April 22, 2016


Will 'Views From The 6' Resurrect Drake's Lyrical Focus?

Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images
Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images

“6 G-O-D I'm the holy one / Yeah, you know what's up.” Drake started his 2015 with these words on the If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late opener “Legend.” Now a recording artist in the rap game for seven years, the boy from Toronto considers himself a deity, a status that his almost frighteningly intense fan base has been insisting on since the jump. But Views from the 6, Drake's fourth official album—and first since September 2013's Nothing Was the Same—is coming April 29, and the build-up doesn’t have me as excited as I’d hoped. I’ve found myself steadily questioning this self-proclaimed legend status and if the album will live up to it.

I’ve been a Drake fan since he performed at my university during freshman year, when he was known as Heartbreak Drake. But my doe eyes drew more narrow along the way as the artist grew larger than life, while his once-hungry lyricism often taking a backseat. He’s put out solid albums before, but Views will reveal if he'll move in a different direction or remain in the past few years' “sorry for being cocky” headspace. Before we find out, I've got a few suggestions for topics that could lessen my lyrical fatigue and turn me into a full-fledged fan again. 

Drake is at a new peak in his career, and his newfound comfort with success and fame was reflected on 2015’s IYRTITL and the What a Time to Be Alive collaboration tape with Future. Instead of expanding his lyrical themes, Drizzy's stuck in a recurring cycle. The almost-tangible hunger found on songs like So Far Gone’s “I’m Goin’ In” ('09 Drake) and Thank Me Later’s “Up All Night” (2010 Drake, Debut Album Drake) feels lost; he now chooses to wail about being a legend without truly explaining why he thinks he deserves that title.

Watch an episode of our digital miniseries The Drake Effect, this one detailing how he changed the mixtape game forever:

Views will be better off without Drake clowning Meek Mill for the umpteenth time (hopefully “Summer Sixteen” isn’t on the official tracklist), without the overly insistent tough guy front (“Energy," “Big Rings”) and without the ongoing plight of trying to save big-booty strippers. We get it Drake, you’re living the time of your life. But this new album could be our chance to understand what’s really going in the mind of a rapper who made it huge before the age of 30—whether that comes across as dark, challenging, confusing, satisfying or all of the above.

He's never been freer to peel off the celebrity layers and return to the vulnerability that made So Far Gone and Take Care so heartwarming, and talking about his current music business friendships is a solid place to start. Drake is known for boosting artists like The Weeknd and iLoveMakonnen into the mainstream, but soon, nothing was the same. Drake supported The Weeknd since Abel's early stages six years ago, making guest appearances on tracks and even bringing him along for 2014’s Would You Like A Tour? But once The Weeknd’s success skyrocketed with the twice-platinum Beauty Behind the Madness, the brotherly friendship dissipated, at least publicly.

A similar thing happened with Makonnen. The Atlanta singer/rapper caught everyone’s attention with 2014’s “Tuesday,” thanks to a cosign feature by Drake. One platinum certification and two years later, it's been announced that Makonnen is no longer signed with OVO Sound. While Drizzy has stayed mum about the situation, Makonnen gave a few insights to the tension between them with some now-deleted tweets and blasé comments about OVO. When asked by the Fader if he still speaks to Drake, he said:

“By the time this comes out, I'll probably see him six more times or no more times. I don’t know. I just wish everybody well in all that they do and I just go on and live my life and try to uplift motherfuckers. At the end of the day I'm tired of uplifting people. I just gotta uplift myself now because everything else is a waste of time.”

But what does Drake have to say about all of this? He isn’t afraid to throw hard shots at Tory Lanez and Meek Mill, so why not talk about what really went down between Makonnen? Also, he is still friends with The Weeknd, who's still his label-mate at Republic? How does he feel about the singer’s pop star status? There are so many unanswered questions, and Views could be the platform to tackle them.

