That’s how long it’s been since Drake first announced the title of his fourth album, Views From The 6. By the time it drops on April 29th, the OVO hype machine will have been simmering for a total of 1 year, 9 months, and 14 days. Views isn’t approaching Detox levels of fruitless anticipation, nor is it the Chinese Democracy of rap—an album that took 9 years to get from title announcement to an eventual release date. The hype, however, is approaching insurmountable heights. We’ve had 644 days to build this thing up in our heads. Simply put, if Views From The 6 is going to live up to almost 2 years worth of mounting expectations, it has to be Drake’s best work to date.
It’s possible that Views has been in plain sight for too long.
The reason the stakes are so high for Views is simple: saturation. When an artist is this ubiquitous, the audience’s mediocrity threshold evaporates. In other words, we tend to lose patience quickly. If you’re inserting yourself into the public eye, you’d better be dope, or prepare to get roasted all the way out of the spotlight. Drake has spent 256 consecutive weeks on the Billboard Social 50 chart, a ranking of the most active artists on social media. He is firmly, and perpetually, out here.
Speaking of billboards, it’s been over six months since Drake erected the 6 God Is Watching signage overlooking the Gardiner Expressway. The four-week campaign earned more than 100 million impressions total. Another billboard at Yonge & Dundas Square soon followed, along with cryptic Views ads blanketing Toronto in advance of his marquee role in the NBA All Star Game in Toronto. Is there such a thing as promoting an album too much? It’s possible that Views has been in plain sight for too long.
Between the Meek Mill beef and the endless influx of “Hotline Bling” memes, our appetite for Aubrey content is eternally satiated. Since announcing Views, Drake has dropped 2 mixtapes, and he’s had over 30 singles chart on the Billboard Hot 100. The machine never rests. Would you rather hear a project from Frank Ocean on April 29th, or another project by Drake? Be honest.
The fact that there’s been a steady flow of new material hasn’t reduced the amount of buzz surrounding Views, but it has set an elite benchmark for the project. Because Views From The 6 is his first official album since 2013, it has to eclipse the combined power of mixtapes If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late and What A Time To Be Alive, along with Drake’s most successful solo single to date, “Hotline Bling.” There’s never been more pressure on The Boy to deliver.
What a difference a year makes. The success of If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late can be attributed, in part, to the fact that it was a surprise sneak attack. That was pretty smart—no hype equals no expectations. We didn’t have time to make a wish list, so there was no way we could be disappointed. Another smart decision Drake made was marketing it as a mixtape, despite it later getting a physical release and selling over a million copies. The mixtape label downplayed the project’s significance, forcing us to qualify its content. Any praise would be followed by the caveat “...for a mixtape.” This absence of hype made the project more favourable in the long run. The extended rollout of Views, on the other hand, means we’ll be more critical in evaluating it.
If you’re Drake, how do you capitalize on the Views thirst? Easy. He just has to take the Adele approach, and drop the biggest song of his career, out of nowhere. When “Hello” arrived it not only stole Drake’s highly coveted #1 spot on the Hot 100 out from under him—it also absolutely obliterated any doubt that Adele could follow up 21 with a successful album. It’s unclear if anything we’ve already heard from Drake will be on Views, but neither “Pop Style” nor “One Dance” have the instant appeal to catapult Views to a truly legendary debut. Same with “Controlla.” The rollout for Views has been a huge success in terms of marketing reach, but the music hasn’t been strong enough to put him on track to earn the career-making moment he craves. Music critic Al Shipley framed it well on Twitter recently: “Drake is doubling down on the patois because Snow's ‘Informer’ is still the only solo #1 by a Canadian rapper on the Hot 100.”
Can Views From The 6 live up to the hype Drake has created? It’s possible. But only if it’s his best album yet. No pressure.
There’s no way it could be a spectacular flop, at least. The album will sell, and Drake’s quality control is too good for it to be a disaster creatively. What would be almost worse, is if Views is decent, but ultimately underwhelming. This guy has put too much of himself, and too much of his city into this rollout. In order to maintain the 6 God’s heavenly profile, he needs to drop a masterpiece. And if it isn’t, well, it could signal the beginning of the end of an era.
Just hold on. If there’s one thing we all know about Drake, it’s that we shouldn’t underestimate him. Last week, when the Globe & Mail asked him if everything he does is intuitive, he pulled back the curtain a little: “It’s natural but it’s calculated, if that makes any sense.”
Drake always has a plan. And if everything goes his way, we'll be spinning Views From The 6 long after summer sixteen is over.