On December 13, 2013, Beyoncé released an album out of nowhere. It’s a move that us mere mortals are still trying to wrap our brains around, and a landmark moment that changed what was possible in the ways we experience music. Artists were no longer beholden to the standard single, video, talk show, album, rinse and repeat method. That was the good part. But there’s always a negative, even when it involves Beyoncé. The negative here is that now A-level artists are constantly under the spotlight, with fans scouring Twitter followers and Snapchat backgrounds for hints of another out-of-nowhere release. That goes double for Drake, whose Edward Nigma-esque penchant for subtweets and hidden messages is taken straight out of Jay Z’s “never show your full hand” playbook. For the last 18 months or so, the internet has been finding new reasons to suspect that his latest album, Views From The 6, is just around the corner. Any minute now, Drake is going to drop his opus. When did the actual album rollout start? When does it end? No one knows for sure.
But we do know one thing: The build-up to one of music’s most-anticipated albums has been subpar, to say the least.
Drake is in a weird space as a rapper. He’s yet to drop a universally crowned classic album—something that all legendary rap acts need to hang their hats on. He was mired in a ghostwriting controversy last summer that threatened to make him rap’s Barry Bonds, stricken from the record books due to performance enhancements. Yet he still cranks out hits and dodges any serious blow to his reputation as if nothing happened. When Meek Mill laid out the proof that Drake was at least getting some writing help in his music, the Canadian MC responded with two diss tracks that obliterated his newfound rival, launching Drake into a new level of popularity and ramping up the expectations for the Holy Grail classic album.
Some speculated that Views would come in as part of the announcement that Drake was signing with Apple Music; instead, we got the thrown-together but still at times great If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. Some thought “Hotline Bling” was a lead-in to the album. Then the surefire date was NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto: As the unofficial host, Drake could use the opportunity to upstage his passive aggressive frenemy Kanye West’s album The Life Of Pablo.
OVO Sound Radio Episode 14 tmrw at 3PM PST/6PM EST…it begins.— Drizzy (@Drake) January 30, 2016
But then, nothing. Instead of an album, Drake would send out cryptic messages for people to tune into OVO radio on Apple Music, using Twitter to incite a surreal throwback to when people would huddle around their radios to listen to the newest debut single. That’s how we heard his responses to Meek Mill last summer and the banger “Summer Sixteen” at the end of January. Finally, we got the announcement that April 29th would be the official release date, allowing us to relax and enjoy the build-up without having to speculate.
Then something weird happened (again): Drake started putting out duds. Last week he released two songs that are supposedly going to be on Views. “One Dance” is a lazy faux-island knockoff that doesn’t add anything to Drake’s catalog. “Pop Style” is similarly bogged down in confusion and misdirection. The track was supposed to feature Jay Z and Kanye West but Jay’s verse was allegedly withheld so it could be an exclusive for his Tidal streaming service. Jay or no Jay, the song is generic rap bravado, complete with embarrassing bars like, “I got so many chains call me Chaining Tatum.“
There’s still an undeniable fever pitch around Drake’s Views as we approach the release week. But the recent releases and the confusion over what we’re supposed to expect have definitely tempered expectations for what was supposed to be Drake’s coronation. While it’d be nice to think Drake will live up to the hype, he also probably knows he can drop another chart-topping hit that’ll continue to make him untouchable in the eyes of his congregation—whether the album deserves it or not.