“More” Than Enough: Drake’s “More Life” – A Review
When you hear the lovely voice over a delicate piano open More Life, this soft opening demands an eye roll, but then Boi-1da’s production smacks you in the face with “Free Smoke”. The song's end wakes you up from a binge-like, dazed state — the three random sectors off of the first track slightly foreshadow the upcoming pivots and transitions of the project — and then launches into “No Long Talk”.
My initial reaction was that the first two songs of Drake’s More Life were better than the entirety of Views. It was probably a premature assumption, possibly harsh and maybe inaccurate, but, hey, you can’t fight the gut feelings, man.
These feelings are mainly based off of low expectations, if any at all, I had for this album. (Sorry, playlist. Drake can keep being a stickler with this all he wants, but I’m doubtful it’ll stick.) My research and knowledge were sparse leading up to the release of his follow-up to his commercially successful, yet generally underwhelming 2016 album titled Views.
I didn’t know he was rumored to work with U.K. grime artists or make it into a pseudo-Roc La Familia project by appearing on the record while trying to highlight his OVO cohorts. I didn’t really care for all of the preambles; my attitude was, "Just drop the album and show us what you’re working with, dude."
The latter part of that last sentence stems from my disappointment in his previous effort. I wasn't convinced in my first few listens and I tried to let it grow on me, but it just didn’t happen. Drake hyped Views up way too much and it was overly confident as he boasted on “Hype” that “Views already a classic”, which it isn’t. I’m highly skeptical that anyone would rank Views as a top 3 Drake album, and if they do, I simply couldn't be around that person for very long.
Before I move on from Views, I have to give Drake credit for getting slammed, for making the album lengthy, and then throwing up a middle finger to everyone by making More Life almost just as long. You could easily shave off almost half the songs on Views to get a better product; but with More Life, it's hard to say the same. What could you leave off?
This isn’t to say the album is perfect, but its imperfection makes it wonderful and easily one of the better projects of Drake's career. There are no songs that are designed to rule the charts ( such “Controlla”, “One Dance” or “Too Good”), but there are songs that will rule the charts. (“Passionfruit” and “Portland” are locks, then you can go with anything from “Madiba Riddim”, “Gyalchester”, “Blem” or “Ice Melts”.)
His greatest effort is still Take Care, as it is, hands down, sonically speaking, his best album. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late holds Drake's best lyrics and flows — even if as he spits “I switch flows like I switch time zones” on “Gyalchester” — but both of those areas are bountiful on this “playlist”.
The pomposity and solipsism clouding Views were tangible and dismissible. On More Life, as well-crafted and thought out as it is, it doesn’t feel that way, which is why Drake is trying to cement the “playlist” tag on this project as it not only reflects the streaming age we live in, but it also just feels like he threw a bunch of songs together that you could play at a barbecue, kick-back, pre-drink, after-party or whatever you fancy.
Not to say that the pomposity ("I don’t take naps”) and solipsism (“I drunk text J. Lo”) are completely absent from More Life, but it just feels more humbled.
Drake is an astute pop artist living in the internet age, and he had to be aware that Views was as close to an L as he’s ever taken. It didn’t feel like he had to come back like he had something to prove, but, nevertheless, Drake knew he had to come correct.
It’s arguable to say whether this is Drizzy at his most confident, but it’s definitely him at his most assured. He knows what sounds and vibes he can play with it and which ones suit him best.
With “One Dance” and “Hotline Bling” being his two biggest hits, you knew he’d double down on the dance soundscape with a 5-song stretch in the first third of the “playlist” from “Passionfruit” to “Blem”, excluding “Jorja Interlude”. Tough Guy Drake, as much as we scoff at him, is still a lot of fun to listen to. (See “Free Smoke” and “Can’t Have Everything”.)
Sure, we can knock him for being this vampiric culture vulture as he confusingly displays different accents, and dips his toes in anything from U.K. grime to dancehall. At least he's a guy who not only listens to what's out there but also shows that he has a good ear for it, as he injects his various stylings into it and making some of the most appealing music a major pop artist can put out there.
There will be some silly Drake quotes people will relay in songs like “Gyalchester” (see above: the no-nap claim), but there are also some cool ones from the same song like how he’s top 2, but he’s not 2; or how he starts “Portland” with Drake-ian detail by saying how his side-chick still hits him back right away even with a cracked screen iPhone 5S. Also, it feels like Drake will not let us forget that he beefed with and conquered Meek Mill as he continues with the subliminal jabs.
I’m the type of Drake fan who loves it when he raps and doesn’t go crazy when he sings. However, I admit that he provides some of his best crooning on More Life. His “Shoulda naaa na-na-na” in “Nothings Into Somethings” is oddly soothing; and so is the way he longs for old times in “Since Way Back”.
In “Passionfruit”, he made think/feel two things: 1) “Yeah, this song is totally what a passion fruit would sound like!” and 2) when he says “Passionate from miles away/Passive with the things you say”, I went,”Oh wow… I’ve definitely treated someone like this before”, making it one of the more relatable and honest things Drake has ever sung.
He then follows that with the surprisingly mature and evolved lines of “Passing up on my old ways/I can’t blame you now”.
Speaking of maturing, his mother’s recording at the end of “Can’t Have Everything” shows how the people close to him have noticed the effects of the negative headspace he was in, and how on “Do Not Disturb” he seems to be getting into a better place. On “Lose You”, one of his best records in a long time, it’s classic Drake introspective-poor-rich guy rap that sounds wiser and more earnest than usual.
The features are interesting as no one really stands out with an unrivaled appearance, but they remain welcome after repeated listens.
Giggs doesn’t seem like he’ll warm up to new fans as mush as Jorja Smith will; Skepta owns his interlude, and Sampha holds dearly onto the “4422” lush beat to make it his; “Glow” is a lovely, imperfectly perfect Drizzy-Yeezy collabo; Quavo, Travi$ Scott and Young Thug hold their own, but 2 Chainz delivers the best-featured verse as he often does.
Also, I can’t believe Drake let the world believe he was crushing with Jennifer Lopez when he was simply getting permission to sample from “If You Had My Love” for “Teenage Fever”; what a lovable dork.
Expect this “playlist” to dominate the airwaves for Summer 2017, and probably the better part of the year as well.
Expect to randomly say shit like “Hermes link… Ice blue mink”, or “Michael Phelps with the swim moves”, or drunkenly sing your lungs out to “Fake Love” or get ready to turn the F up the second you hear that flute from “Portland”.
I didn't expect much from More Life, as I waiting for an EP of some sorts or a Kendrick-like untitled unmastered project. He unloaded a lot from the last year into this beautiful package, and I’m already anxious to hear from him in 2018.
written by The W