Rachel Reviews: Drake ‘More Life’ Playlist

 

Image result for more life cover

 


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.

 

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Same, Chandler, same

 

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.

 

WHAT’S HOT

 

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.

 

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Imagine “The Lion King” but with a hip-hop score

 

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).

 

COLD

 

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.”

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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:

  1. 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”
  2. 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”
  3. 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.

 

3. Self-Contradictory

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:

 

Image result for whose mans is this dog

 

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.

 

Coldest songs:

  1. “Jorja Interlude”: It’s an interlude so I’ll ease off, but it was forgettable and didn’t do anything with Smith’s vocals.
  2. “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.
  3. “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?

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

 

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!

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Rachel Reviews: Drake’s ‘VIEWS’

Drake-Views-Album-Cover

 

I know, it seems strange to review Drake’s “VIEWS” first, which came out after Beyoncé dropped “Lemonade,” but I was sent zip files of both albums by people (who shall remain unnamed) on the same day, and “VIEWS” just happened to load first. That’s pretty much the extent of my reasoning. I’ll try and put out a review for “Lemonade” (as if you haven’t heard enough about it yet) soon, but for now, read on to see what I think of Drake’s new album. Thanks for visiting!


 

There are 20 songs on “VIEWS,” so I won’t do what I did with Kendrick’s “untitled unmastered” and review each track individually — instead, I’ll mention a few overarching themes, as well as my picks for the best and worst songs from Drake’s fourth studio album.

 

MAIN TAKEAWAYS

 

1. “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and Drake — Drake took the one more traveled by”

I guess this is my pretentious way of saying that I think Drake is rehashing the same topics and personas he’s tackled before on his previous albums. There’s the paranoid, untrusting Drake from “Energy” that pops up again in “Keep the Family Close” and “U With Me?”. We also have the braggadocious, “I’m better than everyone,” 6-God figure we’ve heard in “Started from the Bottom,” and now hear in “Hype,” Grammys” and “Pop Style.” And of course, the unlucky-in-love and pining Drake reappears in “Redemption,” “Faithful,” “Too Good,” “Fire & Desire” and most famously, his 2015 hit “Hotline Bling.” There really aren’t any new topics he’s bringing up here, which is a little disappointing and which keeps “VIEWS” from reaching Classic Album status to me. But granted, some of these songs are catchy as hell, so I’ll let him slide a bit.

 

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2. The production is on-point, almost too on-point …  

Longtime Drake collaborator and friend Noah “40” Shebib produced the majority of the album’s songs, so you know it’s going to be good. However, there were times when it felt like the production was so great it overshadowed what Drake was trying to get across. A prime example is on “9,” the second song on the album. It starts off cool and dream-trance-y, but Drake fails to say anything important or memorable for me, except convey a general sense of “I’m coming for you, bitch,” which isn’t anything fresh from him, although the phrase “turn the six upside down, it’s a nine now” makes me laugh.

“Feel No Ways,” the fourth track, has some really cool retro sounds going on, thanks to production by Jordan Ullman, one half of OVO-signed duo Majid Jordan. The group’s known for its smooth and ultra nostalgia beats (Frank Ocean reference, anyone?) so I totally dug the vibe, but again, I didn’t really care about Drake’s lyrics. He’s done at least five other songs (probably more) about how he can’t move on from a relationship, so what else is there to say?

Moreover, while the production of each song was generally solid, there were times when the sound felt discordant. I get it’s supposed to reflect the changes in Toronto’s seasons, but each season/section of the album didn’t really seem to connect to the other. It jumps from orchestral and big-band reminiscent on “Keep the Family Close,” to retro on “Feel No Ways,” classic R&B with “Weston Road Flows,” then dancehall and afrobeat on “One Dance.” They’re all cool sounds on their own, but together it feels a little messy.

3. What’s Hot

There are some great tracks on the album, the first being “Hype,” which as I mentioned, is standard Drake bragging (“They wan’ be on TV right next to me / You cannot be right here next to me”), but it’s seriously intense and probably one of the hardest-hitting songs on the entire album.

