More Life is one of my favorite projects ever, as the music transports me back to one of the most pivotal times of my life. Today, on its five-year anniversary, I reflect on being in the midst of my (first) senior year at Cornell University and coping with the reality I would graduate a semester later than planned. This collection instilled in me a much-needed, two-pronged sense of confidence, in that there was more to life than the failures that bogged me down because I had “more life” within me. I reflect fondly on being able to bounce back from the losses the same way Drake touched on his ability to do the same, following his commercially successful yet critically panned 2016 album, Views.
Now, revisiting this project wasn’t all pleasant. In fact, I hate my editor, Austin Williams, for making me rank songs that mean so much to me, but, of course, thank him for the opportunity to put my pen to work. I now have more empathy for my fellow list-writing journalists.
More Life was one of Drake’s most daring efforts, and it landed. He packed so much into one project, delivering at a high clip within each sub-genre. Everyone may not love everything, but there’s something, possibly a lot, for everyone to enjoy here. More Life is often kept out of the “top Drake projects” conversation for a variety of reasons: His labeling the project a playlist (perhaps to alleviate pressure), its technical “commercial mixtape” title a la Wikipedia, the underutilization of the compiled songs post-release, and other potential factors.
Ranking this project was challenging yet fun. It’s easy to say, “This is top five,” but actually creating the order and then quadrupling that number is my villain origin story (*cues “Free Smoke”*). What this list reinforced is that the best Drake songs are carried by their memorable moments, Easter egg-laden songwriting, and, of course, the emotion he both conveys to listeners and elicits from them.
Moreover, what’s notable about this list of 22 Drake songs is more than half of them are good if not great, which can’t be said of very many artists. The variety of genres on More Life stratifies the many sides of Drake, succinctly displayed in the diversity of the record’s top four songs.
Enjoy my ranking on behalf of VIBE. We look forward to the debates we’ll more than likely ignore.
"Glow" (aka The Worst Drake And Kanye Collaboration)
What a disappointing, uninspired, uncreative effort from two of music’s all-time greats. Aside from the lush production, the caption-worthy “Watch out for me, I’m about to glow” refrain, and Kanye West’s reference to The Last Dragon, there isn’t much to this song. The fact that a Drake and Ye collaborative project was rumored at the time made what they delivered here even more confusing. Of all the songs they likely made, this made the album?!
Every so often, Drake decides to utilize a weird and mostly unappealing vocal tone when singing. This marks one of those times. And Kanye’s high-level rapping days were clearly behind him by 2017, evidenced throughout The Life of Pablo, so hearing him lead this song is odd. “Glow” needed a different lightbulb.
"No Long Talk" (aka The First Giggs Song)
“No Long Talk” was an admirable effort, the first in which Drake raps with an accent he’d later refine on “Behind Barz” and the Dark Lane Demo Tapes closer, “War.” However, it doesn’t land, and Giggs, despite being respected across the pond, doesn’t do it for me. The only redeemable part of this song is the CuBeatz and Murda Beatz production, but, unfortunately, this is not an instrumental. Much like Murda’s tag, this is not nice.
"KMT" (aka The Slightly Better Giggs Song But Not Because Of Giggs)
…and here we go again. Drake sheds the accent for a rapid, chaotic flow but doesn’t say much here. Giggs turns in another poor verse, using the final couplet to reference a comic in which Batman slaps Robin. In truth, his contribution to this song was a slap in our faces. He was not needed on this album. Both features are teeth-kiss worthy to this day.
"Nothings Into Somethings" (aka The Song About Serena Williams)
The Boy was hurt here. He somehow felt he deserved to be personally notified of Serena Williams’ engagement, and that he should have been invited to the wedding?! Now, if he truly did ask her about her new flame and she said it was nothing only to later get engaged, his sore feelings make sense. However, whatever sympathy you can find in your heart is probably lost upon hearing those awkward notes in the chorus. Bearing your soul is one thing, creating almost unlistenable melodies when you’ve put out songs like “Jungle” and “Doing It Wrong” is vile.
"Skepta Interlude" (aka The Only UK Rap Feature That Should’ve Been On This Project)
“Skepta Interlude” provides a satisfactory UK presence that makes up for both lackluster Giggs verses. It also shows that, despite Drake’s generosity, Skepta should have been the sole Grime artist present on More Life. Ultimately, this isn’t Skepta’s best work either, which is why this interlude is in the bottom five. But at least his spirited flows and flexes are enjoyable.
