REVIEW: Stormzy – Gang Signs & Prayer

Categories FEATURES, REVIEWSPosted on

We’ll keep this simple: if Skepta advanced Grime culture further into the mainstream by bridging musical gaps in rather experimental fashion (Konnichiwa), Stormzy — a man who’s only really started his career, relatively speaking — might’ve perfected the formula with his latest release Gang Signs & Prayer (GSAP). Preceded by the instant classic ‘Big For Your Boots’ (keeping with Konnichiwa references, think when you first heard ‘Shutdown’), GSAP is a tour de force of unrelenting lyricism immersed in autobiographical subject matter that dictated the South London emcee’s rise to power post-Cypher In The Booth. That’s not to say that the album is all muscle, either; thanks to somewhat futuristic, forward thinking production, Stormz is able to change speeds constantly and even break out in song — examples include gyal-friendly cuts like ‘Cigarettes & Cush’ and ‘Velvet/Jenny Francis Interlude’, as well as the emotional, Gospel-worthy ‘Blinded By Your Grace’ segments (Chance The Rapper’s potential influence immediately comes to mind for the latter).

GSAP sees 16 tracks and appearances from Kehlani, Wretch 32, Ghetts, J Hus, Lily Allen, MNEK, Raleigh Ritchie and even Grime legend Crazy Titch, who phones in to speak wisdom from prison a la Big Meech. Like Titch, every one of these features play a specific role adding to the cinematic nature of the project, which acts as an official debut from Stormzy for the commercial realm (even though its completely independent, which — like Konnichiwa, once again — will prove to be an extraordinary accomplishment for the UK music scene, if not music period). [SIDEBAR: Of his most-known previous hits — ‘Know Me From’, ‘Scary’, etc. — only ‘Shut Up’ makes the cut on GSAP. In no way does this hurt the overall, much-fresher-because effort, save for maybe an extra boost in sales stream-wise.]

You can stream Gang Signs & Prayer below via Apple Music. We know one thing is for sure: man’s better be getting every nomination (and award win) moving forward….for the singing, at least.

REVIEW: Sampha – Process

Categories FEATURES, REVIEWSPosted on

Ever since we heard him on the hook of — what was found to be — his own song, Sampha has been leaving us absolutely entranced by his soulful, piano-driven ballads — Dual is still a project that gets regular rotation as if it were released last week. As a result, we’ve been going fairly rabid waiting for the Londoner’s debut album; this week, we’re happy to finally have that, titled Process, in out possession. So, how does it fare?

As expected, the slower, melancholy cuts featured on the project (which sees no features, and certainly doesn’t need any) are absolutely breathtaking…emotions hit peak level on ‘(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano’, a dedication to Sampha’s late mother. He does change things up occasionally (ex. the single ‘Blood On Me’ and the Prince-esque ‘Timmy’s Prayer’), and, while it doesn’t move us as much as tracks like ‘Take Me Inside’, it’s certainly no less beautiful to listen to.

Simply put, we’ll definitely be living with Process as it continues to grow on us a la Duel; we’d be hard-pressed not to believe that Sampha’s latest won’t be considered one of the best drops this year (yes, we know it’s only January…no matter).

REVIEW: Big Sean – I Decided.

Categories FEATURES, REVIEWSPosted on

The name of the game for Big Sean is consistency and growth. Since the release of his big debut Finally Famous (hell, even the mixtapes prior to that), the Detroit rhymer has continue to push his craft forward, building upon catchy records, meaningful substance and — of course — rapid-fire, ever-changing bars…now, we get to see even further into Sean’s evolution with I Decided., a semi-conceptual project meant to be a reflection on decisions he’s made in his life (and what might’ve been if he chose differently).

In addition to the quality packed into this album, we’re also impressed with with the minimal amount of features, all of which still provide maximum impact: Eminem completely slaughters ‘No Favors’ (yet doesn’t overpower the main artist), Migos (who are sailing thanks to their latest release, CULTURE) continue to show their abilities on ‘Sacrifices’ and R&B Stalwarts Jeremih, The-Dream and (girlfriend/TWENTY88 member) Jhené Aiko all provide a nice dose of melody and soul on their respective tracks. The closing track — ‘Bigger Than Me’ — also features Starrah and The Flint Chozen Choir, adding to the powerful, inspirational message(s) peppered throughout the album.

