Yet Drake’s entire career has been a variant on the classic hip-hop storyline about transformation of difficult circumstances. A Canadian, half-Jewish black kid who acted in the TV show Degrassi, Drake’s arc has been less about dealing with material adversity—though he’s said his upbringing was more hardscrabble than many assumed—than it has been about beating perceptions held against him by culture and hip-hop. “Started From the Bottom” is an anthem whose sentiment, made plain by its title, can fit lots of people. But in songs where Drake references, say, his protective mother, or the guff he gets for singing sensitively, or the specific places he grew up in, his story takes on a very particular shape.
Drake calls himself the “6 God” and placed himself on the top of the CN Tower for his Views cover to show that he’s ascended to overlord status. But he keeps flashing back to the same battles he’s waged before: “They think I had the silver spoon but they’ll get it soon,” he raps on Views’s title track, with “they” referring to unnamed skeptics of his life story. On another song, “Weston Road Flows,” he reminisces about being too poor to buy pizza. A very specific kind of nostalgia pervades the album, via references to Toronto and washed-out samples of ’90s hip hop and R&B. He doesn’t want anyone to forget where he’s come from.
But he also doesn’t want anyone to think he’s comfortable now. In the context of Views’s lyrics, the image of him on the top of the tower mostly illustrates that he can’t climb much higher but could very easily tumble quite far. His great theme is insecurity—not the kind that comes from self-doubt, really, but rather the kind that comes from being let down by other people. Both lovers and friends turn out to be disloyal; the album opens with a slowly unfurling orchestral piece about the fact that none of his exes have stayed in touch with him, and the Beats 1 interview he gave on Views’s release night was defined by tension over how former allies like The Weeknd aren’t in his camp anymore.
Underlying Drake’s embattled mentality is deathly anxiety that everything he’s achieved could crumble at any moment. “I got it right now so I’m everybody’s friend / If I ever lose I bet we never speak again,” he raps on “9,” a strobe-lit anthem about giving Toronto a new area-code-related nickname for the second time in his career. “Y’all showed me that nothing’s guaranteed,” he says over the baroque trunk-rattling of “Pop Style” in a verse he swapped in for one Kanye West performed in an earlier version of the song (a choice that contributes to the sense that Drake is cultivating isolation). For Drake, the most interesting thing about success is that it can be lost.
He’s able to maintain his spot this time out less because of his attitude or storytelling skills than his flair for cutting-edge genre mashups. Dancehall is his current muse, used to undeniably wonderful effect Views’s slew of summertime jams like the swaying and seductive “Controlla” and the current hit “One Dance.” Earlier on the album, the sputtering synthpop of “Feel No Ways” hosts a melody as yearning and sinuous as Drake’s previous lounge-crooner hits “Hotline Bling” and “Hold On, We’re Going Home.” Elsewhere, the producer Noah “40” Shebib’s intricately strange and dour arrangements pair with Drake’s ranting to create an immersive fog of paranoia and arrogance—exactly what you come to a Drake album for.