"Fake Love" (aka The Radio Single)
This song is one of Drake’s lesser radio singles yet still inspired a mantra nonetheless. It blended the paranoia of his Views era with the experimentation found throughout More Life into a salient hook (“I been down so long, it look like up to me/ They look up to me/ I got fake people showing fake love to me/ Straight up to my face”).
A few memorable lines, primarily his nod to Odell Beckham’s famous one-handed reception, and smooth Vinylz and Ging production carry this outing. In the end, especially considering the way Drake didn’t promote this project at all post-release, “Fake Love” could’ve been left off or replaced with “Signs.” Imagine if that loosie got a proper rollout!
"Get It Together" (aka The Jorja Feature That Isn't Really A Feature)
This song has been labeled “the Jorja feature” by Austin (and the project’s tracklist) when in reality it’s Jorja Smith featuring Drake. The rumors of them dating are aided by her two verses and Drizzy only harmonizing on the chorus. It would have been nice to hear a response verse from his perspective, but being at a loss of words in the presence of the UK beauty is understandable.
“Get It Together” feels eerily similar to “Too Good” featuring Rihanna, but sped up and much more romantic. Smith is coping with matters of the heart but still wants to make it work if her partner can get it together. The song offers yet another simple refrain, but it works here. Drake and Smith sound beautiful together.
"Gyalchester" (aka The Song From The OVO Store Campaign)
Hermes link. Ice-blue mink. “Gyalchester” had the potential to be much greater, but suffered from Drake not fully committing to the frantic nature of the iBeatz-laced cut. There are moments of stardom like, “I’m never washed but I’m not new/ I know I said top five but I’m top two/ And I’m not two and I got one/ Thought you had one but it’s not one, n***a, nah.”
What followed were conflicting bars about him not needing naps but smoking spliffs to help him sleep. People were concerned with Drake’s musical decline around this time when we really should have been suggesting he see a somnologist.
"4422" (aka The Mysterious Sampha Song)
Austin says this song is boring, and I respectfully disagree given the simple fact that nerds like me have spent much time trying to confirm what Sampha was talking about.
Was he begging God to end it all because never feels fulfilled, or was he citing the Bible verse Isaiah 44:22, which is centered on forgiveness? Was he referencing the United Kingdom country code (44), where he was born, and the area code for Freetown, Sierra Leone (22), where his family originates, or was he just talking to a lover who can’t get their s**t together?
Sampha once again makes life’s hurdles sound beautiful on an unofficial interlude. If he got a longer verse, this could have possibly cracked the top ten.
"Can’t Have Everything" (aka One Of Drake’s Most Underrated Songs)
Ironically, the word underrated is overused these days. However, it does apply to “Can’t Have Everything.” Drake strings together a previously untapped flow over menacing Jazzfeezy and Steve Samson drum patterns, talking his s**t about defeating Meek Mill in their 2015 beef, keeping the Cash Money lights on, and likening himself to 2016-2017 NBA MVP Russell Westbrook. The most disrespectful part of this song is the OVO honcho comparing Meek to a cheesesteak he metaphorically ate and dismissing other rappers for staying at the Sheraton. There’s a precise delivery here that deserves more appreciation. But Champagne Papi can’t have everything.
"Portland" (aka The 2015-2016 Golden State Warriors Link)
On this song, Drake was unanimous MVP Stephen Curry, Travis Scott was 2016 Western Conference Finals Game 6 Klay Thompson, and Quavo, despite once being called the Beyonce of Migos, held down the role of Draymond Green via an underwhelming chorus.
Still, “Portland” was a linkup of epic proportions that mostly stuck the landing. The opening flutes are undeniable, Drake’s verse is loaded with coded language and impressive couplets that exemplified the villain era, which he was still in the thick of at this point. Quavo’s verse was passable, and Travis Scott did his usual universe-altering production shift during his verse.
It felt like Trav still cared about rapping at the time. I can’t quite explain why, but I love his line, “Out in Portland tryna get in her Oregons (organs).” This record truly only falters due to its hook.
"Madiba Riddim" (aka The Good Afro-Caribbean Song)
Leave it to Drake to turn a feel-good Afro-Caribbean song into another track about paranoia and dismission. Even with that, this song is infectious, cozy, groovy, and smoothly incorporates some deity praise (“God knows it/ Pure mind and pure soul I possess, he knows it/ Anointed and protected, I was chosen”) despite the rapper sensing negativity around him. This is the “God’s Plan” precursor.