I Decided. is polished, but still raw; it’s a continuation of Big Sean’s growth as an artist, perhaps proving just how much he deserves the crown over other, seemingly lazy hitmakers in his group (*ahem* Drake *ahem*).

REVIEW: Wiley – Godfather

Categories FEATURES, REVIEWSPosted on

First off: let’s not waste any time here — Wiley’s new album, Godfather, is one of the best Grime albums we’ve heard in a long time. With that said, here’s why:

For starters (and this is not a diss), Wiley eschewed the approach of other recent Grime projects that have pushed the culture further into the mainstream with a more Hip-Hop approach (this includes in inclusion of big names from that realm); instead, Godfather remained as close to the core of Eskibeat as possible while keeping things fresh. Twisting that dial even further, Wiley chose to stick with Grime vets over members of the younger generation this go ’round, specifically members of the collectives that he’s affiliated with — Skepta, Jme, P Money, Chip, Ice Kid, Frisco, J2K, Lethal Bizzle, Scratchy, Manga, Ghetts, Newham Generals and more make appearances.

The production is no joke, either: in addition to his own contributions behind the boards (example: the hard-hitting opener ‘Birds n Bars’), he also linked with Preditah, Rude Kid, Teddy Music, Darq E Freaker, Zeph Ellis, Swifta Beater and Kid D. All adding to a cohesive body of work that improves upon 2014’s Snakes & Ladders.

Long story short: Wiley’s here to keep what he helped to create going strong. If you like pure, unadulterated Grime, here’s one hell of a way to kick off your 2017.

REVIEW: Isaiah Rashad – The Sun’s Tirade

Categories FEATURES, REVIEWSPosted on

Make no mistake: Isaiah Rashad has soul.

Like, the soul that you get from a seasoned Gospel singer hailing from somewhere in the Bible Belt, well in her 80’s….the type of soul that you get from living in the country and coming from that family home, that unmistakeable Southern hospitality. On his new album The Sun’s Tirade, Rashad — who hails from Chattanooga, TN — oozes this soul from beginning to end, much in part by way of his laid-back harmonising and syrupy production (think UGK and their “country Rap tunes” modernised). In the midst of the Yachtys and Desiigners, we haven’t heard a young artist bringing forth this style of music since, well… Big K.R.I.T. It’s truly amazing to hear, as the vibe of Tirade more often than not puts the listeners (well, us, anyway) in a nostalgic, feel good vibe while also reminding us of the ups and downs of life (for his part, Rashad had his share of evils that led to the two year delay between this and Cilvia Demo). The climax in that regard would probably be the seven-minute long ‘Stuck In the Mud’ featuring SZA, which sees Rashad speaking on said vices — mainly alcohol and Xanax, it seems — that temporarily slowed his career. You also hear what sounds like ScHoolboy Q taking Rashad to task on various skits throughout the album (he essentially gives Rashad an ultimatum on the intro).

It’s also important to point out his improving lyrical ability as well: Rashad definitely holds his own alongside Kendrick “muthaf***in” Lamar on ‘Wat’s Wrong’, along with many other tracks (including the Jay Rock and Hugh Augustine-assisted ‘Tity and Dolla’). The only weird point would be the track ‘A lot’, produced by Mike Will Made-It, which sticks out like a sore thumb with its bass-heavy Trap against the slowed vibe on the rest of Tirade. Not a bad track by any means, just not a sure fit amongst an otherwise cohesive release.

The Sun’s Tirade is a great (official) start for Rashad, and a sure bet that he’ll be considered one of the top-tier artists of his generation in regards to both Hip-Hop and music in general. All he has to do is stay focused and not succumb to the vices.

REVIEW: Travis Scott – Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight

Categories FEATURES, REVIEWSPosted on

Travis Scott is definitely looking for that number one spot as Hip-Hop is concerned; if anything, his second major label album — the somewhat-hilarious-yet-still-meaningfully-titled Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight — proves that, not only is Scott one of the most consistent artists out, he’s getting even better at his craft.

If Rodeo (and even previous projects) were any insight into Scott’s sleepless, drug-fuelled nights, Birds certainly keeps that party going, while also giving the listener another layer of the artist (more on that in a second). That aside, tracks like ‘Beibs In the Trap’ (which is presumably inspired by past collaborator Justin Bieber but features new Canadian artist Nav in his place) and ‘Through The Late Night’ (featuring Kid CuDi) show us that Scott is still burning the candle at both ends, so to speak.

This album also shows us more of Scott in relationship mode — the pinnacle of that would be ‘First Take’ (which probably could’ve been written for Bryson Tiller as a solo track), the lead-off single ‘Pick Up The Phone’ (with Quavo and Young Thug) and ‘Sweet Sweet’, which could potentially (?) be giving us insight into his in-the-blink-of-an-eye relationship with Rihanna [EDITOR’S NOTE: This might be a reach].

All-in-all: Travis Scott definitely just delivered one of the best albums of the year, an album that — much like Rodeo — seeks everywhere outside of Hip-Hop and much as it belongs within it. In a recent interview, Scott revealed that part of its trippy title dealt with his labels’ slow pace in regards to pushing out his music/videos; at this point, we’d expect those entities to put the foot on the gas moving forward…there’s simply no slowing this guy down.

REVIEW: Giggs – Landlord

Categories FEATURES, HIP-HOP/SPOKEN WORD, MUSIC, REVIEWSPosted on

To be honest, Giggs’ music might be the biggest guilty pleasure over here at Content Dope. Classic debut album and mixtapes aside, we can vividly remember how hype we were when a recently-released Giggs dropped the dark, brooding When Will It Stop a few years ago; as such, we were equally hype when he announced his new album Landlord. As of Friday, the album has been released, and we’ve been looping it for much of the last 24 hours — so, the question is: how good is it?

First off, we have to tip our hats to Giggs’ over style: possessing one of the deepest voices in the Rap game (doesn’t matter what country), the South Londoner has mastered the art of stringing together multi-syllabic rhymes and cover entire bars and verses…think prime-time Big Punisher and Kool G Rap, except slower and more prone to breaks within verses. He doesn’t waste time displaying this, either — the screwface-forcing ‘The Blow Back’ sees Giggs at his absolute best alongside (a damn-near show stealing) Stormzy. Here’s a sample of what we mean:

Shit popped to bananas, I might pop to Bahamas
Man’s living that life, I’m going shops in pajamas
I leave pops in apartments, I might pop to the barbers
I just stopped at the marge’s and dropped Tyler and Marcus
I just jumped out of bed, I heard a knock from the gardeners
I said no, not today, and what’s good? You’ve alarmed us
Captains and corporals, man rock with commanders
I could’ve rocked the Armani, but man dropped the Gabbana’s

This formula is used for much of the album, giving us braggadocio and road bars matched with top tier lyricists like Youngs Teflon (‘The Best’) and CASisDEAD (‘501’). Not to leave his family out, SN1 members Kyze and Gunna Dee provide additional cold raps for ‘Savage’ and ‘Clipped Him’, respectively.

In a nutshell, Giggs stays true to himself with Landlord (which makes sense; a recent interview saw him confirming that he’s always made music for himself and the streets), and the album is nothing short of an impressive listen that’s perfect for blasting through your car speakers, your block or the nearest dance at peak volume. This might be the best year for London Hip-Hop/Grime to date (especially with the likes of Wretch 32 and Wiley still waiting their release dates).

REVIEW: ScHoolboy Q – Blank Face LP

Categories FEATURES, REVIEWSPosted on

[NOTE: We’re not gonna TL:DR you all to death, because we would rather you press play on this album…several times over.]

I would bet that the more recent, on-the-surface ScHoolboy Q fans are fans because of his abrasive, ‘YOLO’-esque hit records — records are aren’t about depth as much as they’re about, well…the usual stereotypes within Hip-Hop (women, drugs, ultra-violence, etc.). Fans from the Hoover Crip emcee’s beginnings should also recall when he used to rap like a poet, spitting rather unorthodox rhymes about just how f***ed up life was where he was from, and how much of a difference having a daughter made in his life. His new album, ‘Blank Face’, might be the magnum opus that brings both of these groups together, making for a very enjoyable ride through Los Angeles as well as an enlightening one through America’s volatile times.

