I had a realization the other day, while I was looking over my “Views” review: Drake is the “Friends” of rappers. Aubrey does the same thing he always does on the album (i.e. complain about women not revolving their lives around him), yet I revisit “Views” constantly. Often, when I don’t know what I’m searching for, I go back to “Redemption,” “Faithful,” “Still Here,” not to mention that the hook from “One Dance” is permanently embedded in my brain.
Similarly, “More Life,” Drake’s new playlist which came out March 18, features 22 tracks where the Toronto rapper addresses the same things he always talks about: trust issues, how he’s killing it despite his haters and all the girls he’s thinking about but can’t establish relationships with. Again, nothing new, but despite all this, Drake shows with “More Life” that he can keep my attention once again with great production, catchy hooks and effortless flow from him and guest artists.
At the risk of sounding like a white millennial, my feelings about Drake mirror my relationship with the classic sitcom “Friends.” Although I don’t think the show is that funny, and episodes sometimes reek of the same White People Problems, I still rewatch it ALL the time. It’s the perfect show to have on the background while I’m doing dishes or cleaning my apartment. It’s entertaining enough to elicit a few chuckles, but not so captivating that if I miss a moment I’ll regret it.
Drake and “Friends” are both crowd-pleasing, digestible entities that aren’t always edgy or profound. They’re not breaking genres like FKA twigs or “Legion,” or moving audiences like Chance and “Transparent.” Like I said about Lil Yachty in a previous post, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but because “More Life” is lyrically and thematically more of the same from Drake, I can’t help but want … more.
It’s a ~Playlist~, Not an Album
Apparently Drake is calling this project a playlist, rather than a traditional album. I guess that could be a smart move in terms of marketing; kids these days are all about curating and sharing Spotify playlists and whatnot. However, I can also see Drake making an incongruous album (it is 22 songs, after all) and trying to hide that by calling it a playlist. I can also see him congratulating his own originality by saying, “Damn, 6 God has done it again!! I’m a genius!”… or something along those lines.
Still, I can’t help but think this is a ploy akin to that pretentious Sven architecture firm on “How I Met Your Mother” and its “It’s not a company, it’s a collective” shtick. The worst thing is I can totally envision other artists jumping on this bandwagon and calling their future endeavors “playlists” or “aesthetic sessions” or whatever. Just release your album and go, Drake.
1. The Beat Goes In
The good news: Virtually every song on the project boasts stellar production, and I appreciate the range on it: The Nana Rogues produced “Passionfruit,” which features the bounciest beat since “Controlla,” captures a lighthearted island vibe, while another Nana track “Skepta Interlude” and “KMT,” produced by Ness (HBTL) and Cameron Pasquale, are both heavy hitters that would seem appropriate in a movie scene that introduces a villain with a scar across their face.
I even like what’s happening on “Ice Melts,” which has a melody appropriate for “Little Einsteins” or something. Produced by S1 and Supah Mario (fitting name), it has the same lullaby/video game rap aesthetic that D.R.A.M. and Yachty are known for, so I’d like to think that this whole trend is taking off, because I’m all for it.
2. Good Features
Famed U.K. grime rapper Giggs has great verses on “No Long Talk” and “KMT,” infusing each line with his signature menace, while Skepta, another well-known British grime rapper, similarly brings the heat to “Skepta Interlude.”
British singer Sampha, known for appearing on the “Nothing Was the Same” track “Too Much,” delivers soulful and haunting vocals on the otherwise lacking “4422.” It’s a repetitive song, but Sampha makes it almost work.
I also dig the hell out of Young Thug on “Sacrifices,” which also features 2 Chainz, and I love Kanye’s soulfulness on “Glow,” and the Earth, Wind & Fire sample doesn’t hurt either.
Overall, the features elevate the playlist, and I like Drake’s inclusion of established stars such as Kanye and 2 Chainz, as well as artists unfamiliar to some American audiences like Giggs, Skepta and Jorja Smith (although he didn’t utilize her considerable talents to the fullest extent IMO).
1. Culture Vulture
Drake’s been called out in the past for his liberal use of Jamaican and Caribbean slang, and this happens again on “More Life.” Take the sixth track off the playlist, “Madiba Riddim,” as an example: the title itself references both the late Nelson Mandela’s nickname, “Madiba,” and the Jamaican Patois way of saying “rhythm.” The former confuses me —what is the connection between Mandela, who fought against racism and apartheid, and Drake’s tale of “Some girls turn they back/On they best friend from time”?
Drake’s patois usage extends to the title “Gyalchester,” as well as the reference to being “maddas” on “Blem,” and even his AMAs speech where he says “chune for your headtop” appears in a few songs.
Since I’m obviously not from the Caribbeans, I don’t have the final authority on this issue. It’s also possible I’m thinking too much about it, since I didn’t have a problem with all the patois Drake dropped on “Views.” But after doing research and reading perspectives from other writers, I have to at least question my previously casual attitude toward Drake’s propensity for borrowing from other cultures.