"Ice Melts" (aka The Toxic King Female Empowerment Song)
This song felt like Drake and Thug didn’t even go all out, yet it’s still very good. The duo looks to earn women’s favor by acknowledging their difficult, romantic pasts and boosting them up. It comes off like they’re drunk, saying whatever it takes to get what they want.
The empowerment route is a smart one but also makes me think of that meme of Drake yelling in Rihanna’s ear. Thankfully, he and Thugger employ their melodic tones instead. It’s a light, bouncy record that along with another track we’ll discuss later showed what this tandem can do together.
"Blem" (aka The Better Afro-Caribbean Song)
“I know we can’t keep it together forever/ ‘Cause you’re crazy sometimes/ And I only see you sometimes.” Drake was not lying in suggesting he was “Blem for real” and might say how he feels. In this Afro-Caribbean foray, he calls a lady’s ex a wasteman, ponders why they’re friends-with-benefits, and ultimately says she can’t move in with him if she’s going to be extra and gossipy. Austin referred to this record as “the popular Afro-Caribbean song,” subtly slighting it because he prefers “Madiba Riddim,” but I would argue it’s also the better one given the fact that it’s less paranoid and more assured.
"Free Smoke" (aka The Cudi Diss That Made The Album)
What a tone-setter. Drake’s intros, much like his outros, are usually pensive and mid-to-low tempo, but he had a chip on his shoulder with this aggressive showing. He reflects on how far he’s come and takes aim at each enemy he’s made along the way.
For those who missed the jabs he took at Pusha T and Kid Cudi on “Two Birds, One Stone,” Drake delivers another double diss on this track, this time aimed at Cudi and Meek Mill: “Y’all keep playin’ with your nose, yeah/ You get high and do the most, yeah/ How you let the kid fightin’ ghostwritin’ rumors turn you to a ghost?” From the start of More Life, there’s venom present that reappears throughout.
"Since Way Back" (aka The Nostalgic 3 A.M. Link)
Get home from a night out. Realize you’re lonely. Think about that person who was your everything. Unlock your phone. Craft a nostalgia-triggering text. See the typing bubbles appear. Reminisce for the next few hours. Maybe you even FaceTime. That is the gist of “Since Way Back.”
PARTYNEXTDOOR and Drake collaborations do not miss, and this is no different. Singing along to this is a bit sour with the mention of that nasty Chicagoan, but everything else holds up. PARTY tells a girl his mother said she was bad news but he stuck it out. Drake remembers the days she was someone else’s before she was his and now she’s witnessing his pain.
The second part of the song, when the beat switches and Drake admits he struggles to return home because he’s afraid to see what he left behind, is even more earnest. “Since Way Back” is peak relatability.
"Jorja Interlude" (aka The “Jaded” Prelude)
There’s a tangible sense of urgency in Drake’s raps on “Jorja Interlude” despite admitting he’s exhausted. Specifically, he’s tired of both women and men, especially Tory Lanez (“Worried ‘bout takin’ my lane/ They ain’t even got on the road”).
It’s a short verse and many believe the overall song should be longer, but rehashing Stevie Wonder’s angelic harmonica solo from 2011’s “Doing It Wrong” off Take Care is a solid consolation prize. Also, one can’t help but hear the disgust in Drake’s tone paired with Jorja Smith’s vocals and not think of this as an unwitting prelude to “Jaded.”
"Lose You" (aka The Most Honest Meek Mill Diss)
John Taylor’s opening monologue about being cut from one’s own cloth instead of fitting into society sets the stage for this high-level lyrical performance. The apex of the song comes during verse two, in which Drake addresses his diminished perception among former fans and current peers due to his relentless pursuit of glory. He hadn’t taken many losses throughout his career, but along the way, he feels he lost some people who were riding with him, as he raps, “Winning is problematic/ People like you more when you’re working towards something, not when you have it.”
Drake also torches Meek Mill for his copious and cliche Rolex raps and social media posts, specifically referencing Meek’s “for motivational purposes” mantra. The voicemail from Mama Sandra about her son’s aggressive tone and need to take the high road is the icing on this petty but ultimately introspective cake.