As far as the singles we’ve already heard (and the visuals we’ve seen), it’s almost as if Q was setting the stage for a real life horror movie in the same vein as ‘Boyz-N-The Hood’ (which “doesn’t even come close” to what’s said on this album, in Q’s opinion) or ‘Menace 2 Society’: tracks like ‘By Any Means’ and ‘Tookie Knows II’ put us right on the battlefield that was/is Q’s life; the Kanye West-assisted ‘THat Part’ manages to contain the dark humour and vice-descriptive rhymes later fans have come to know him for. Listening to the album from beginning to end brings the ‘Blank Face’ concept all together for one, roller coaster experience that Q has clearly mastered at this point, putting him on the level with his TDE peer, Kendrick Lamar in terms of both concept and creativity (whether the sales reflects that is another matter in itself).

Long story short: Blank Face is definitely Q’s best album to date, thanks to it being his most personal and politically/socially charged (this isn’t to say that he didn’t delve into such subject matter before, it’s really a matter of seeing your favourite artist mature in regards to these topics). We’ll close this review on a couple of verse excerpts that truly led us to the aforementioned conclusion:

…The teachers ain’t teachin’ the judge taught us numbers
We was raised by single mothers
Pop once took us undercover
So in the streets we learned colors… – ‘Str8 Ballin’

…Let’s put our brains away from gangs
Crips and Bloods the old and new slaves
Shit we even changed our names…

…I wrote these rhymes days apart
Most of us caught before we can expand our thoughts
How your grandmother see your corpse?…

…Let’s put the rags down and raise our kids
Let’s put the guns down and blaze a spliff
Let’s do it now, ain’t no buts or ifs… – ‘Black THoughts’

Powerful.

STREAM/DOWNLOAD: ScHoolboy Q – Blank Face LP

REVIEW: Bugzy Malone – Facing Time

Categories FEATURES, REVIEWSPosted on

The truth is, we’ve only become truly aware of Bugzy Malone following ‘Relegation Riddim’, and became fans of the Manchester emcee during his subsequent back-and-forth with Chip. Then, he released last year’s Walk With Me, and we knew then that Bugzy was going to be around for a long time. Now, after delving into his latest — the oft-dark and reflective Facing Time — it’s clear that Bugzy Malone has positioned himself as one of the leaders in Grime overall (an amazing thing for a non-Londoner, to be fair).

Now, the rolling of Facing Time (and much of the EP’s themes) seems to be a matter of perfect timing, given the news that he might actually be facing time in regards to an alleged robbery (his Fire In The Booth further supports this theory). Look no further than the first two tracks (including the title track), which sees Bugzy both speaking on transitioning from the roads to the stages, and getting very vivid on where he comes from. It’s these types of tracks (‘Moving’ is life-changing) that stand out on the project, as faster moving cuts like ‘Mosh Pit Gang’ seem to not fit with the overall feel (with that said; that track is sure to hype concerts and festivals everywhere).

Overall, Bugzy Malone is proving that he can create magnificent bodies of work, which contribute to the culture as a whole while also keeping the spotlight on the North. Just imagine how a full album might sound?

STREAM/DOWNLOAD: Bugzy Malone – Facing Time

REVIEW: Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

Categories FEATURES, REVIEWSPosted on

Few bands are so uncompromising and unpredictable in music, especially one as sonically defiant as Radiohead. The results only seem to get better as time goes on. It’s impossible to heap more praise on them that hasn’t been heaped, but their legacy as one of the last and greatest rock bands ever, is secure. They have detractors, but are one of music’s most consistent and inventive entities, often rejecting rock’s familiarities and archetypes and going for something much more less safe, more esoteric, and out there, as David Bowie’s Low, during his drug-fuelled experimental period in Berlin. This, of course, is not the only influence but one of many that Radiohead can fuse and incorporate into their music without sounding like mere imitations. Then they themselves become influential, and so it goes. There seem to be few things a band like Radiohead could want to achieve at this point. Having long past moved being “that weird band who did Creep.” Few bands claim to be as varied, innovative, and just good. After such a long, feverish successful run of albums, what now? They pull their social media accounts, website and entire online presence a week before they give us A Moon Shaped Pool.

There is certainly beauty to be found in the album, songs emanate through space, the sounds foreign, yet not too distant to alienate, and odd enough to entrance. They can create atmosphere like few do. It’s hard to listen to this album without the crushing weight of expectation. Radiohead have done so well in the past, how could this not be a disappointment? Unless they completely redefine music with every new album, they’re not topping themselves anymore. So with that in mind, Radiohead’s new album goes kind of mellow. The music is…slower. Things are not immediately catchy and hypnotic as they may have been in the past. There are many familiar elements, Nigel Godrich’s outstanding production, Thom Yorke’s signature wail, lush orchestrations, and intricate compositions. All of these add up to a Radiohead album that’s strong, just not as strong as before. It’s not the towering behemoth we might expect but it’s a solid album nonetheless. Minds may not be melted, but the songwriting is still good, the sounds are amazing, and the emotion is there. Radiohead on a bad day is still better than most bands on their best days.

Compared to 2011’s disappointing The King of Limbs, A Moon Shaped Pool, is a little more frantic, tense but not flailing. It sounds determined if not boring. It’s certainly not their best; it doesn’t reach the ecstatic highs of In Rainbows or that album’s infectiousness. Songs take their time to form and the listener is invited along for the discovery of something more than what one might think. Reverb is heavy throughout, synthesizers emote and glisten, melodies swell. Detractors may not be converted with this album, if anything, they’ll find less to like about the group. Songs like “Daydreaming” sound like the future dystopia of today, and invoke a feeling of discomfort and beauty. There’s another version of live staple “True Love Waits,” slowed down and spaced-out. While haunting, it’s just not as affecting as the live versions.

It’s Radiohead, but it’s just not as compelling as other albums from them. Yorke’s lyrics are still painfully introspective and touching, conveying a distance and sadness with his warble and words. There is still wonder to be found. We’ve come to expect something incredible when what we get might be really great from another band; it’s just mildly impressive in the context of their greater work. Although, the album can be hard to listen to as a whole, as it seems to drone on at times, songs go on without too much resolution, seeming to produce landscapes rather than stitched-out narratives, but maybe there’s more than meets the eye than can be seen in a few days time. This album is probably one to grow on you, but as usual with Radiohead, it requires patience. It’s a strong addition to their works in any case. We’re lucky to have a band like Radiohead in the first place. There’s a lot to discover here, as a new listener or longtime fan, challenging, but worth it. Overall, it’s pretty soft, but pretty good. A Moon Shaped Pool is a strong addition to the catalogue of many great albums released by one of music’s most innovative and enduring acts. Here’s to hoping Radiohead have it in them to produce more music that can surprise and reach people.

STREAM/DOWNLOAD: RADIOHEAD – A MOON SHAPED POOL

REVIEW: Skepta – Konnichiwa

Categories FEATURES, REVIEWSPosted on

At midnight on Friday, Skepta released his new album Konnichiwa, one of the most highly-anticipated albums on either side of the Atlantic. It was a long-time coming, too — meant to have been released as far back as 2014, the delay saw a lot of change in Skepta’s life and career, ascending from top-tier Grime artist to a bonafide international star with co-signs from the likes of Drake, Kanye West and Virgil Abloh. Naturally, that does two things for a project: 1.) it gives the artist more material to work with and more time to craft a future classic, and 2.) it adds pressure, at least from a critical standpoint. So, how does Konnichiwa fare?

Before we answer that question, an important phone call skit on the album (with sees him receiving some powerful advice from fellow North Londoner Chip) reveals that, with the support of his peers/fans, he ultimately doesn’t give a s*** what you, me or anyone thinks about Konnichiwa. As a result, the album is unapologetically for him, his peers and the culture that he exists within, featuring some of the hardest and most wheel-up-inducing Grime tracks of present time — look no further than the first three tracks, ‘Konnichiwa’, ‘Lyrics’ (with Novelist) and the Wiley-assisted ‘Corn On The Curb’. On these tracks, Skepta is defiant about his position in Grime and music in general, as well as very real about what him and his brethren have been through in London, past and present. It’s simply him at his absolute best.

As with relatively recent releases from Kano and brother Jme, many of the tracks on Konnichiwa (of which there are only 12, which is exactly as it should be) were around for quite a while and should be well-known at this point: ‘That’s Not Me’, the old-school Hip-Hop-style ‘It Ain’t Safe’ and (what many newcomers would consider his breakthrough) ‘Shutdown’ were all spinning 1-2 years ago. Some might consider using older cuts a weak point, although the entire album remains cohesive and fluid with the help of the aforementioned singles.

Also: we have to pay our respects to Pharrell Williams, who provided Skepta with one of the coldest beats known to man on ‘Numbers’, along with one of the producer’s best verses ever. Skepta shuts down fake money-makers on the track effortlessly as well, proper proof that — even with American collaboration — you’re still coming into his world, and not the other way around.

