It’s hard to get excited for projects with the landscape of music that we currently live in. Beyoncé started the “sneak release” and it has now become a gimmick that has been run into the ground more times than the Undertaker doing a Tombstone piledriver. Everyone from Big Sean to Tyler, The Creator have tried doing a release with little time for fans to prepare and build expectations. Drake, on the other hand, took the slow and steady approach with his More Life “playlist”. The project was announced at the end of 2016 with several anticipated release dates passing through the holidays. Fans were hopeful that Drizzy Clause would bring them ‘new chunes’ to hear while ignoring their family at Christmas but he added us to the naughty list. New Years? No midnight kiss as Drizzy rapped in a fake Jamaican accent. Valentine’s Day? This one was probably for the best; no need to call your ex and spill your feelings when we still have ‘Marvin’s Room’ for that. Crafting a playlist takes time and patience. Drake used both of those elements and over the weekend we were introduced to (almost) 22 new tracks from 6 God.
While many view this as an album I understand why it’s being called a playlist. The way each song blends into the next shows attention to detail. Drake meticulously crafted this to sound a certain way which is ironic as many said his last album, VIEWS, suffered from sequencing issues. This honestly feels like the project many were expecting from his last outing in 2016. When listening to More Life it made me think of how I create my own playlists and what songs I put next to others to create a sound that stretches for 10-12 minutes. It should be noted that he took elements from his past music, his current sound, and possibly where he’s going creatively in order to put this together. What you hear is a melting pot of different Drizzys; you have the Grime sounding Drake, fake dancehall Drake, arrogant Drake, and my personal favorite, emo Drake. The problem lies in the creativity of this project. Is this Drake being creative or has he perfected his Shang Tsung and used these sounds for his own personal gain? There’s nothing groundbreaking musically but there are some fun records that are memorable.
More Life serves as a launching pad for many that aren’t familiar with the U.K. Grime scene as Drake has features from Giggs on ‘No Long Talk’ and Skepta on ‘Skepta Interlude’. There are moments on these Grime featured records where Drake tries rapping in their style and it comes off pretentious. This is similar to when ‘One Dance’ and ‘Controlla’ were big last year; it feels more like Drake is appropriating the style rather than shining a light on it. We’re also introduced to a different version of Young Thug that many fans won’t recognize. The Thugger we’re used to hearing, the one who uses his voice as an instrument, isn’t present. Instead we hear an artist that is rapping and making a case to be called a legitimate rapper on ‘Sacrifices’ and ‘Ice Melts’, respectively.
Over the course of Drake’s career, he’s had his fair share of songs where featured artists have surpassed him. More Life keeps this trend going with the aforementioned “Sacrifices” as 2 Chainz does laps around Drake. Quietly kept, 2 Chainz has been cleaning up on songs recently as he drops memorable lines like, ‘trap jumpin like the Carter/mean it’s jumpin’ like Vince’ and ‘yeah I love my fans but I don’t wanna take pics in the restroom’. One more interesting feature comes from Quavo on the previous record, ‘Portland’. He rhymes, ‘hell nah, never let a n***a ride ya wave’ at the beginning of his chorus, a line that is served with tones of irony. Critics and fans have accused Drake of taking popular trends and using them for his own personal gain while doing nothing for the artist responsible over the past couple of years (remember the Makonnen situation).
Drake is at his best when he gets in his feelings (see ‘Teenage Fever’ and ‘Since Way Back’) or when he’s dropping arrogant bars (‘how you let the kid fighting ghostwriting rumors turn you to a ghost’). This is what makes the other records feel more like appropriation rather than assimilation. “Teenage Fever” is reminiscent of the Drake we all loved from So Far Gone. It’s a nostalgic trip down memory lane but it’s also a quality record with its Jennifer Lopez sample on the chorus. “No Long Talk” feels like the record version of when you see friends talking with slang you’ve never heard and you try to use it, but you mess it up. Even with these audio transgressions, More Life features some of Drake’s best work in the last few years. The sound doesn’t feel forced and there’s something for every type of hip-hop fan on the playlist. This could be the result of it not being labeled as a traditional album and whether you see it as creative or appropriation is for you to decide. With Spotify’s one day record already broken and sales projections looking at 500k, one thing is for sure: this project has again proved that Drake is one of the most polarizing artists in music.
Repeatable: ‘Free Smoke’, ‘4422’ feat. Sampha, ‘Sacrifices’ feat. 2 Chainz & Young Thug, ‘Do Not Disturb’
Skippable: ‘No Long Talk’ feat. Giggs, ‘Gyalchester’, ‘KMT’ feat. Giggs
By Joe Coad