Immortalized: A Chat with Drake About ‘Views,’ Memes and the CN Tower
It’s past midnight in the 6 and Drake, the city’s self-appointed king, is holding court in the studio. In two days, his fourth album, Views, will be released, and with it all of the admiration, radio play and addictive memes that typically follow a Drake project.
The cycle has already started. The 29-year-old pop star unveiled his new record cover earlier in the week, kicking off a nonstop round of press and praise.
“I wanted to forever immortalize the city in the cover,” says Drake, about the photo by Caitlin Cronenberg (@caitcronenberg), which features our hero sitting on top of Toronto’s famed CN Tower, his legs dangling over the edge. “There was another picture of me on a balcony but that could be anywhere. I could be in Chicago. I could be in New York. Just to see that building on the cover of this album lets me know in my heart that I did the right thing.”
Almost two years in the making, Views is as much a love letter to Drake’s hometown as it is an indicator of his current dominance of the hip-hop and music world writ large. (“The album is based around the climate shift in Toronto,” he says. “Our summers don’t last that long so we pack as much as we can in, and I’ve tried to get that across with this particular project.”) Since first announcing the record back in 2014, @champagnepapi has been busy, dropping two buzzworthy mixtapes — the chart-dominating “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late,” and his spectacularly woozy collaboration with Future, “What a Time to Be Alive” — as well as the single “Hotline Bling” and its neon-hued music video. Then there were the memes …. on memes on memes on memes, all based off the everlasting viral appeal of his Drakeness. He is well aware of the effort fans go to produce them.
“I have become the most memed person aside from the Michael Jordan crying face,” says Drake. “I love that I’m the guy that doesn’t take himself too seriously. I like laughing even if it’s at my expense. It doesn’t feel like it’s necessarily malicious or hurtful stuff. I’m conscious of it. Even with the ‘If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late’ cover, when everyone took the font — that’s just our culture right now. I really enjoy it more than watching television. It brings joy to my life, and I hope it brings joy to other people’s lives too.”
Drake is quick to clarify that he and his OVO crew don’t necessarily sit around brainstorming what image or video has the potential to go super viral. They, as he explains, “just do it,” picking whatever visual speaks most directly to him. And that approach shows up, both on his Instagram feed (“It’s an amazing series of footprints to look back on. It’s like a yearbook. I make use of it in a very personal way, I try not to go heavy promotional.”) and in the love he shows his city and fans. Drake on the CN Tower spoofs may be hilarious, but, as he explains, without the message and heart behind the original picture, they don’t have nearly the same impact.
“As a kid who was born here and grew up here, there’s no bigger feat than sitting on top of the CN Tower,” says Drake (who, for what it’s worth, was actually Photoshopped sitting on top of the tower). “I will forever see that image and be like, yeah, that was one of my albums,” adding, “If you enjoy my music, this will hopefully be in the top two or three albums that I have ever put out.”