All-in-all: Konnichiwa is without question the biggest record of both Skepta’s career, and Grime period — and the Boy Better Know general easily steps up to the task of creating an exceptional album. The gates have officially opened for rising stars Stormzy, Novelist and future artists looking to take the UK flag even further.

ALBUM STREAM: Skepta – Konnichiwa

ALBUM STREAM/FIRST LISTEN: Drake – Views

Categories FEATURES, HIP-HOP/SPOKEN WORD, MUSIC, REVIEWSPosted on

Finally. Today (after inexplicably blessing the U.S. and Canada and making the UK — who were on the right day, mind you — wait well into the morning), Drake liberates his fourth studio album Views, which sees 20 tracks and appearances from Rihanna, Future, Kanye West, JAY Z, Wizkid, Kyla, Popcaan, Pimp C and OVO Sound artists PARTYNEXTDOOR and DVSN.

We decided to live blog throughout our first listen of the project and end it with a general idea of whether we feel Views hit the mark or not, which will be updated as we cycle through the tracklisting. Enjoy:

1. Keep the Family Close (Prod. Maneesh): First thought, Drake’s keeping the ‘No New Friends’ mindset. Big orchestra sounds that definitely get you ready for the rest of the album. He’s singing…hoping that this won’t be most of what we hear.

2. 9 (Prod. 40, Co-Prod. Boi-1da & Brian Alexander Morgan): Drake’s rapping (although in the popular style that he learned from Quentin Miller and whomever else has written for/with him last year). Still, we definitely like where this is going. That cold weather feeling.

3. U With Me? (Prod. 40 & Kanye West): Drake just (basically) remixed DMX’s ‘How’s It Going Down’. Immediately remember when DMX dissed Drake some time ago. Hope he got a big check for Drake using this. Drake’s back on his emotional ex-boyfriend rap (and why wouldn’t he be? That’s his bread and butter).

4. Feel No Ways (Prod. Jordan Ullman of Majid Jordan): Back to singing for ‘Feel No Ways’. Definitely back in the Pop pocket a la ‘Hold On, We’re Going Home’. Will probably be a crowd favourite, although we will probably skip past this cut on future listens.

SIDEBAR: Drake’s definitely on the emo-ish heavy. If it ain’t broke…right?

5. Hype (Prod. Boi-1da & Nineteen85, Co-Prod. Beat Bully): The cold weather vibe is very prominent so far. Drake is going off on this one (Migos-style….sigh). The blogs (including us) will probably be dissecting the lyrics on this one later. Lots of big boy statements aimed at somebody (or some bodies?).

SIDEBAR: Views sounds much better than Nothing Was The Same right now. While NWTS is similar (ie. Rap isn’t the prominent factor), Views feels like a more cohesive mix. Many more tracks to mess that up, though.

6. Weston Road Flows (Prod. 40): Drake continues to game-spit (and tell stories of life with friends growing up in Toronto) over some really nostalgic (90’s R&B vibe?), melodic production. Definitely an album favourite. Claims he’ll be retiring at 35.

7. Redemption (Prod. 40): Sing-rapping. Back on the emo. Definitely a master at being the sensitive ex-boyfriend for sure. He does get off some bars toward the end. Respect must go to 40 and his contributions at this point.

8. With You Feat. PARTYNEXTDOOR (Prod. Murda Beatz): PARTYNEXTDOOR joins in. Chances are, he probably wrote all of this (including Drake’s parts). This is full R&B. Is that The-Dream (NOTE: It’s Jeremih.)?

9. Faithful Feat. Pimp C & DVSN (Prod. 40, Co-Prod. Boi-1da & Nineteen85): Pimp C’s appearance definitely stands out in a negative way (just doesn’t fit with the song). Not a fan of this one. Can certainly see DVSN’s potential, though.

10. Still Here (Prod. Daxz, Co-Prod. 40): Now Drake sounds like Chief Keef. Appropriation accusers will probably pick on this one…still sounds good, though. Boastful Drake.

11. Controlla (Prod. Boi-1da, Co-Prod. Supa Dups & Allen Ritter): You heard this one. Pop/Reggae-style. Will be a radio and club hit if it isn’t already. Looks like Popcaan was removed from the original, leaked version. Drake holds his own regardless.

