A few weeks ago, I teased the possibility of Drake’s next album being his first creative brick. And while that piece was simply me being pessimistic just for fun, there was a kernel of truth to the dark prediction. Because really, Drake’s legacy quietly depends Views From the 6.
I know, it’s unfair. The crowning moment was supposed to be Nothing Was the Same, the album with which he completed and cemented his ascension. And it was. But the story’s not over yet. Because now that the 6 God has achieved absolute power, the question becomes, what is he going to do with it? True to his formula, Drizzy took last year off but still dominated with a slew of loosies and strategic guest spots. But for every verse that saw The Boy completely blacking out ("Draft Day") or experimenting with new flows (the last half of "Days in the East") there was a "6 God": undeniably fun, but admittedly a cruise control amalgam of flows and topics already covered on tracks like "Started From the Bottom," "Worst Behaviour," and "The Language." Are the verses still fun and ready-made for you to bellow in unison with the squad in the most lit of situations? Yes, of course. But there's a foreboding sameness that's lightweight distressing. The biggest rapper in the game, the most promising leader of the new pack, and he's already hitting cruise control after three albums?
It's slightly worrisome that he doesn't shift gears on his latest offering, the mixtape-cum-album, If You're Reading This It's Already Too Late. It's hypercritical, sure, but that's what comes along with the crown. I was at this party last weekend, where about eight songs off the tape were played to massive response. I've been walking around muttering "I know a nigga named Johnny Bling" or exclaiming, Tourrettes style, "No tellin!" and "Woes!" But, for all of the bangers that could double as "renewable power sources," this tape displays an unsettling sameness, as if he made all of these songs during the "6 God" sessions.
And while the verses are endlessly rappable and there's nary a skip, listening to the tape is like watching Aubrey become a Cozy Boy. From the beats to the themes, it seems he's settling into cuffed sweats and if he keeps it up, he'll be vegging on the track before he realizes it. For the past four years we've watched Drake ascend to the top of the rap game, all while lamenting the fact that people—fans and his rap peers—do not appreciate how great he is or how much he contributes or how deserving he is of the throne. On IYRTITL, his message has been reduced to the chorus of 2011's "I'm On One": All he cares about is money and the city where he's from. Oh, and his woes.
And still, it's a great listen. This reminds me of his 2011 Complex cover story, where he explained to us why Take Care didn't sound like the loosies he'd let off previously in the year. "It’s not 'Club Paradise.' It’s not. It’s not that song. It’s not that brand of music. That’s why I put that song out. That song is not on my album." This collection isn't Views From the 6, but it isn't scraps either: just songs that didn't fit whatever theme Aubrey has in mind. When Take Care first dropped, I wasn't into it. Now I think it's his best album. But that's not the case here, because there isn't anything new in need of accepting. Unlike Take Care and Nothing Was the Same, there isn't an advancement of the Drake story.
Drake will need to show growth, articulate his vulnerabilities in ways that aren't just seething rage, and switch up the execution.
For Views From the 6 to match Take Care or the highs of Nothing Was the Same, Drake will need to show growth, articulate his vulnerabilities in ways that aren't just seething rage, and switch up the execution. Right now, he's dwelling on just one slice of his life over the same type of Boi-1da beat. Views needs more of IYRTITL's freshest moments, i.e. the last three songs: Drake entering Travi$ Scott's hellscape in the gothic "Company;" the so-real-it-hurts sequel to "Look What You've Done," " You and the 6"; and "Jungle," which may be Drake's best outro second only to "The Ride." In short, the storytelling and the sounds, need to expand.
This isn't his best project, and he knows it. But while IYRTITL is a mixtape with head-scratching decisions like a song titled "6 God" and then another called "6 Man," it’s reassuring because, as always, The Boy is self aware. For every 6ix reference that threatens to render the term played out before the album even drops, there’s a sentiment about not being complacent. Fam even says “had to switch the flow up, shit was getting too predictable” mid-song and turns up the bars to disrespectful levels: “bunch of out-of-season bitches fucking off-season niggas just for last season’s wardrobe.” And while "Used To" is probably my least favorite, at least the sentiment is strong. Drake has the crown. And with that comes a whole new playing field.
The question now becomes, to both us and the man himself, how does he want to approach the rest of his career? The answer rests with Views.
Frazier Tharpe is a staff writer at Complex. Follow him @the_summerman