Speaking of friendships, what the hell happened between Drake and Young Money? We already know how Aubrey feels about Tyga—after those “6PM in New York” disses, Kanye West reportedly helped the two rappers squash the beef. But is everything all good when it comes to Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj? On Nothing Was the Same opener “Tuscan Leather,” Drake revealed:  

“Not even talkin' to Nicki, communication is breakin' / I dropped the ball on some personal shit, I need to embrace it / I'm honest, I make mistakes, I'd be the second to admit it / Think that's why I need her in my life, to check me when I'm trippin'”

We haven’t received an update on their friendship status since.

The three rapper friends last appeared together on Minaj’s 2014 The Pinkprint cut “Truffle Butter,” but things became more complicated once the legal issues between Weezy and Birdman escalated. Along with a $51 million lawsuit against Cash Money Records, the New Orleans rapper requested to become a joint copyright holder on everything released on Young Money Records, which both Drake and Minaj call home. There were reports claiming Wayne’s two biggest protégés were forced to take sides in the feud, which is a topic neither artist has expressed musically—and now is the perfect time.

Along with returning to acknowledging Young Money like he’s done countless times on past projects, it would be refreshing for Drake to reignite genuine discussions of love and relationships. We already have a handful of old-flame-addressing songs like Take Care’s “Marvins Room” and Nothing Was the Same’s “From Time," plus plenty of tales of the various loves of his life and Southern strippers (sometimes one and the same). He's always been transparent when it comes to women from his past and present, but what about the future? On IYRTITL's “You & the 6,” Drake's mom insists on setting him up with a girl who could become his wife:

“I know you wanna arrange it, you told me she's free Thursday / And I'm sure that she's an angel, but she don't want this life / The timing ain't right / Maybe one day, but even one day with us is a time of her life" 

It remains unknown if he actually took his mother’s advice.

Watch Kendrick Lamar and more explain the power of the Drizzy cosign in this episode of The Drake Effect:

Drake will turn the big 3-0 this October, an introduction to a decade often characterized by settling down. With his overpowering fame seemingly taking over all aspects of his life, it might be a personal struggle for him to begin thinking about commitment or fatherhood. The conversations about myriad women around the world is never-ending, but we haven’t received an answer when it comes to the seriousness of marriage. Is there someone in his life he’s waiting for? Will he take a break after promoting Views to begin his family? Is he frustrated about not having the time to do so? Balancing celebrity success with personal goals isn’t easy, and it would be great to hear if he's become even more vulnerable, or vulnerable in all new ways.

Another way Drake can crack this newfound arrogant shield is by returning to those emotional songs about family. He's shared that incredibly personal part of his world before, beginning with So Far Gone’s “Successful"

“I want things to go my way / But as of late a lot of shit been going sideways / And my mother tried to run away from home / But I left somethin' in the car so I caught her in the driveway / And she cried to me so I cried too"

This spun into future songs like Take Care's “Look What You’ve Done,” NWTS's “Too Much” and If You're Reading This...'s “You & the 6," but it shouldn’t stop there. Surely things have changed since last year; he could update us on whether things are still strained with certain family members, or dare to share thoughts on his mother’s health and his own anxiety.

On WATTBA’s conclusion, “30 for 30 Freestyle," Drake references a track on his 2007 sophomore mixtape, Comeback Season:

“I just listened to ‘Closer To My Dreams’ / Wide eyed and uneducated at 19 / I can't rap like that, all young and naive / Not after all of the shit I've seen and the things I believe"

It’s incredible to see how much the guy has grown, and it wouldn’t be fair to expect him to maintain the same spitfire ferocity he debuted with nine years ago. But with Views from the 6, he can re-spark that specific intensity that was once ever-present and shake off the monotony he’s become subject to. If he manages it, I'll be renewing my die hard fan card.

For more, read Fuse's Complete Guide to Drake's Views from the 6, check out the best lyrics on What a Time to Be Alive and If You're Reading This It's Too Late.