Aubrey Drake Graham, better known as Drake, is a Canadian born rapper/singer who’s rise from Young Money Entertainment to perhaps the world’s biggest rapper is an admirable feat. 2015 was his year in the spotlight as he released two hugely successful and acclaimed mixtapes, headlined Wireless Festival, made one of the songs of the year in Hotline Bling and featured in a whole host of successful rap albums. Now, it’s his turn to release an album which will be his fourth studio album not including his mixtapes. This album has been hugely anticipated and could see his place confirmed as the biggest rapper on the planet. If this album does not succeed, however, the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West and J Cole are all there to pick up the pieces and stake their claim instead. There is a lot of pressure on Drake for this album due to its massive public build up; but now that it’s finally here, has it lived up to the hype?
Keep the Family Close- 5/10
Smooth jazz sound to start the song before a soft Drake vocal in which he sings about the importance of his family while growing up in the ‘6’ of Toronto. It’s also a backhand at an ex-girlfriend as he mentions her disloyalty and how she was never there for him. The tone of the track changes ever so slightly with these heavy crashes of a drum followed by a slight pace change by Drake himself which sees him linger between singing and rapping. The way this song rhymes can grind on you occasionally as there are some very lazy rhyme structures here. The song in general just seems a bit preachy and far too long for the same old lyrics to be sung. This song was crying out for a change similar to that in the opening track of his previous album, Tuscan Leather, where we had a great balance between singing and rapping. The song ends with a cringy phone call from who we assume to be the girl Drake sings about. It just seems unnecessary. Poor start to the album and I pray it doesn’t follow suit.
Much, much better this. Same familial link but this time behind a brilliant hip hop, almost space age beat in which Drake shows solid bars and speaks about his lavish lifestyle. “I turn the 6 upside down its a 9 now” shows the sheer power Drake possesses in his hometown of Toronto and how if he were to do that, people wouldn’t really be that bothered because it’s Drake. He shows this passion for his local community in this song which almost gives him that power of the people to have the freedom of the “6” so he can do as he pleases. This arrogant side of Drake is something that, when executed correctly, can sound absolutely brilliant and is the reason why he’s in the conversation for being the world’s biggest and best rapper. In this instance, it works very well and creates one of the best songs on this album and of Drake’s recent discography. For comedic effect and also the fact it’s a fantastic song, ‘9’ is getting a 9/10.
U With Me- 7.5/10
Deeper beat in this track as it fades smoothly into this from ‘9’ and with that comes a more aggressive rap in which he seems to be on the attack at a girl and his first verse is brilliant, a new sound to Drake which we haven’t heard before. The second verse goes off a bit and Drake shows off his vocal range by singing about the same things but with a softer tone in what fans of his would call a ‘Take Care’ style. The aggression spilled in this song is highlighted by the large amount of swearing before straining into a high toned rap which changes the mentality of the track in an instant. It’s a great aspect of this song which shows the variety in Drake’s ability but occasionally lacks at the crucial moment. The one minute interlude at the end seems pointless and doesn’t serve much purpose at all but the song itself is good.
Feel No Ways- 7/10
Upbeat, funky, psychedelic. The heavy snare crashes make this beat punchy and memorable and set Drake up for a potential classic here. The chorus is indecisive, it is good but seems slightly childish and simple, which can sometimes work but in this case it doesn’t do it for me. By simply repeating “on purpose” after every line he makes it easy to sing along to but it’s just a bit bland really despite the interior motive of the lyrics being very intriguing and offering much more than that. The verses are good, however and do the quite brilliant beat some justice at least. Once again finds himself in that void between rapping and singing but finding the perfect sound between the two appears to be his mission on this album. It’s an okay lyrical performance over an outstanding beat which is a shame really and it would be ranked much higher if the lyrics matched his production.
Hype – 6/10
Much harder rap and beat combination. Brilliant flow and rhyme which will silence any critics of Drake’s ability to rap with the very best. The beat is very hit and miss it depends how you interpret it really, it is of course intentionally a bit distorted and strange but does it really match with the song? I would say not and it changes too much for my liking but that’s just my opinion. “Views already a classic” shows his arrogance but in reality, it’s not a classic at all. That doesn’t stop Drake from believing that and vibing off that opinion so he will continue to be in his own bubble in that regard. Rap ability wise, this song is good but beat and production wise, it’s weak and that’s what brings the rating down.
Weston Road Flows- 7.5/10
Strong track with a good sway motion beat and harmonic backing vocal. Good verses by Drake doing what he does best, rapping over a melodic beat with some elongated tones. Raps about his rise to fame and the stage he has reached now, calling himself “the most successful rapper 35 and under” to show his awareness and arrogance regarding this bundle of riches. It’s very much a reminiscent track looking back on his time in Toronto, Weston Road we presume is an area he grew up in and where most of these lyrics are inspired by. I do like this concept of remembering his roots and it is something that Drake has continually preached throughout his career, showing his immense pride in where he came from to where he is now. It’s a good song and reminds me of the 5am in Toronto/6pm in New York style of track, something I’ve often said is Drake’s best style so if he stuck to this pattern, the whole of the album would be a classic.
