More Life, More Heat, More of The Same Drake
Drake is a very smart man and I’m not certain everyone realizes it. Perhaps they do, and are unwilling to admit it. Either way, the man knows what he is doing. Views became the longest reigning #1 album in history. It sold more records than any other in 2016. It also gave Drake his first #1 hit. Simultaneously, it was easily his most critiqued project in his discography. It lacked cohesion, his narrative was redundant and it was at 20 songs, it was simply too long. To me, Drake put together 20 songs which very well could have been standalone singles, and put them in a random order on the album. “Keep The Family Close” was deliberately made the opener, and “Views” deliberately the closer. Otherwise, there wasn’t much of a flow.
So what does he do next? He drops four singles and announces a “playlist” entitled More Life set to drop before 2016 ends. Seven months after he dropped Views, more heat? Well naturally it didn’t drop when he said it would, but the cryptic Instagram posts, the worldwide tour and everyone he brought on stage was enough for people to spend their time predicting features and songs on the album. The haters got their words in, too, but the haters don’t seem to realize any publicity is good publicity. Drake doesn’t care how people feel about him. He simply cares that people feel anything about him at all. It must suck to hate this guy though, because he literally plays EVERYWHERE.
I’m not in Drake’s head, though I’d like to think we are very similar. I think he focused more on what everyone was saying was wrong with Views and sought to correct those mistakes in More Life. The whole “playlist” title served to lower people’s expectations for what is a groundbreaking album. Playlists follow moods, vibes and seek to converge a diversity of sounds, specifically mixing the new into the old--what he's sought to do ever since he entered the game. His albums have always combined hip-hop and R&B, and as of late he’s expanded to more Carribean-style music and grime which is popular in the UK.
More Life, musically, was very production strong. Noah 40 Shehib did some of his best work here. The samples on More Life were also excellent, featuring a samples from Earth, Wind, & Fire, Jennifer Lopez, Drake himself, among nearly a hundred others. Realistically, More Life is not too far off from Views, except that cohesion and flow are present from beginning to end. When I first listened on OVO Sound Radio for Drake’s pseudo-nationwide listening party, I couldn’t tell when one song was finishing and another song was starting. Most of his songs ended with the beat that began the next song, something that Views did not really do. Seamless transitions between each song made it easier to just get lost in the sound, which is crazy given this playlist was longer than Views at 22 songs.
Drizzy brought some of the best bars I’ve heard from him in a long time. Most notably the opener “Free Smoke,” “Jorja Interlude” and the closer “Do Not Disturb”. He additionally brought his timeless, hypnotic vocals on tracks like “Teenage Fever,” which samples J. Lo and “Since Way Back”.
He takes a lot of risks with songs like “No Long Talk” and “KMT” by trying to brand the British accent and the inclusion of twice-featured artist Giggs. However, fake accent or not, he introduces the world to an artist they would have otherwise not paid much attention to, something Drake has done for many artists in the past. He also highlights Jorja Smith, who brings captivating vocals, along with Black Coffee. People seem to forget that Toronto is home to many Carribeans and Afro-Carribeans, much like the UK. So wihle it may come off as Drake trying to be someone he isn’t, he’s in fact appreciating the culture upon which he grew up. He’s expanding his range as an artist.
As far as big name features go, I don’t think Drake could’ve done better than two Young Thug features (one where he even uses his real voice), Travis Scott, Quavo, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Kanye West and 2 Chainz. Skepta, the more popular of UK artists on this playlist, brings some bars and Sampha’s tantalizing performance on “4422” may be one of the biggest highlights of this album. Following up a track with Trav and Quavo, by a track with Thug and Chainz was almost too much the first time around, but the two tracks were distinct in vibe and message. The only features I’d have to liked to see that were missing was dvsn., along with The Weeknd and Bryson Tiller, who were hinted at quite frequently.
Naturally, the disses were also in abundance. Drake cleverly fired shots at Meek Mill, Jay-Z, Tory Lanez and Makonnen. It took a few listens and read throughs of the actual lyrics to fully see the shade, but he was not shy about letting everyone know he hears everything they say and that he’ll happily engage in wars of words.
I think a lot of people’s biggest problem with the playlist will be, and already is, Drake’s fans. It’s no secret that we tend to not stop talking about everything he does, which he plays into with his marketing. He announced More Life, dropped 4 singles and only included one of them on the album so as to not provide the same experience as Views where we’d already heard 25 percent of the album by the time it was released. He kept us at the edge of our seats and Tweets with this. I’m very surprised Twitter didn’t break down upon the playlist starting on OVO Sound Radio.
What Drake didn’t necessarily do with this album was change his narrative. He came into the game saying he’d be one of the best when it’s all said and done. Over the last few years his narrative has changed to acknowledging that what he said is true, despite what the haters say. He’s fought ghostwriting rumors, diss tracks, Instagram posts and overall heavy criticism. Yet, he’s here to stay. What’s next though? We’ve enjoyed If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, What A Time To Be Alive, Views and More Life. We’ve enjoyed the clever jabs at rappers, references to the baddest women in the game whose company he’s been able to enjoy and really how much fun he seems to have doing this music thing. He certainly hints living this "more life" with exhaustion, but says maybe this life of success just doesn’t get old and that’s how it goes.
I can somewhat understand Drake haters and their complaints when it comes to him as an artist. It’s interesting seeing the same people who complain about artists changing their sound and content complaining when an artist who has already reached his peak remains stagnant in his content. The operative word there is “peak.” Drake is undeniably the best overall artist in the game. However, I get it. I think the world needs to be a bit more patient. The 6 God always has more in store. We needed Views in order to fully appreciate More Life. I personally see More Life as his second best project now, still falling short of the bonafide classic Take Care. But what the title hints at is him living his life to the fullest, enjoying the spoils of being an amazing artist, yet there is still more for him to do. Such as, diversifying his sound.
He’s always seeking to break down a new barrier, explore a new genre and link up with a new artist who can bring something new out of him. The way he was able to match Giggs, Quavo and Kanye West on the same album are a testament to his artistic range. Nobody debates that. However, having now been able to make hits, and make them flow, he needs to focus on what the people seemingly care about most now – the story.
If you didn’t like More Life, I hope it was because you didn’t enjoy the music and not because of the hype and his fans. He gave us yet another peek at his life, despite the fact it may lack the depth people appreciate from artists like J. Cole and Chance. His story may not be the story you wanted to hear, but it is what it is. He’s got more life in him. More to say, more to do and much more to achieve.