For some time now I have been thinking on the current state of hip hop…
I used to say hip hop was a “young” genre and there were many more things for artists to learn and develop musically for years to come. However, as I look at the hip hop game today, I feel as if there may not be much room to grow. To me, a rapper is an artist; someone who creates pieces of work to help explain the world around us. Rappers were always dope to me because they seemed to see life from a different perspective than the one you are always fed at home, in church, or at school. Rappers have a unique talent in that they can use everyday words and pattern them in a way that makes them sound musical with literary concepts to take those thoughts to places you never imagined.
Lately, it seems as if many rappers do not want the responsibility to expand the listeners perspective. Everyone is just doing whatever it takes to “get on”. The process of creating art and keeping hip hop alive has taken a backseat to downloads and views. You’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with Drake’s new album ‘Views’, don’t worry it all ties together.
Drake is the number one rapper in the game today. You can argue that but it is what it is. Being the number one rapper means Drake is setting the bar. Anything he does to advance his career sets an example for every other rapper today; as long as he keeps winning. These types of moments excite me as a hip hop fan and I was waiting for this new Drake album to see what he would do with his career. Will he drop another sing-song rap/pop blend? Will he take it back to the beginning and do a lot of spitting? What if he does something I haven’t predicted? Let’s get into the ‘Views’ album.
I’m not going to do a full song by song review but more of a general review to explain what I got from the album musically and conceptually. The first song ‘Keep the Family Close’ was a typical Drake intro. Moody beat, sad singing lyrics about a past relationship. It’s something he has mastered so it sounds good but its not too exciting either. The next song ‘9’ I really like the beat. The lyrics are decent and Drake has a good delivery but the beat is so crazy it can stand alone. ‘U With Me?’ is one of my favorite songs on the album and its because of the DMX sample on the hook and on the beat, it’s like you almost forgot about the DMX song but Drake brings you right back. Paying homage to the past but flipping it into a new school feel is something I will always respect.
The next song that really stand out to me is ‘Weston Road Flows’. When you go back and sample those 90s RnB groups like SWV you’re gonna get a dope beat, that vintage sound has aged so well. I want more artists to experiment with that sound, similar to Wale with ‘Downtown’ the vibe those sounds create just sounds so good. The album takes a quick sound change when the song ‘With You’ featuring PartyNextDoor drops. It has an African / Island dance sound thats really catchy and even though it may not seem to ‘fit’ I like the change it brings. ‘Faithful’ featuring Pimp C and dvsn is another really good song. The production on this album is just stellar, I can’t say anything bad about the beats and sequencing, it just sounds perfect.
What does all of this mean? Basically, ‘Views’ sounds good, it has crossover hits, amazing production but it is not inspiring from the viewpoint of a rapper. Drake has done great things business wise, with Apple Music and the Toronto Raptors for example; and he has been able to find up coming talent from all over and connect with them to help expand his sound. But again, that does not inspire a rapper. Drake is showing us the power of networking, the power of branding and promotion but what is he showing rappers today about lyricism?
The Drake that rapped on ‘Aston Martin Music’, is one that inspired me as a rapper. I didn’t care about his singing skills, songwriting ability, or beat selection. Those things are cool but at that moment Drake was someone to watch because he was featuring with bigger artists like Rick Ross at the time but you knew he was going to bring some fresh, dope punchlines and perspectives. Now that Drake is at the top of the game he is sending us different messages.
Instead of being so focused on lyrics we see he is using reference verses and having other people write for him. Instead of finding a new artist to work with to expand the genre, Drake is making crossover music just to put himself in other markets. Maybe Drake is hurting hip hop by his use of ghostwriters and commercialization. But then again things change. Nothing stays the same forever and it may be time for rappers to re think what their purpose in hip hop music is today.