“…and more chune for your headtops so watch how you speak on my name, you know?”
It’s a bird, it’s a plane… NO! It’s a playlist. Drake’s previous album, Views was hyped for months before its eventual release. It seemed, then, like the Canadian was keen to satisfy expectations surrounding his near-peak illustrious career as a Hip-hop artiste to release something of a magnum opus- something to hinge his career upon like a fancy key holder, a legacy of sort.
Views contained all of the necessary cohesion, thematic experience (laying a background on his hometown Toronto) and ambition that an album required and there was nothing to debate about, but something else we all agreed upon was the creative nature of his supposed magnum opus. The five foot eleven behemoth sitting on the top of the CN tower and scouring the city below, breathing it in and drawing from it, assuming his status as pacesetter for everything Toronto has to offer, to “put my city on the map” – a bit of a rap cliché.
Drake ended up still putting himself before the music and as he revealed in More Life “I was an angry teen when I wrote Views…” the album contained dark musings and disses that could almost translate to whining and what was worse? It was eighty minutes long! Eighty f-ing minutes of pleasant city Toronto saved only by the tourist appearances of Afropop and Caribbean dancehall sounds and even though Toronto based producer ‘Noah 40 Shebib’ was there to make sure that Views could in no way be called boring, it still lacked the sort of acceptance that drake anticipated when he rapped “Views already a classic” and from an outsider’s view most of the songs were just alien cause “… you’re not from the city I can tell” and we probably just knew! But what makes Drake so great is his ability to never run out of ideas, (“…I don’t run out of material, you shouldn’t sleep on me period”) how did drake react? Taxonomy!
With Views he tied a noose around his neck and gave the loose end to his critics but with More Life, he literarily gives himself a lifeline. “It’s only a playlist” is going to become a catchphrase for a lot of arguments about his latest release and in truth it is a valid excuse or is it? Or rather, does he even need it? Drake blurts out about three to four times on More Life, “…and more chune for your headtops so watch how you speak on my name, you know?” it might be a statement directed at Kanye west or maybe nothing deep, just more tunes.
The playlist starts off with Drake giving us a nostalgic reminder to his 2015 mixtape ‘If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late’. He does a head bumping rap on ‘Free Smoke’ and since “it’s only a playlist” it in no way sets the tone for the rest of the album, NO! PLAYLIST!! GEEZ! THIS IS ROUGH.
With this taxonomy Drake gave himself the freedom to do whatever the hell he wanted so when he switches to Grime on the next track featuring UK Grime artiste Giggs on ‘No Long Talk,’ it’s perfectly okay. Also, it emphasizes something Drake has been doing for three years now in experimenting and embracing a barrage of styles and art forms with his music which has pushed him to a larger audience –critics, stans, enthusiasts and indirect stans.
So, you decide for yourself if the Grime is welcome, in my opinion the playlist could have done without it as it leaves no real impression in comparison to the dancehall tunes of tracks three to seven excluding ‘Jorja’s Interlude’. Passionfruit is such a melting tune it finds way into your rib cage and cuddles the memory of your exes. With the sample “…get some drinks going, I’ll sound so much better” and with the fast beat, slow vocals blend of his remix of Black Coffee’s Jam featuring Jorja Smith (peep talented Nigerian artist Burnaboy as the song fades) and the beautiful Afropop render of Madiba Riddim, it becomes clear that More Life is going to be more tuneful than Views. Perfect for what he wants it to be ‘The soundtrack to our lives’. Drake is not being dark this time, he’s trying to relax us.
Patois is a kind of pidgin for Jamaican so when drake says “I’m blem for real, I might just say how I feel” on the track titled “Blem” he’s saying “Blunt” but is he really being blunt, he’s sounding so good no one really cares.
Something else Drake does differently is concede a whole track to someone else! WHAT?! YEAH! Most reviewers will agree that he’s finally put the music first with More Life. He renders a whole track ‘4422’ to Sampha who does what he’s best at, feeding us that premium malt brew of his special soulful vocals. It’s probably second nature when Drake raps (more like traps) on the next track ‘Gyalchester’ to remind us it’s still somewhat about him, but he goes backstage again with ‘Skepta Interlude’.
Views featured only one rapper but Drake digs into his old power moves with multiple rappers featuring on More Life emphasizing the music even more. Now you’re head bumping to dynamic trappers Quavo and Travis Scott featuring on ‘Portland’, 2Chainz and Young Thug featuring on ‘Sacrifices’. My God! Young Thug can speak English, it’s almost as if Drake sat him down and said “Yo! It’s English, it’s not so hard g!” as we hear Young Thug rap so audibly, it’s welcome! Too bad we can’t talk about every single track right? Gives me a fever. Giggs has lines and it’s obvious but the grime still doesn’t fit in.
Riddim aside, Drake gets really blem on Lose you, one of the most important tracks on the playlist in terms of context. He talks about how dissing really offers little gains – probably a reference to his Meek Mill diss track ‘Back to Back’, he says “the city gets stronger when everybody is speaking not when everybody out here beefing”. He highlights his grand ambition to go the lengths with his career, he says “I’m in it for the glory not the honor mention. Not tryna be fourth and inches, I’m tryna go the distance…”. “Too overly ambitious, too late to fix it” and perhaps on the second verse he’s talking to his fans and his struggle with expectation, “…back when I would write and not worry about how they receive it…” All honest, grey but not dark. The next track ‘Can’t Have Everything’ carries the same tone but the flow is a real craft!
We get a taste of old Kanye on ‘Glow’ even though in a recent interview drake refers to his relationship with the rap maestro as a bit estranged. Kanye raps with that old gospel flair of his Grammy winning Albums College Dropout and Late Registration. It gives the album one more star that unfortunately gets swallowed up by the following PARTYNEXTDOOR bore fest on ‘Since Way Back’.
I can’t decide for you but you really have to decide if Drake went up or down with his latest release –in my opinion he went up, so its four stars for me. The last track ‘Do not disturb’ is just as important as ‘Lose You’ as he uses it to speak again.
“…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 shit to heart, it’s always executed perfectly…
…Takin’ summer off, ’cause they tell me I need recovery
Maybe gettin’ back to my regular life will humble me
I’ll be back in 2018 to give you the summary
Review by Dolapo Alao (Soul).Follow WTS: