“More chune fo ya head top so watch how you speak on my name”. With that quick phrase following a soul stirring sample, Aubrey “Drake” Graham took the world by storm once again, delivering his much anticipated “playlist,” More Life.
Coming off his most successful commercial album, Views, Drake has returned with the swagger only befitting the most popular rapper in the world. While many may not agree with the accolades that Views received, it cannot be denied that it hit all of the cookie cutter checkpoints necessary to create a “hit record” in today’s stream-centric era. However, this time around, More Life seems to have taken the formulaic approach that the OVO crew adopted during the formation of Views and fine tuned it into a standout pop record.
In late October of last year, Drake released three records that would ultimately be his last contribution to the music community in 2016, and announced that his More Life project would soon be released for the masses. Coming off of the commercial success of Views music fans around the world began to question what the project would sound like. Would it be an album? A mixtape? Would he be rapping or singing?
Well, it seems as though Drake learned from all of the mishaps came with the release of Views. Views broke streaming records left and right, and Apple’s foray into the rap world received the big payoff that validated trotting Drake out at the groundbreaking WWDC that introduced the world to Apple Music. For many artists, that alone would be enough to hang their laurels on, but this is Drake we’re talking about here. The man not only has his pulse on the culture, but he also is well aware of the critics that decried the lack of the depth that made Views a platinum album with a plastic feel.
This time, Drake was more tight-lipped about the project, if that’s even possible. He released More Life with much less fanfare than it’s predecessor. When Views was created, it had to live up to two years of ever-mounting anticipation, the Meek Mill beef, and two preceding surprise projects. More Life dropped months after it’s announcement and the few interviews that came from the OVO crew during this time brought down the pressure to deliver with claims of it being a “playlist.”
For all of the talk surrounding whether the release would actually occur last weekend, at 6:30 EST, the world opened their Apple Music accounts, opened up their twitter timelines, and gathered as a family of sorts to experience this Drake album. Unlike the last time he premiered a project on Apple Music, More Life was devoid of the lengthy congratulatory interview that led us into Views. Drake got on, said a few quick thank you’s, and dove into the playlist.
More Life grabs you at the onset. Gone is the overly ornate intro that bogged down Views from the start, and in it’s place was an upbeat sample that made rap critics perk their ears in curiosity. From the anthemic “Free Smoke” into “No Long Talk,” Drake makes it a point to let his fans know that he can still drop the bars that made most of them fans from the beginning, but doesn’t let that overtake the project. Perhaps the brilliance of calling the project a “playlist” lies in the smooth transitions and crossfades that makes the whole thing a seamless body of work. Furthermore, he sequences the songs into groupings. Groupings of rap records, grime records, afrobeat records, and pop records.
More Life is an easy listen.
The songs are catchy and the lyrics on the rap songs are clever enough to ensure replay and instagram caption value. The more melodic songs are sure to find their way onto the radio waves as the weather gets warmer, and onto the dance floors where the pulsing riddims will guarantee memorable Memorial Day and Fourth Of July weekends. Drake has settled into his role as the world’s biggest male pop star and will be sure to own a third summer in a row.
His features on More Life are a healthy mix of established and emerging artists. 2 Chainz, continuing his low-key run for the most consistent rapper in the game. A new and traditional version of the ever-changing Young Thug. The dynamic duo of Travis Scott and Quavo. Jorja Smith who has a voice that beams through the instrumentation.
The most impactful guest appearances have to be awarded to the Grime artists, Giggs and Skepta. While their names aren’t new to hardcore rap fans, for most of Drake’s fanbase, these two are new voices that are talismans of Drake’s latest foray into the UK rap scene. Showing up at hole in the wall clubs, shining a light on their culture, Drake once again plays the role of the musical ambassador for mainstream popular music. He validated a long-neglected branch of hip hop to the masses, giving that scene a look that hopefully leads to more collaborations with major artists worldwide.
Drake’s presence on the album shines with more confidence and more stability than the last. I’d even go as far to make the argument that if it took Views to get a More Life out of him, then the gamble was well worth the risk. For the first time in rap music, and probably music as a whole, we have a global artist who has the desire and capability to take the sounds and vibes from different genres all over the world and make them into his own using his wildly popular platform.
In his recent interview with DJ Semtex, Drake maligned the Grammy committee placing his music for consideration for rap records instead of pop. It was in this interview where Drake once again had to double down on his claims for his desire to be seen as a pop artist instead of a rapper. This is for good reason, because if you look at his career through the scope of a rapper, you’re doing a disservice to the many other talents that he has a song with as a songwriter and his ear for hit records.
Drake makes sure to highlight every tool in his arsenal. From the barbs thrown on “Free Smoke” and “Do Not Disturb,” to the run of international vibes running from “Passionfruit” to “Blem”, he’s truly in his element. What we have is an artist who has moved on from trying to become a credible rapper to trying to take the pop world by storm. While at this point it seems rather silly to continue placing Drake in the “rapper” category, he hasn’t broken through according to the powers that be. Yet for now, let’s enjoy the sounds and vibes of More Life, because of this is any indication, this summer is gonna be a memorable one.