Deep house R&B sounding beat with this heavy bass behind it. Seems a bit heart spilling and annoying to listen to as once again Drake, much like a broken record, sings about being he victim in this relationship as he treats this girl so well yet still keeps coming back to her. His lyrics in this track are very contradictory and hardly make sense as he brags about giving “your name to someone else” and implying he is moving on from her, yet spends the rest of the song milking this love story and his heartache. I really didn’t like this song or its production as it all sounded clunky and out of place, it was far too stop-start in the vocals and the beat which killed any possible momentum it could have gained. Why are the worst songs on the album the longest ones?
With You (feat. PARTYNEXTDOOR)- 8.5/10
Anytime Drake collaborates with PARTYNEXTDOOR it always creates this majestic fusion and a quite magnificent sound that nobody in the genre can emulate. It’s such a unique style that both of them make and it’s no different here. Like a singing version of Future, PARTYNEXTDOOR’s influence is very recognisable as his strong vocal, twinned with a funky electronic beat, creates a catchy sound that would make this track single worthy. The transitions from Drake to PARTY are fluid, natural and executed to perfection as we get the best of both but in limited chunks. Not enough of Drake on this song, however, for me to really adore this song which is unfortunate because it was one more verse from being on a ‘One Dance’ level of banger.
Faithful (feat. Pimp C and dvsn)- 6/10
The feature here seems bizarre and doesn’t match the soft calm beat at all. Not the best start to a, quite frankly, poor song. Drake sounds extra whiny on this song and is just absolutely desperate to show to the world that he has this incredible relationship with women and it’s borderline cringy. The rap/sing switch in this song is a bit all over the place and again seems slightly unnecessary, it seems more suited to one or the other. Especially with the second feature (dvsn) providing an elegant vocal performance in which he makes singing Drake’s part on this song basically laughable. If he had stuck to rapping on this song and let his feature sing, this song would have been 10x better. I really struggle to rate this song highly because of this boring, unimaginative vocal compass he shows.
Still Here- 6.5/10
Fits into this modern category of a rap banger as he spits memorable lyrics in an easy to follow flow. All of this is done on a fairly basic but effective beat and when Drake creates songs like this, he shows that mainstream commercial rap is far easier to do than some people make out. He must just be a natural in this commercial bracket and is in general a very sellable name and figure so with tracks like this his name will only increase. I’m not saying this is a classic song it’s just a 2016 banger that seems quite lazily made but is still effective and memorable. Won’t match up with other rappers’ releases but is an okay song.
The decision to cut Popcaan from this album without prior warning to anyone seemed a bizarre one considering his large following and ability to create a fresh sound on a song, as seen last year on Jamie xx’s chart hit I Know There’s Gonna Be Good Times with his reggae hip hop style. This decision became even more bizarre when you hear the actual song, it seems tailor made for his unique voice to feature on but alas Drake made the choice to cut him from the album and as a result it has left something to be desired on the track, a spark if you will. The afrobeat used on the hook adds an extra dimension to the track which could otherwise be accused of being fairly dull with Drake not really spicing it up with variation. The song to follow, however, is the best song of all time so we will let him off.
One Dance (feat. Kyla and Wizkid)- 10/10
I often joke about this being the best song of all time, it’s that catchy. It’s without doubt the best song released in the last 18 months and has swept the nation, topping the charts in so many countries and even landing Drake his first ever UK number one single, a statistic that is sure to surprise many considering his superstar name. Drake’s quick singing vocal matches up impeccably with this truly magnificent funk beat that sounds like it’s come straight out of 1995 and fills the dance floor no matter where you are. There is not much more to say about this song other than it is a confirmation of Drake’s genius and his ability to create banging songs that will blow up the charts. I would have been more than happy to have this on loop 20 times as an album.
Grammys (feat. Future)- 8/10
The dynamic duo return once again to create a filthy underground beat which follows the suit of their joint mixtape from last year, What A Time To Be Alive. I would describe this as a typical Future beat in that it may be fairly simple in its core but does create this non stop rhythm that is impossible not to sway to. Of the two, Drake does have a more talented verse in his diversity and lyricism, but it’s hard to ignore Future’s chorus/verse which you can’t understand at all but sounds fantastic. Much like Desiigner’s ‘Panda’ you don’t have a clue what he’s saying but get excited when he says the key word. For Desiigner, it’s “Panda” and for Future here, it’s “Grammy”. He says it enough times to remember it too so you’ll hardly miss it. This is a short and snappy track which has a trap vibe and is one of the highlights of the album.