Next is “Redemption,” which is Drake crooning at its finest. I loved the lines “Aw, please give me time / Cause I’m searchin’ for these words to say to you,” which was accompanied with a kind of sincerity that makes me slightly less annoyed that he keeps doing these same kind of lovelorn songs.

Another of my favorites was “Faithful,” the ninth track on “VIEWS,” and dvsn’s verse completely stole the show for me. The album has contributions from the likes of Future and Rihanna, but without a doubt my favorite feature was from the lesser-known act dvsn (or is it Dvsn?), the other Canadian R&B group signed to OVO besides Majid Jordan.¹ It was actually breathtaking to hear Daniel Daley’s² lush vocals, accompanied by the chorus — and when he hits those high notes … 

damndaniel

Sorry, I had to.

Other highlights include “One Dance” and the song everyone and their mother know, “Hotline Bling.” They were released before “VIEWS” came out, so I don’t have too much to add that hasn’t been said already. The latter is insanely catchy, but also condescending when you really examine the lyrics (why is Drake trying to stop this girl from being independent and having a good time??), so take it with a grain of salt.

4. What’s Cold

There wasn’t any song I hated on the album, but tracks like “Weston Road Flows” fell a little flat for me, especially with the way Mary J. Blige’s song, “Mary’s Joint” was used. Was it just me or did it sound like someone was playing that track twice at the same time? It just seemed messy and disjointed to me, although there were some great throwback references in the song, from TLC to T-Minus to Hpnotiq.

I also found both “Child’s Play” and “Pop Style” to be quite dumb, although the latter is slightly catchier. The former is pretty patronizing and basically says to the girl in question that if she doesn’t act the way Drake wants her, he’ll “give [her] back to the hood.” Also, lines like “she rode that dick like a soldier” won’t be putting him into the lyrical Hall of Fame any time soon.

Furthermore, while “Pop Style” is fun, I feel like the line, “Got so many chains they call me Chaining Tatum,” compels me to hate it on principle. I expect that from someone like 2 Chainz (it certainly would make more sense given his moniker), not Drake. That’s probably one of the dumbest things I’ve heard thus far in the year, and that’s taking into account the fact that I found out they’re making Angry Birds into a goddamn movie.

FINAL THOUGHTS

 

Like I said, “VIEWS” is far from a classic album, but it still has some really great tracks. There are slow jams for those inclined to sit and reflect while sullenly nursing a glass of red wine, but for people who want to get up and move, the album provides tracks for livelier scenarios as well.

Overall, I see “VIEWS” as more of a bridge to cross before getting to the really good stuff, and it makes me look forward to what Drake has to offer in the future. Apparently he’ll be coming out with more stuff in the summer, so stay tuned for that.


 

Scale: 1 (frozen) – 10 (boiling)

Rating: 8, or the attractiveness of white Chrises.

There are so many Chrises, I kind of forget who’s who. There’s Evans, Pine, Hemsworth, Pratt — the list goes on. They’re all attractive and probably really nice, but no Chris really sticks out to me since they all have that superhero-playing-suburban-dad-who-barbecues thing going on. Drake’s album is comparable: it’s catchy and agreeable, but not really that different from “Take Care” or “Nothing Was the Same.”

See you soon for Beyonce’s “Lemonade”!


Footnotes, because I’m fancy

1. What is it with Canada these days? They’re killing it on the R&B front: There’s The Weeknd, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Majid Jordan, Tory Lanez, dvsn, etc.
2. Disclaimer: I’m not 100 percent sure if it actually is Daniel Daley on the vocals. Besides producer Nineteen85, it’s still unclear who’s exactly in the group, although there are rumors Daley is also part of dvsn. So for now, I’m assuming it’s Daley singing in “Faithful,” otherwise my meme-ing doesn’t work at all here.

Hot and Cold: Week of 4/11 (ish)

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It’s been a whiiile since I’ve done another “Hot and Cold”! This week I talk about Drake, new bills and whitewashing (cheery topic I know), among other things.