12. One Dance Feat. Wizkid and Kyla (Prod. Nineteen85, Co-Prod. 40 & Wizkid): Drake takes from the UK…will probably be a bigger hit than its predecessor. Salute to Kyla (who appears on this) and Crazy Cousinz. Big collab for Wizkid as well.

13. Grammys Feat. Future (Prod. 40 & Southside, Co-Prod. Cardo & Young Exclusive): Obviously, this is for fans of ‘What A Time To Be Alive’. For us, this doesn’t have much replay value.

14. Child’s Play (Prod. 40): Funny “skit” prior to this song coming on (we hope you’re not dating a girl that goes to opening season games without you). Song slightly switches gears from “regretful ex-boyfriend” to “we’re still in a roller coaster relationship”. Same emotional Drake applies.

SIDEBAR: Fans of Drake’s earlier work (ie. So Far Gone) should definitely be as happy as newer fans. Views is serving vibes for everyone.

15. Pop Style (Prod. Sevn Thomas & Frank Dukes): Drake removes ‘The Throne’ and goes solo. Truth is, he really didn’t need JAY or ‘Ye on this (especially JAY). Goes Migos flow for the second verse.

16. Too Good Feat. Rihanna (Prod. Nineteen85): Lots of Caribbean vibes through ‘Views’. Here’s the next one, with ex-gyal Rihanna. Make no mistake: these two or great on a record, every time (imagine if they followed Big Sean and Jhene Aiko and made an album together? Maybe it would finally get JAY and Beyoncé to make one).

17. Summers Over Interlude (Prod. Maneesh): This is like pure Blues/Soul! Who is this? Majid (of Majid Jordan)? I really need to catch up on these guys!

18. Fire & Desire (Prod. 40): The smoothness of the previous track eases right into this one. Drake on his grown-and-sexy R&B vibe. Not mad. Still wowed by that last track, wishing it was a full song.

19. Views (Prod. Maneesh): Starts off on a Gospel-vibe (or Whitney Houston? NOTE: It’s the Winans). Gets very Hip-Hop. Drake is definitely paying proper homage to Toronto with this one. Just Blaze, is that you? (It isn’t.)

20. Hotling Bling: Don’t really think any explanation of this track is needed. It functions as a bonus track on Views, since the self-titled cut before it provides proper closer for the album. Fair enough.

All-in-all, Drake’s Views is a lengthy — like, ‘could’ve-been-a-few-songs-shorter’ lengthy — ode to both his city (Toronto) and his sound (heart-on-sleeve hit records and emotional cries to an old flame that let him go). With that said, Drake still manages to brings much of his older styles to the project as well, making it a one-play-fits-all (or most) that will surely top annual charts. Unfortunately, the Hip-Hop purists (probably) will see this as another step back for Aubrey.

STREAM/DOWNLOAD: Drake – Views

DRAKE – VIEWS (FULL TRACKLISTING):
1. Keep the Family Close (Prod. Maneesh)
2. 9 (Prod. 40, Co-Prod. Boi-1da & Brian Alexander Morgan)
3. U with Me? (Prod. 40 & Kanye West)
4. Feel No Ways (Prod. Jordan Ullman of Majid Jordan)
5. Hype (Prod. Boi-1da & Nineteen85, Co-Prod. Beat Bully)
6. Weston Road Flows (Prod. 40)
7. Redemption (Prod. 40)
8. With You Feat. PARTYNEXTDOOR (Prod. Murda Beatz)
9. Faithful Feat. Pimp C & DVSN (Prod. 40, Co-Prod. Boi-1da & Nineteen85)
10. Still Here (Prod. Daxz, Co-Prod. 40)
11. Controlla (Prod. Boi-1da, Co-Prod. Supa Dups & Allen Ritter)
12. One Dance Feat. Wizkid and Kyla (Prod. Nineteen85, Co-Prod. 40 & Wizkid)
13. Grammys Feat. Future (Prod. 40 & Southside, Co-Prod. Cardo & Young Exclusive)
14. Child’s Play (Prod. 40)
15. Pop Style (Prod. Sevn Thomas & Frank Dukes)
16. Too Good Feat. Rihanna (Prod. Nineteen85)
17. Summers Over Interlude (Prod. Maneesh)
18. Fire & Desire (Prod. 40)
19. Views (Prod. Maneesh)
20. Hotline Bling (Prod. Nineteen85)