Sajae Elder, who is Jamaican and Trinidadian and who was born in Toronto, points out that Drake has a habit of hitting and quitting it — he hops onto a culture when it’s cool and then abandons it when it’s not. She also says just because Jamaican culture is very big in Toronto, it doesn’t justify Drake’s heavy manipulation of it. He regularly uses “ting,” “wasteman” and “yute,” despite not being Jamaican, Elder continues. Further, she finds his claim that “Hotline Bling” is a riddim of “Cha Cha” to be inadequate, as he’s not from the culture of competition between dancehall artists and he’s just trying to hide that he jacked D.R.A.M.’s beat. It’s worrisome that Drake takes so much from a culture that has been vilified in the past, especially given his shaky history of crediting other artists.
As Elder states, it may be time for “non-West Indian artists to engage the full scope of our complex cultures instead of just painting something red, gold, and green and calling it a day.”
2. Thematically and lyrically repetitive
Like I said, the playlist touches on the same subjects Drake has mulled over countless times in past work. Maybe I should give “More Life” a little slack, being that it’s a playlist and I shouldn’t expect it to be as thematically fresh as an album. But generally speaking, I can file most of his songs from the playlist into three categories:
- Braggadocious and confrontational: a.k.a. “I’m the shit, and you’re not”
- Examples: “Free Smoke,” “No Long Talk,” “Gyalchester,” “Skepta Interlude,” “KMT,” “Can’t Have Everything,” “Glow”
- Lovelorn: “Why won’t this girl be with me in the way I want?”
- “Passionfruit,” “Get It Together,” “Blem,” “Nothing’s Into Somethings,” “Teenage Fever,” “Since Way Back,” “Ice Melts”
- Trust issues (which is also a recurring theme in his lovelorn songs):
- “Madiba Riddim,” “Portland,” “Fake Love”
Those are pretty much the same themes I’ve seen from his previous work, especially “Views.” Drake postured on “9,” “Hype” and “Still Here”; griped about old flames on “Feel No Ways,” “Redemption” and most famously “Hotline Bling”; then of course mentioned his world-renowned trust issues on “Keep the Family Close.” He even put out a song called “Trust Issues” back in 2011. At this point, when you Google that phrase, a picture of Drake will pop up as a result. Is there even a Drake without trust issues? It’s his bread and butter. But at the same time, it might show that a) he needs to reevaluate some of his priorities (maybe stop chasing after unavailable women??), or b) stretch his creativity and not rehash the same themes again and again.
I find Drake to be utterly unconvincing when he says “I don’t care what society thinks” on “Lose You.” If that’s true Aubrey, why do you feel the need to mention your “Hermes link, ice-blue mink” and make seven tracks on this playlist that contradict that statement? And why would you bag on Meek for “ego strokin’” with his Rolexes on “Lose You” when you do the same thing, bragging about your “new Maybach” on “Gyalchester”? Come on, man.
Hottest Songs (in order of appearance, not by preference):
1. “Passionfruit”: Sure it sounds like a tune that YouTube beauty gurus will use as background music of a tutorial called “summer glow makeup,” but putting that aside, the beat is infectiously bright and I just KNOW I’ll spend the next month playing this on repeat.
2. “Can’t Have Everything”: I’m living for Drake’s flow and the killer beat, also the line “Come and get your mans” makes me laugh and think of this:
3. “Glow”: Beautiful, beautiful song. Content-wise it’s basically “Started From the Bottom,” but Kanye’s vocals and the production make it seem heartfelt rather than pompous.
4. “Fake Love”: Released October last year, this track is one of the standouts from the playlist. The hook is insanely catchy and I was on board from the get-go.
- “Jorja Interlude”: It’s an interlude so I’ll ease off, but it was forgettable and didn’t do anything with Smith’s vocals.
- “Nothings Into Somethings”: This slow jam feels like it’s missing something, and other commenters have also said they thought PartyNextDoor or Bryson Tiller could’ve added much needed energy to it.
- “Since Way Back”: Speaking of Party, this track is no “Come and See Me.” It’s like “Come and See Me” if that song were five times more boring. Also, this track brings up some questions: Are they singing to different women? Or are they singing to the same girl?? If so, it might as well be called “More Than Words,” ammirite?
SCALE: 1 (frozen) – 10 (boiling)
RATING: 7.5 (Like a nice oatmeal)
Overall, I find myself wanting more from “More Life.” The outstanding production, rather than completely winning me over, further emphasizes Drake’s lack of lyrical creativity. He raps about wanting more success and personal fulfillment, and I hope he finds it, especially the latter. Maybe if he’s finally secure with himself, and not spending his time feuding with people, he can generate new fodder for the next album.
If it seems like I’m being too hard on Drake, it’s because I think he’s capable of delivering more (wow I sound like a mom here lol). I’m anticipating that his next [insert trendy name for album here] will bring something new.
What did y’all think of the playlist? Hot or cold? Let me know!