Album Of The Week: Drake – ‘More Life’

Written By Reece Hooker on 03/20/2017

Drake’s long-awaited 22-track playlist More Life has arrived. Premiering on OVO Sound Radio this weekend, the project is a bloated beast of original music with features from Kanye West, Young Thug, Skepta and more.

More Life poses a challenge to listeners examining it critically, whilst bending to consumers who listen leisurely: More Life is not an album, nor should it be considered as such. The songs aren’t constructed or ordered cohesively, the project is stylistically scattered and the tone fluctuates wildly over the hour.

The highpoint of the project is the guest features – each hits their mark with startling proficiency. From the budding stars (Jorja Smith) to the heavyweights (Kanye West), Drake manages to mix and match each artists to a song that complements their strengths beautifully. Whilst Drake himself seems distracted as he raps, he scores top marks for his curation of the playlist.

There are some clear standouts that emerge on a first listen: Passionfruit is instantly likeable and warm. The song strips Drake back to basics, sounding exceptionally authentic by just being direct. He’s also cheesy, romantic and clumsy on Passionfruit – a nice human touch from the rapper who has sounded bratty as of late, pouting at the Cheesecake Factory and hiding Bugatti keys.

When Drake embraces the vulnerable dork, he taps into something that is both unique and endearing. It disarms the lonely millionaire and feels sincerer than anything the child actor can accomplish when he tries to growl his way through a single.

This approach gets a welcome revisit on Madiba Riddim, a dancehall-flavoured cousin of 2010’s Find Your Love that grooves to a sunny guitar love.

Get It Together shines as an alternate take on ViewsToo Good. Swapping steel drums and Rihanna for a midnight synth and Jorja Smith, the song is one of the project’s most complete pop moments that should be a keeper on any playlist.

As should 4422, a magical reunion of Drake and Sampha. The duo rekindle their organic chemistry birthed on Too Much for a slow-moving quiet song.

Teenager Fever finds Drake at his most Drake, sampling Jennifer Lopez’s If You Had My Love for a petty break-up song all about J-Lo. It’s another divine entry in the Drake-mopes-about-women catalogue that has been long played out, but consistently executed to perfection. Over Hagler’s beat, Drake manages to pen a song that is painfully personal yet eminently accessible – a talent he rode to a global stardom.

While Drake has a demonstrated ability to rap and sing, More Life is stronger on the pop end of the spectrum than rap. Too often rake’s bars are unconvincing and the heavy lifting is left to the all-star roster of guests. They hold up their end of the bargain, but the rap end of the project feels a little too inconsistent to match the quality of pop featured on the playlist.

Portland is a talking point coming out of the radio premiere, with a quirky flute line being both derided and celebrated, depending where you look. That boils down to personal preference, but it’s undeniably a shade weaker than Metro Boomin offered Future on Mask Off and it mars a series of excellent verses from Drizzy, Quavo and Travis Scott.

Many of the rap-oriented songs on the project are hat-tips to Drake’s friends in the English scene. Grime veteran Giggs gets two features on the project, No Long Talk and KMT.

KMT is the better of duo as Drake operates closer to his comfort zone: frosty, lyrical and wounded – rapping “Love is just not in my plans” one song after snarling at rumoured belle Jennifer Lopez.

Comparatively, on No Long Talk Drake cribs slang and accents from the English scene – lovingly, but clumsily. That difference is accentuated when stood up next to Giggs, who is intrinsically connected to the scene in a way that Drake isn’t. Consequently, Drake comes off as the amateur and Giggs the professional.

Drake being outshone by his guests is a persistent theme on the project, resulting a number of great entries that are made largely on the back of the feature artists. There isn’t a feature on the entire album that doesn’t hit: Giggs and Skepta show why the U.K. is leading the game, Young Thug dares to drop the autotune on Sacrifice and Kanye West shoots for the headlines on Glow.

If Drake wants a lesson from this, he can take it from Kanye West on Glow. Since the pandemonium that followed The Life of Pablo, new music from the Chicago emcee has been drip-fed to a starving fan base. Fifteen minute remixes from The-Dream are furiously consumed, just because Kanye’s name is in the title. Kanye’s work on Glow, like much of his feature work, is a little spare and lacking but the track just feels special.

It’s memorable and one of the talking points coming out of more life, a highlight in a wide pool of 22 tracks. That’s because we haven’t heard much from Kanye lately and anything new to scratch the itch is welcome.

More Life reflects a bold, progressive philosophical choice from Drake that is bound to polarise. Views was Drake’s shot at a magnum opus and it fell short of his lofty ambitions, settling as a commercial giant that received lukewarm reception. More Life disregards the artistic goals that Views harboured and instead looks outwards, catering towards appeasing as many people as possible.

That takes a while to wrap one’s head around, but it’s clever. Drake signs off Do Not Disturb, the excellent project closer, promising “I’ll be back in 2018 to give you the summary.”

Whether this signals a hiatus or not is unclear. If that is the case, we’ve been gifted a drove to keep us fed while Toronto’s king goes into hibernation. Not every song on More Life will be loved but with such a wide offering available, Drake has ensured there will be something for everyone.

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