Child’s Play- 7/10
Strange conversation on the phone at the start about a girl cheating on you with a basketball player, a bit pointless really. The song itself is upbeat and confident in its approach with the repetitive clapping beat sound in the first verse which soon cuts straight into an R&B wave. The chorus of the track is great and exactly what you would want from a catchy chorus; upbeat, memorable and inventive. Towards the end the song does tail off unfortunately and if I am being honest, there is only one truly decent verse in the song followed by 90 seconds of basically an outro which is frustrating to listen to because there was so much potential in this song to be a smash hit. It just seems lazy and as though he ran out of ideas so faded the song out as early as possible.
Pop Style- 5/10
The song he released along with One Dance a couple of weeks before the album to get us all excited. His feature, The Throne duo of Jay-Z and Kanye West, were arguably the highlight of this song which wasn’t a great showing of Drake’s rap ability and seemed to waste the talent on show with all three rappers. By cutting them completely from this song and doing it himself seems almost as brainless as giving Jay-Z just two lines on the original single release. The whole song was a flop and shouldn’t have been a single, the fact he took out the only huge drawing point for this song makes it even worse unfortunately.
Too Good (feat. Rihanna)- 7/10
It hasn’t been long since Rihanna’s smash hit ‘Work’ was released with Drake featuring on it and it rekindled rumours of the two perhaps being more than friends. This song will do only add fuel to the fire of those rumours as it is a racy and passionate track not to mention how catchy it is and that it will more than likely end up being a single. The lyrics are a showing of the pair of them trying to work out their differences and trying to make each other appreciate the love they show for one another. It’s a good song but won’t have the success of Work for the simple reason that it’s nowhere near as catchy a song.
Summers Over Interlude- 6.5/10
Sounds like something straight out of an album from The Weeknd with its soulful R&B mixed with heavy instrumentation and high toned vocals. Nothing more than an interlude so can’t be deemed a classic or a highlight but it’s a lovely song with a soft tone that will put your mind at ease. It’s also been positioned well to change from Too Good to the smooth R&B beat on Fire & Desire.
Fire & Desire- 2/10
This just sounds ludicrous with that ridiculous chipmunk noise at the start of the song on top of a disjointed out of sync beat. He tries being dark and mysterious in his tone by overlapping his vocals with numerous echoes and whiny dragging on of the last words of each line. Lines which are poorly constructed and have a very poor and generally lazy rhyming structure. This song could probably bore you to death if you listened to it for long enough and it was the song I struggled with the most on this album. He’s trying to be something he isn’t here and it just hasn’t worked in the slightest. The worst song on the album and one of the worst songs he’s ever done, I’m so very disappointed. Why would a song this horrendous need an interlude before it? It’s just a build up to something truly horrendous.
Gone with a gospel styling for the traditional ending to this album (Hotline Bling is a bonus track but it’s too good to leave out of the list). That gospel style lasts until this crashing of noise is met with a strong unique beat in which Drake raps to his absolute pinnacle power. “My girl a spice call me David Beckham” is a personal favourite lyric of mine as he likes to show off his illustrious lifestyle and the women that have followed from this fame. I absolutely LOVE the beat on this song because it sounds like a remixed gospel with edge and attitude, it’s absolutely everything the lyrics need to be matched with. A great way to end this album and leaves you with a smile on your face considering the diabolical work before it (Fire & Desire). Once again an irritatingly long outro which begs the question as to why he chooses to make us wait that long before the next song.
Hotline Bling- 10/10
The bonus track of this album but we aren’t complaining about it’s inclusion. An absolutely fantastic song that didn’t really gain the recognition it deserved until the music video was released, in which Drake poses some rather questionable dance moves in some lit up pods. These dance moves eventually became memes and as a result, the video and song became much more popular and saw the track rise up the charts triumphantly. Despite the upbeat cool beat that is used, lyrically this song is emotionally fuelled and speaks of how he feels he is being used for one thing. He speaks down on this girl’s image by suggesting she “started wearing less and going out more” when he left. There’s not much more to say about this song that hasn’t been said already but it was the song that got people hugely excited for this album and the fact it has appeared on here is always a great sign.
Why oh why is this 20 songs long? It’s the length of a feature length film. He could have made almost two albums out of this so it baffles me that he would choose to do it like this. I would love to give this album a comedic ‘views from the 6/10’ rating but I can’t as it is better than a 6 I must admit. It is not in the top three of the year though in my opinion and falls way short of Kanye West’s ‘The Life Of Pablo’ album, which just seemed more inventive and daring as well as having superstar talent all over it. One Dance and Hotline Bling being on this album boost the rating without a doubt because they are two absolute masterstrokes by Drake creating them. There are, however, some really awful songs to compliment these bangers, most notably Fire & Desire, which could well be the worst song he’s ever made. Having said that, on first listen I gave this album like a 3 or 4/10, I was absolutely destroyed by how poor it sounded. As I’ve listened more it grew on me and now I kind of like it. It falls short of his other albums in my opinion but it’s solid, nothing more and nothing less. Views from the 7 doesn’t have the same ring to it but that’s the rating it gets.