (or at least someone who can popularize them). And then, of course, there are the failed relationships whose outcomes he’s again stewing over here. I’ll agree that the general premise of those moments — his contemplating where and why things went wrong, his wondering if exes still think about him — has remained in place for some time now, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that this is actually what he’s been experiencing.

I want to be careful about making grand proclamations about an album that’s been out for less than 24 hours. And it seems unfair to do so, given that, as Molly mentioned, he’s clearly been working on this album for quite some time. But, alas, here we are. What I will say is that there’s a cohesiveness throughout this project that Drake and 40 have proven a number of times is one of their strong points. They create a mood and take you on a ride. There’s a sonic flow to this album; it’s not a collection of scattered moments.

Willis-Abdurraqib: From a production standpoint, I am very obsessed with the DMX “How’s It Goin’ Down” sample on “U With Me?” Not only is it a beautiful repurposing of what I believe to be DMX’s most perfect song, it was also only like three years ago when DMX said that he’d like to catch Drake on an elevator and beat him up for the song he did with Aaliyah. I really find the musical risks that 40 repeatedly takes to be incredibly interesting. He’s become kind of a forgotten man in the post–Metro Boomin–explosion era of rap producers. I think 40 is at his best on this album, which is only a letdown because I feel like Drake isn’t consistently matching him on every track. I mean, “Weston Road Flows” is a beat that made me literally gasp and push back from my desk. That song has some of Drake’s most questionable rhymes, but the beat saves Drake from himself. Their chemistry is still unmatched, though. Like Adam said, 40 has really learned to build a specific sound around Drake’s strengths, which I think is the main job of a producer: to save the rapper when they aren’t bringing their A-game. 40 has always been the catcher behind the plate, reeling in all of Drake’s wild throws.

Fleischer: Given all the Meek stuff and Mo-G and everything else: When listening to songs on Views, did you guys find yourselves wondering whether Drake wrote what you were hearing? Does it matter to you?

Turner: Absolutely didn’t think of Meek or Mo-G. Here’s the funny thing about the Drake and Meek Mill beef: Meek Mill fucking loved Drake. One of his best songs was a freestyle over "Up All Night," and his tweets make clear that long before they ever collaborated, he connected to Drake’s music on a real fan level. The truth is, if Drake didn’t write a single line of this album, I wouldn’t care. He’s a pop star, a one-man industry, Canada’s great export. I'd almost be disappointed if there wasn't a really big team behind him.

Madison III: I honestly didn't think of Meek or ghostwriting once during the album. I think I was swept up by the majesticness of it all. And, listen — this album is really majestic. The ghost of Isaac Hayes liked my tweet about how it sounded like an Isaac Hayes blaxploitation score.

Adam, I totally get that Drake understands his place in pop culture. He gets the Internet better than anyone else. His engagement with fans is unparalleled. And the introspection with regard to his failed relationships is always appreciated, but beyond that … I'm not sure I know a lot about Drake as a person. His music embraces blackness because he's a rapper, naturally, but he's also mixed. He could very well exist in more white, privileged spaces if he chose to, but there's a very real rejection of that and an overall embracing of black culture that I'm hugely drawn to. But how does Drake view blackness? How does he see himself in a historical context — not just when it comes to pop culture, but to the history of race and masculinity? I'm not just saying this because Lemonade addressed these things. The biggest black cultural icons have always gone there. "Am I black or white, am I straight or gay?" Prince asked on "Controversy." Michael Jackson had "They Don't Really Care About Us." Janet had "Rhythm Nation." Perhaps it's not fair to demand that Drake engage in this way. But aside from Obama, he's the greatest half-black, half-white male in popular culture right now, and for as much as we love how aware he is, he also enjoys the casual misogyny he can dip in and out of on songs like "Hotline Bling." Is Drake just plush production, pop culture awareness, and songs about his exes? Or does he have more to tell us?

Aside from "One Dance" and "Controlla," which we heard in advance, the song that invigorates me the most is the banging "Still Here." But like David said, the album will surely grow on me. I didn't love If You're Reading This at first. The second half of Nothing Was the Same took me time to get into. I'm living for "Feel No Ways," for instance, on multiple listens. "I should be downtown whipping on the radio" is a highlight line that resonates — it has that playful Drake inflection that gets stuck in your mind and lures you back to a song until it has a complete hold on you. Songs like "6 Man" and "Tuscan Leather" have done that to me in the past. But I still think that even long after I'm addicted to this Superfly majestic-ass album, I'll still be wanting more.

Garvey: I can’t get past “Cuts too deep for a Band-Aid solution” on very gently DMX-interpolating “U With Me?” I’m sorry. I have to hit pause and laugh every single time.

Graves: Hmm, Drake thought to himself, people don’t seem to fully understand that "Hotline Bling" is about how women can either adhere to my expectations or GTFO. Let me make it explicitly clear by writing lyrics like "You’re so predictable, I hate people like you" and "it’s all because you chose a side, you’re supposed to put your pride aside and ride for me, guess it wasn’t time — and of course, you went and chose a side that wasn’t mine." Like, tell me again what you think I’m supposed to do when you’re bragging on the next track about DMing your exes in a group.

Yeah, this is a snap judgment, but these lyrics are irritating in a way that would make me want to change the record were it not my All-Time Ultimate Boyfriend singing. Where’s the Drake of "Hold On, We’re Going Home," which always sounded to me like a song about pausing in the middle of a fight, putting your fists down, and realizing it’s not worth it because you truly love each other? Where did all of this entitlement come from? He almost admits to it later on "U With Me?" — but he only goes as far as saying that both he and his girl are playing mind games.

I don’t like this idea that as he grows up as an artist, he moves further away from the vulnerability and intimacy he previously worked hard to portray. If I’m being real, the first half of the record sounds like I’m listening to a guy friend of mine mansplain why no "good girls" want to date him, seeing as he’s such a "good guy." He obviously feels he’s entitled to a lot of things from women. It’s genuinely sort of sad.

Willis-Abdurraqib: There’s no way, at least for me, to work around the fact that Drake’s lyrics get more and more detached from any real idea of healthy romance and relationships with each album. I cringed when I first heard “Hotline Bling,” and I still cringe now, and that’s just one example of Drake’s very intense relationship with entitlement. It’s easy to reduce it all to an idea that as he’s become more famous, as he gains access to more spaces and more people, he feels like he is entitled to more. It makes for a tough listening experience in spots on this album. I’m rooting for Drake to lean back into the quiet and more understated paranoia-fueled intimacy of his earlier work — the whole thing where he was the dude who loved you so much it was almost a joke. A literal meme of a boyfriend. If we really believe that his career will carry on for more than the next five years or so, I think we have late-career romantic Drake to look forward to again. Sitting on a piano in a suit and playing the hits, singing some lounge covers in between.