Just about all of Toronto is running a sleep deficit today, as VIEWS, Drake’s long-awaited fourth studio album, dropped late last night like a big, lush, synth-y gumdrop into our hip-hop-laced stockings.
And, although the silky-voiced rapper decided to erase “From the 6” from the end of the album’s title just two days before its release, the record is nevertheless awash in Torontophilia. Of course it is. Consider: Toronto got its new nickname, “the 6,” from the tentative name of the album. The moniker’s become so ubiquitious that there’s no need to even include it in the title anymore. It’s a given.
Hell, Drake’s new LP is so Toronto that its cover sees him perched (read: photoshopped) atop the CN Tower, like he’s Simba watching over his expansive municipal kingdom. Sure, sticking the CN Tower on your album cover might just be the soppy Torontonian equivalent of a New Yorker sporting an “I Heart New York” shirt, but let’s face it: for those from the Six, much of the joy of listening to The Boy lies in hearing him reference local people and places.
Here’s a run-through of some of the most inside baseball Big Smoke name-drops we heard on VIEWS.
1. Kennedy Road
On opening track “Keep The Family Close,” Drake croons: “You’re so predictable, I hate people like you/Kennedy Road taught me not to trust people like you.” It’s a reference to the crime-ridden Scarborough, ON thoroughfare that’s home to several OVO crew members. The rapper is known to hit up Habibiz Restaurant & Café, on Kennedy, whenever he’s in town.
2. The London
On the Kanye West-helmed “U With Me?” Drizzy makes a sly mention of a Toronto condo complex, rhyming, “Remember you was livin’ at the London for a month/Service elevator up to 4201/We was still a secret, couldn’t come in through the front.”
He’s talking about the London on the Esplanade, a condo in the St. Lawrence area of the city. Drake apparently used to visit a romantic interest who lived in the building, but took the service elevator to see her because they wanted to keep their trysts on the low.
3. Roy Woods
“Roy outta here like NASA/Bustin’ 1’s out the plastic,” Drake spits on “Hype.” It’s a nod to Roy Woods, an up-and-coming Canuck rapper from Brampton, ON, who is signed to Drake’s OVO Sound label. The NASA lyric is a reference to the title of Wood’s debut EP Exis, which is Latin for “you exit, you depart, you go out.”
4. Weston Road
The track “Weston Road Flows” is one big love letter to the four-lane avenue where Drizzy spent part of his childhood. The road is an artery through a somewhat shabby part of Toronto’s working class west end, where Aubrey lived with his mom before moving to the much ritzier Forest Hill.
5. Vince Carter
“Been flowin’ stupid since Vince Carter was on some through the legs arm in the hoop shit,” Drake raps on “Weston Road Flows.” He’s referring, of course, to Vince Carter’s iconic Dunk Contest victory at the 2000 NBA All-Star Game, back when he played for the Toronto Raptors. The jaw-slackening performance elevated the Raps from an NBA afterthought to a legit franchise in the eyes of the basketball world.
6. Fluid Lounge
Drake also reminisces about his clubbing days on “Weston Road Flows,” spitting, “Big Apple had the white hummer parked right in front of Fluid/And we be walkin’ in that bitch like we already knew it.”
Fluid Lounge was a nightclub in Toronto, located on Richmond Street West. Back in its mid-aughts heyday, celebs and pro athletes would often hit up the joint and marvel at how people of such varied backgrounds partied together without incident.
“But money can’t buy happiness, Jellee talkin’ truthful/But I’m happiest when I can buy what I want, get high when I want,” Drizzy rhymes on “Weston Road Flows.” Deep T-dot reference here; he’s giving a hat tip to Jelleestone, a rapper from Rexdale, ON whose 2001 breakout hit “Money (Part 1)” featured the hook, “Money can’t buy me happiness/But I’m happiest when I can buy what I want, anytime that I want.”
(Full disclosure: back in the summer of 2001, “Money (Part 1)” was essentially the anthem of my high school in Rexdale, which, ironically, is one of the most poverty-stricken neighourhoods in the Greater Toronto Area.)
8. The Key
On “Still Here,” Aubrey sing-raps “Got the key, now the doors open and we all goin’ through it/Whole city at your head for the boy.” During this year’s NBA All-Star Weekend, Toronto mayor John Tory handed Drake the key to the city. However, Tory had one stipulation: “This is non-transferrable, not even to Lil Wayne.”
9. Top 5
“Whole city goin’ crazy, whole city goin’ crazy/Top 5 no debating/Top 5, Top 5, Top 5,” spits Drake on “Grammys.” It’s a shout-out to Hassan Ali, a Somalian-Canadian rapper from Toronto’s Lawrence Heights neighbourhood who goes by the moniker Top 5. Since he’s almost always seen shirtless, he also goes by the nickname Shirt Off Shawty, which also gets mentioned here.
10. JD Era/Kardinal Offishall
Drizzy gives a hat tip to a couple more well-known Toronto rappers on title track “Views,” rapping, “Toast to the days when they wasn’t out to get me/I worked at JD’s connections whenever Jason let me.” The JD in question is JD Era, while Jason is Jason Harrow, aka Kardinal Offishall. Both those rappers were more senior than Drake when he was just starting out. Boy, how times have changed.