Since his breakout mixtape So Far Gone, Drake’s success has been chained to his production choices.
That’s not to detract from his personality either, but Drake’s production unit – led by the enigmatic Noah “40” Shebib – has helped steer the star through the pop landscape, giving what could have been a cheesy prospect (“child star makes rap album”) an innovative, unimpeachable backbone.
Views, which dropped this week, is Drake’s most eagerly anticipated album to date, appearing only a week after Beyoncé’s Lemonade and in the same year as Rihanna’s ANTI and Kanye West’s sprawling The Life Of Pablo. At 20 tracks, it doesn’t pull any punches either, packing in as many references as possible in its 82-minute (!) runtime, from DMX’s chants on ‘U With Me?’ to the sizzling Timmy Thomas sample on the now-ubiquitous ‘Hotline Bling’.
FACT teamed up with WhoSampled to provide a guide to the patchwork of songs behind Views. Click on each track to hear a comparison.
Mavado – ‘Dying’ (ft. Serani)
(from Gangsta for Life: The Symphony of David Brooks, VP, 2007)
You might remember that Drake cast Jamaican dancehall superstar Mavado in the video for 2010’s ‘Find Your Love’, so ‘9’ feels like something of a callback. This time, Drizzy samples ‘Dying’, snipping its heavily Auto-Tuned ad-lib and pitching it to suit 40, Boi-1da and veteran pop producer Brian Alexander Morgan’s dusty beat. It’s a subtle but effective nod to a time when Auto-Tune wasn’t quite as ubiquitous and gives Views its first sip of Caribbean flavor without resorting to more obvious rhythmic tropes.
‘U With Me?’
DMX – ‘What These Bitches Want’ (ft. Sisqo)
(from …And Then There Was X, Def Jam, 1999)
DMX – ‘How’s It Going Down’ (ft. Faith Evans)
(from It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot, Def Jam, 1998)
Considering Drake’s penchant for referencing phone calls and voicemails, we probably should have known that DMX’s ‘How’s It Going Down?’ would have been something of an inspiration. Aside from Drizzy’s fascination with forbidden love — which is the entire crux of DMX’s original.
The version on It’s Dark and Hell is Hot starts off with an accusatory phone conversation between, presumably, the woman DMX is having an affair with and her significant other, a rap album tentpole Drake loves to employ. And while the two rappers are seemingly perfect foils, when you dig deep into the blood of X’s work, he’s more of an “emo” rapper in the Moss Icon-Rites of Spring sense than Drake could ever hope to be. Naturally Drake would use one of New York’s most sensitive tough guy staples to pad his own track.
‘Weston Road Flows’
Mary J. Blige – ‘Mary’s Joint’
(from My Life, UMG, 1994)
The R&B singer-as-apparition beat construction that was popularized with Burial’s ‘In McDonald’s’ is something OVO has leaned on a couple of times. On If You Reading This, It’s Too Late opener ‘Legend’, the beat is weaved with threads of Ginuwine’s ‘So Anxious’ almost as if it has been chopped and screwed, a nod to one of Drake’s favorite cities Houston, but still enough in its original form that it is more spectral than syrupy. ‘Weston Road Flows’ applies the same technique to Mary J. Blige’s My Life track ‘Mary’s Joint’.
And while Mary waiting for a “love that’s sincere” is more about yearning for a man she wants to be more mature, Drake uses heartbreak tropes to investigate the way his fame has influenced his romantic life. It’s likely his puppy loves were on-set at Degrassi, and perhaps that real love, so to speak, he’s looking for won’t be found until he breaks free of certain emotional confines that come from living most of your life as a celebrity.
Ray J – ‘One Wish’
(from Raydiation, Sanctuary, 2005)
One of the biggest critical blunders of the past couple years is the comparison of Trapsoul singer Bryson Tiller to Drake. While Tiller has a similar rapper-singer output, this isn’t so nefarious. They may seem kind of laughable in 2016, but there is a generation of artists who were influenced by Omarion, Ray J and, yes, Chris Brown.
Intentional or not, sampling Ray J’s pained ‘One Wish’ reaffirms that he is also inspired by this robust library of early to mid-aughts pop-R&B. There was a certain kind of sweetness that these songs promised, a gentler turn from the sensuousness of Keith Sweat and Gerald Levert, but with a youthfulness that was missing from groups like 112. Despite Drake being popular during an era when the R&B is at its lustiest, he won’t let his reference points slip through the cracks: Sure, Ray J’s character might currently be questionable, but it wasn’t always this way — and, certainly, Drake has not forgotten it.
‘Faithful’ (ft. Pimp C & dvsn)
Fair enough, this one’s less of a sample, per se, and more Drake re-purposing a verse that’s been used before. Southern rap legend Pimp C (of UGK) died back in 2007, but a wealth of unused material has meant that he’s appeared on countless tracks since. Back in 2013, on the eighth anniversary of his death, Jay Z added him to a remix of the Timbaland-produced ‘Tom Ford’. Now the verse appears again, including the memorable intro: “Check one, two. One, two bitch. Is the mic on?”. Drake’s relationship with the South is well documented at this point, so it seems fitting, rather than cynical, for him to give another nod to one of the true greats.
