It wouldn’t be fair to call Drake the comeback kid at this point. We would be lying to ourselves if we didn’t admit that VIEWS was somewhat of a disappointment. “One Dance” and “Hotline Bling” were undeniable smash records, but even the 6 God felt a way about taking home a rap Grammy for the latter. As fans and critics, we also craved more from Aubrey Graham. But when you’re only really competing with yourself nowadays, what do you really use as barometers when measuring your success?
After 4 extremely culturally impactful studio albums to his name, millions of records sold, victorious rap battles, endless awards, and the most savage of celebrity tings — there is no competition for the man. Drizzy isn’t bouncing back from a cotdamn thing with his fifth official solo project, More Life. This well-manicured album, er, playlist, is simply the next chapter in Drake’s captivating biopic. Throughout the project, the Toronto-bred enigma competently blends all of his current influences into a playlist which sounds like a tailor-made soundtrack for every last taste of his worldly fanbase.
The online peanut gallery loves to check Drake for borrowing sounds associated with dancehall, soca and most currently the vibes from London. However, unlike most places in America, Drake’s hometown is closely connected to musicians and culture from the Caribbean and Londontown. Roughly 42% percent of Toronto’s Caribbean is Jamaican, and the same way American youth uses hip-hop slang — patois is just another part of youth culture in The 6. Just ask Rob Ford. Further research will show that London has also historically been connected to the reggae community — and a large population of U.K. expats currently reside in Canada (The country is home to over 600,000 British expats.) so to label Drake as some outsider vultching off culture is lame.
Now that we have addressed the sonic criticisms of the album, let’s focus on the highs and lows of Drake’s latest offering. From the jump, he makes it clear that despite the massive R&B singles from VIEWS, he ain’t ever rusty when it comes to pure rhymes. On the More Life intro, “Free Smoke,” Drizzy leaves the crooning alone and rhymes his ass off over a sinister production by Allen Ritter and Boi-1da. It ends with some tough talk by Baka, one of Drake’s close cohorts, known as a dude who will protect the boy by any means necessary. Then it’s right into the Giggs-assisted “No Long Talk,” an aggressive rap track clearly influenced by the evolving Grime genre. Drake once again makes it clear that he’s ready and willing to Meek Mill any other opponents looking to cast shade upon his name. This is where the international phenom really enters his sweet spot. “Passionfruit” is rum punch for the ears, not the kind you will find in Kingston, but rather somewhere more touristy in Jamaica. Say Montego Bay. It’s just a taste of the vibes we are about to feel on the forthcoming tracks.
Before we really get into the riddim section, the boy lets off more rhymes on “Jorja interlude,” produced by his longtime musical partner, 40. Once the drums kick in on “Get It Together,” it’s time to grab someone and hit the dancefloor. Order a Guinness, too, because we’re about to board a long flight across the pond and head to singer Jorja Smith’s flat in the U.K. Lucky for us, DJ Black Coffee is waiting for us there with a strong cup of Joe. After landing at Heathrow, producers Frank Dukes and Nineteen85 get us ready for some summer fun and Hennessy-stained sundresses on “Madiba Riddim.” Though it’s a smooth dancehall-tinged record, the track lacks some life. But then the T-Minus-produced “Blem” is a full on treat for the Sean Paul aficionados and original rudeboys and gals alike.
At this point on the project, it’s time for one more stop at the Chip Shop with Sampha and Skepta. “442,” “Gyalchester,” “Skepta Interlude” all flood the album like dreary rain clouds on the East Ends. Now, we’ve added a few more stamps to our passports, and we’re back across the Mason Dixon line back in the Divided States of America. That’s where Travi$ Scott, Quavo and Murda Beatz bring in a Xanax-like calm to the track, “Portland.” While 2 Chainz and Young Thug help Drake reminisce on all the “Sacrifices” he has endured during his rise to the top of the music game. He also accomplished the impossible and somehow provided us with a Thugger track that even Siri could decipher. Bravo.
“Nothing into Something” follows Drizzy’s Southern excursion and brings fans into very familiar territory — it’s where drunk and “hey, big head? texts flood the iPhones of his listeners. Like “Teenage Love,” the aforementioned track is a sappy but relatable display of Drake’s keen ability to tap into emotional R&B subject matter — namely broken hearts and lost love. Only Drake could touch J.Lo’s “If You Had My Love” and get away with it. We don’t stay all emo for long, though. Giggs abruptly joins Drake again on the dark cut “KMT”, where he spills his rhymes like Canadian war chants. We then move on to “Lose You,” which is more of the lyricist rhyming in his pocket, but this one will likely get overlooked due to the sheer length of the LP.
As the home stretch of More Life approaches, Drizzy suddenly catches his second wind and continues spewing bars flowing effortlessly on “Can’t Have Everything.” Where many of his contemporaries tend to lose steam when their albums comes to a close, October’s Very Own finishes this one out like a true nonpareil. Kanye West’s crooning and raps complement his melody on “Glow” — it’s the old ‘Ye judging from the rhymes — and we’re not mad at that for the record. PartyNextDoor falters on “Since Way Back,” but “Fake Love” is the perfect answer to his sleepy crooning. Once again Young Thug shows up with his pronunciation game on fleek — and flourishes on the upbeat banger, “Ice Melts.”
As a proven cleanup hitter, Drake finishes the album with his mastered lyrical dexterity on the closer, “Do Not Disturb,” a self-evaluation on his journey from the random Degrassi kid to music’s current heavyweight champion. After 3 days of listening to More Life (on repeat), I can say the album proves that Drake is one is the most polished artist that hip-hop has produced in the last decade