HOT

1. Drake releases new songs, date of album drop & plans to trademark his name (probably) 

There’s been a slew of Drake news in April, from him dropping two new songs, to him announcing that his upcoming album, “Views From the 6” will be out on April 29. Artists who are rumored to be involved with the album include Beyoncé, Jay Z, Kanye and even Willow Smith.

I’m stoked for the album, which will be Drake’s fourth and the follow-up to “Nothing Was the Same,” but right now I’m just wondering what’s next for young Aubrey. He’s done everything from rapping, singing, acting, to even hosting (both “Saturday Night Live” and the ESPY Awards) — what can we expect in the future? A collaboration between OVO and actual owls? Trademarking the name “Drake”? It doesn’t seem that unthinkable, since the last time Drake Bell’s name was mentioned, it was probably in a sentence like, “Who is Drake Bell again?”

In the words of Tyra Banks: “Two Drake’s stand before me … but only one can be America’s Next Top Drake.”

drake bar mitzvah

Drake on “SNL” in 2014

2. BuzzFeed’s profile of Karyn Kusama

I know, I know. It’s been BuzzFeed this, BuzzFeed that on this blog lately, but I really do have to give it props. BuzzFeed writer Adam B. Vary wrote a beautiful profile of director Karyn Kusama, who, despite making an acclaimed debut film, didn’t have the ascent to stardom other directors with her talent had because she was a woman. It’s a great read for a better understanding of the unfairness in Hollywood and how hard it is for movies to get made that aren’t about straight, white guys. 

3. Profile of Metro Boomin

As y’all can see by now, I love me some profiles. I always like it more when writers actually get to follow their subjects around (which sounds more trench-coaty and suspicious than it is) and spend a few days with them. It allows you to know that person in a much more intimate way than just asking, “Who’s your favorite artist?” or “What can we expect from your next album?”

This profile features the very in-demand producer, Metro Boomin. He’s known for producing for artists like Future (and for Future’s now-famous intro, “If Young Metro don’t trust you I’m gon’ shoot you”). But this piece dives in deeper, and examines Metro’s (real name Leland Tyler Wayne) childhood and how he got to where he is now.

At 23 years old, Metro seems relatively inexperienced, but he’s actually been on his production grind for about 10 years now, and even left the prestigious Morehouse College to follow his passion. It’s a wonderful look into an artist who’s so passionate and fun to be around — maybe that’s why Future values him and whether or not he trusts you? 

metro boomin

4. New bills, bills bills

It was announced just two days ago that famed abolitionist and overall bad-ass Harriet Tubman will grace the front of the new $20 bills, and that other influential figures like Sojourner Truth, Eleanor Roosevelt and Martin Luther King, Jr. will be on the $10 and $5 bills. Go inclusion! 

However, my initial excitement to this news was slightly dimmed by the fact that former President Andrew Jackson, who is on the $20 bill now, will still be featured on the back. Remember, this is the guy who was responsible for the “Trail of Tears,” which some estimate killed nearly 6000 Cherokee. So the announcement is progress … I guess? 

COLD

1. Whitewashing in “Ghost in the Shell” film

Yes, let’s cast Scarlett Johansson as a Japanese character in a movie that’s based on a Japanese manga. What, was she just so hooked from being in “Lost in Translation” that she just had to do something involving Japan again? If you love Japan so much, just stick to Instagramming your sushi like normal white girls, ScarJo, and let actual Asians tell their stories for once.

[EDIT 5/1: I wrote about whitewashing and Asian representation for my school paper, check it out here: bit.ly/1QweJcx!]

2. Earthquakes in Japan and Ecuador

At least 40 people were killed and 1000 injured after two earthquakes in Japan last week, and the earthquake in Ecuador has claimed the lives of more than 270 people. It really puts shit into perspective, like the realization that you have no idea where Ecuador is on the map and what that says about both you and the American school system. So if you can, please go and donate to charities like Oxfam.

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Aftermath of earthquake in Ecuador


That’s all for this week! See you next time (although that could be in like a week, or a month or whenever Frank Ocean drops that album (a.k.a. never)).