The Canadian rapper and streaming favourite is breaking boundaries with his new playlist
Just under a year ago, little known underground rapper Drake kicked off a trend later piggy-backed by the likes of Ariana Grande and The Weeknd.
'Views' - his last record - stood at a gargantuan 20 tracks in an attempt to fully assault the streaming charts. That he did, but at a cost - 'Views' was criticised for its bloat, with many suggesting that at least 8 or 9 tracks could have stayed on Drizzy's Macbook for a rainy day release
His 'More Life' 'playlist' (more on this later) builds on this legacy, totalling 22 tracks. But what's the percentage ratio of killer to filler on his latest endeavor?
Drake's mainstream privilege means he was able to bring Caribbean music and Jamaican patois to an entirely new audience (Rihanna should probably get some credit too for Work).
Afrobeats and dancehall vibes are once again heavily featured on 'More Life' - something that hasn't gone unnoticed by the opinionated. Social media users have labelled his imitations as desperate; others argue that, like any artist, it's him paying homage to a genre he has vested interest in.
Ultimately, it's a formula that worked on 'Views's stronger album tracks, and similarly on 'More Life'. Passionfruit is a sweaty 80s beach-side ride in which Drizzy finally acknowledges that his prowess no longer lies in his rapping, but in his melodic ability. A moment of vibrato on the second verse is a wonderfully vulnerable moment; a reminder that Drake is just a man behind the hype. Madiba Riddim is bass and percussion heavy - another sweet shimmy through the islands.
On top of the Caribbean influence, Drake's clearly developed an infatuation with UK grime and hip-hop (who can blame him when Stormzy's releasing records as good as he is?)
With tracks like Blem, however, his impressions are a little more grating. Hearing the Toronto native sing: "I need you to stop runnin' back to your ex, he’s a wasteman" is the musical equivalent of mutton dressed as lamb.
On OVOSOUND Radio he talked about being a fan of Skepta, who features later on 'More Life', and said he wanted to shine light on the UK Grime scene. A slightly patronising take from the Canadian, given that those involved in the genre are doing a perfectly good on their own. However, it could also be argued that any publicity is good publicity and undoubtedly, 'More Life' will bring the genre to more ears.
Funnily enough, it's the appearances from British artists that do the most for 'More Life'. On KMT, Giggs' subtle delivery is refreshing - the stark key change only further highlighting his talents as an MC: “Fingers all itching, twitching, looking all jerky / Whipping that white girl, cooking that Cersei.”
Skepta's Interlude sees Drake give Skepta an opportunity to spit - and spit he does. It's a confident delivery without being overstated, and provides a decent break in the 'playlist' - as does Sampha's beautiful solo 4422, which is as haunting as it is serene.
Those who missed the old Kanye will love his work on Glow, potentially the most raw sounding track on the LP. Boasting strong vocals, the verses aren't overly imaginative, but their camaraderie can be felt and gives hope that that much-rumoured collaborative album will eventually see the light of day.
Overall the album's disposition is a sunny. Thematically, it's immediately obvious that it flows better than 'Views'. But much like 'Views', 'More Life' crumbles under its own weight. His attempts to justify this by ultimately referring to it as a 'playlist' and a 'project' don't take away from this fact
No artist is interesting enough or has enough to talk about - especially not Drake - to warrant releasing an album 22 tracks in length. 'More Life's narrative will satiate hardcore fans, but his continued portrayal of himself as The Boy Scorned™️️ will do nothing to win over fence-sitters. (His digs at Jennifer Lopez and Serena Williams just come across as salty).
It's not an album, but it's not a mixtape - it lacks the unashamed rawness that made his previous free release 'If You're Reading This It's Too Late a game-changer. On the close, he promises: “See you back in 2018 and I’ll give you this summary". Hopefully he does so, and brings more life to far less tracks.