"Teenage Fever" (aka The J. Lo Sample)
“Teenage Fever” is cold because Drake is talking to and about two different women. The first is an old ting he either recently broke things off with or has cheated on before calling it quits. The second is the new flame. His uninhibited honesty is admirable in my opinion. The ending of the first verse and the entirety of the second confirm his readiness to enter a new situation.
How many people can tell their current partner they met someone new and they intend to link them again and know exactly what their intentions are? We’ve all been in situations in which we know what someone else is thinking yet neither person acts on it. That regretful drive home, feeling like you should’ve made a move. The ease in which you would turn the car around if asked to. Drake makes this conflicting yet relatable experience feel palpable. All of it over a sample of “If You Had My Love” courtesy of Jennifer Lopez, whom he was rumored to have a brief romance with months prior, is chef’s kiss.
"Sacrifices" (aka The Young Thug Showcase)
Two words: Young Thug. King Slime batted third on “Sacrifices” and stole the show, confirming the talent longtime Thugger fans already knew he possessed and exposing casual listeners to what he could do when sparring with greats. It was especially impressive to hear his raw voice and the clever ad-libs ending a majority of the bars.
Drake and 2 Chainz offer strong verses, and the chorus is a top two (not two?) rap hook on the project. A fun Easter egg in this song is the running motif of the number 21, as each rapper opens their verse with some direct or combinative reference to the number.
Drake begins his rhymes by rapping, “Wrote this s**t January 21.” Chainz follows, declaring, “2 Chainz, I’ma real one,” after which Thug spits, “Back when I was 21/ My favorite gun was a SIG/ 20 in the clip, head one.” Theorists figure this could be a nod to 21 Savage, as Drake, Chainz, and Thug all use a flow similar to the Atlanta rapper’s in their verses. In any case, “Sacrifices” is infallible.
"Do Not Disturb" (aka The Tory Lanez Diss)
This is undeniably Drake’s best outro record and one of his top rap performances overall. Drake outros serve as epilogues for the albums they reside on and forewords for the next. “Do Not Disturb” is the greatest example of this, as the track prepared us for another record-breaking year of his career in the form of 2018’s Scorpion.
Over a loop of Snoh Aalegra’s “Time” refrain, Drake addresses everything including his foes, his anger from the past year, and his plans to take a much-needed break . After a 21-song musical tour of various cities and countries, this was the ideal summation of his mindset. His flow is precise yet conversational, the type of stream-of-consciousness effort that many have come to love from the hybrid rapper’s more lyrical exercises.
“Last verse that I gotta do is always like surgery/ Always tryin’ to let go of anything that’ll burden me/ That’s the reason you can feel the tension and the urgency/ Last chance I get to make sure that you take it personally/ Take this s**t to heart, it’s always executed perfectly” are among the best bars of the song.
Most notably, Drake savagely sons Tory Lanez and utilizes both his government name (Daystar) and debut album title (I Told You) to further dismiss the short Canadian: “You overnight celebrity, you one-day star/ Swear I told you that I’m in this b***h for eternity/ I am a reflection of all of your insecurities.”
"Passionfruit" (aka Drake's One-Of-One Masterpiece)
Though More Life opens with slick-talking, mafioso Drizzy, it doesn’t take long before he morphs into a heartfelt crooner. “Passionfruit” is an immediate earworm for the simple fact Drake never made a song like this before and hasn’t since.
Due to the non-American bounce to its production, you’ll try to compare it to his other diasporic experiments but you’ll come up short. From the song’s weird yet perfect blend of Afrobeats and Dancehall influences (he usually picks one sound or another, the title of “Madiba Riddim” notwithstanding) to the fact that he’s singing without an adopted accent despite all his vulturous impulses, there’s a uniqueness to this record that Drake has unfortunately never duplicated.
Moreover, the anaphora and alliteration in the hook are peak exhibitions of how talented he is with his pen, as he sings, “Passionate from miles away/ Passive with the things you say/ Passin’ up on my old ways.” Conceptually, the song is deceptively sad, as it details the difficulty of long-distance relationships. However, that feeling is wrapped in a warm, sonic blanket that makes the record a quintessential brunch bop.
If Drake’s discography is a wine cellar, “Passionfruit” is the younger Cabernet Sauvignon that you end up enjoying more than some of the bottles you’ve had much longer and expected to age the best. There are multiple highs on More Life, but “Passionfruit” soars above them all.