Beenie Man – ‘Tear Off Mi Garment’
(from Blessed, Island, 1995)
If Views is about what Drake sees in Toronto, then there is no way he could omit Caribbean culture. And for all the hemming and hawing that people do about Drizzy speaking about these, ahem, ‘tings, Jamaica is vital the to fabric of his home city. (Have you seen the ‘Work’ video? A cursory Google search will tell any out-of-towner that it’s filmed at the spot for both the bashment and jerk chicken.)
The album has dancehall coursing through its veins, but ‘Controlla’ takes Beenie Man b-side ‘Tear Off Mi Garment’, stamps it in as a coda and ups Views’ cooler fête factor by an ample amount.
‘One Dance’ (ft. Wizkid & Kyla)
DJ Paleface – ‘Do You Mind’ (ft. Kyla) (Crazy Cousinz Remix)
(Maximum Bass, 2008)
UK funky, the short-lived hybrid house sub-genre that peaked (for better or worse) with the popular ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ by K.I.G. (and its accompanying dance craze), has been crying out for a revival. There are still traces of the sound around in what passes for club music right now, certainly, but Drake’s use of DJ Paleface’s ‘Do You Mind’ is inspired, the fact that he opted for the Crazy Cousinz version just seals the deal.
For those in the know, Crazy Cousinz were the closest UK funky had to proper breakout stars, with a slew of huge singles and high-profile remixes. ‘One Dance’ takes Crazy Cousinz’ raw elements – the unmistakable rhythm, that piano and Kyla’s vocals – and transforms them into a track that sounds strangely contemporary, sitting snugly alongside Rihanna’s ‘Work’ or Justin Bieber’s ‘Sorry’. Let’s hope the revival doesn’t stop here.
You can read an interview between Crazy Cousinz’ DJ Paleface and WhoSampled here detailing the sample use.
Ha-Sizzle – ‘Rode That Dick Like a Soldier’
(Take Yo Shirt Off, 2010)
Yes, Ha-Sizzle’s ‘Rode That Dick Like a Soldier’ is essential to New Orleans bounce. No, there is nothing really about ‘Child’s Play’ that would invite anyone to make it clap.
Drake uses the body positivity of ‘Rode That Dick Like a Soldier’ and flips it into one about gold-digging. Instead of celebrating sex, it lambasts it as a thing women do for free meals at Cheesecake Factory and stealing your car keys to buy tampons.
‘Too Good’ (ft. Rihanna)
Popcaan – ‘Love Yuh Bad’
(from Where We Come From, Mixpak, 2014)
Mixpak’s dancehall sensation Popcaan was originally supposed to be on ‘Controlla’ until he was usurped by a Beenie Man sample, but thankfully he at least pops up on the Rihanna-featuring ‘Too Good’. An undoubtable Views highlight, the track is billed as a successor to Rihanna’s huge Drake-featuring ANTI-highlight ‘Work’ and certainly sounds sonically on-point, thanks in part to the inclusion of a snippet of Popcaan’s ‘Love Yuh Bad’.
Sadly, there’s not a whole lot there (we still want Popcaan’s ‘Controlla’ verse back), but it’s as good a reason as any to rediscover Where We Come From and party like it’s 2014 all over again.
‘Fire & Desire’
Brandy – ‘I Dedicate, Pt. 2’
(from Brandy, Atlantic, 1994)
The ‘I Dedicate’ interludes on Brandy’s self-titled debut were minute-long thank you notes to the singers that inspired her and her family, including her brother Ray J, who was sampled on ‘Redemption’. With ‘Fire and Desire’, Drake reinterprets that more platonic gratitude into something more romantic. Drake is not very religious, but he still makes worship songs — they just happen to be about women, which seems to be his own higher power.
The Winans – ‘The Question Is’
(from Introducing The Winans, Light, 1986)
Built around a huge sample of The Winans’ ‘The Question Is’, ‘Views’ might be the most straightforward track on the album, sounding not unlike a classic Just Blaze or Kanye production. The Detroit gospel quartet give Drake an unusual levity but it’s hard not to imagine Drizzy’s old mentor Jay Z making mincemeat of this back in the day. With Drake at the helm is re-affirms how important 40’s touch is to his success – sure Drizzy can body a classic-sounding rap track – If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late was proof of that – but he’s at his best when he’s navel-gazing over subtler elements. The fact that ‘Views’ is the “title track” is a little baffling – maybe Kanye’s gospel direction gave Drake pause for thought?
Timmy Thomas – ‘Why Can’t We Live Together’
(from Why Can’t We Live Together, Glades, 1972)
What better way to close out the album than with ‘Hotline Bling’, a track so popular that it became an almost universally-known meme, thanks in part to its fascinating sample. The sample in question is taken from R&B singer Timmy Thomas’s ‘Why Can’t We Live Together’ – a familiar source that’s been mined before by MC Hammer, and Leaders of the New School, among others.
With ‘Hotline Bling’ however, the usage is far more apparent – the rattling, vintage drum machine clicks and distinctive Lowrey organ sounds pinning together the track long before there was a novelty dance associated with it. It almost doesn’t matter what Drake does here – the sample’s so good he could probably just say his name a few times, cough something about being lonely and big up Skepta and we’d still think it was solid gold.
Illustration by Dewey Saunders.