This is typically the part of the review where I would give a brief introduction of the artist at hand. I might describe his upbringing, or even list some of his frequent collaborators, but we’re talking about Drake here. Since I’m almost certain you know who Drake is and what he’s done, I’ll spare you those details. Instead, I’d like to preface this review with my personal thoughts on Drake so you can know where I’m coming from with my review of More Life.
I’ve always been a huge Drake fan. From his breakthrough hits like “Best I Ever Had” and “Over,” to his sad boy anthems like “Marvin’s Room” and “Shot for Me,” I’ve been an avid listener from the beginning. Since Drake is arguably one of the biggest stars in music today, (not limited to just to Rap/Hip Hop/RnB), people are constantly debating on what they believe to be his greatest musical contributions. Whether your alliance lies with Take Care, Nothing Was The Same, Thank Me Later, or any of his other projects, it’s easy to categorize his fans by their preference.
While it is necessary that this review remains as unbiased as possible, I feel it is important to state my personal highlights of Drake’s career given the structure of More Life, which I’ll elaborate on later. This review is coming from someone that believes NWTS is his best album objectively, while IYRTITL is my personal favorite, strictly based on enjoyment and the innumerable amount of times I’ve played it front to back. To me, this was Drake at his most confident, which led to him sounding as comfortable as ever with his unequivocal brags over the crystal clear and minimalistic production that OVO pushes out consistently.
I should also state that I actually liked Views. While it did have its fair share of flaws, I cannot lie and say I didn’t enjoy my time with it, (for the most part). This places me in a small margin, I know. I highlight these three projects in particular because as you will see, More Life is an undeniable combination of all three.
Now that you know where my interests lie, let’s delve into More Life.
When Drake first announced the project as a playlist, I figured it was simply a marketing scheme to generate more buzz about what would ultimately be another mixtape or album. While this is the case from a consumer’s standpoint, I now understand why he gave it this label. More Life is not only the culmination of Drake‘s latest efforts, (most notably NWTS, IYRTITL, and Views), but also that of his favorite contemporaries. Imagine selecting an assortment of tracks from the three projects I mentioned earlier, throw in a splash of solo material from Sampha, Skepta, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Travis Scott, and Young Thug, and compile all of this into a singular playlist. Now you have More Life in a nutshell. You’ll see me make quite a few comparisons throughout this review, and while that is something I’d typically like to avoid when reviewing a new project, I’d be remiss to not point out the similarities between this project and Drake’s prior work. While I completely agree with calling this project a playlist, I’m going to call it an album for the sake of this review.
Drake has a knack for creating amazing intros that perfectly set up the rest of the album, and “Free Smoke” is no exception. The track opens with a beautiful sample of the song “Building a Ladder” by Hiatus Kaiyote, and quickly transforms into an aggressive bar filled banger the second the beat drops. Drake and the OVO camp are professionals when it comes to picking samples that perfectly suit his style, and Boi-1da works his magic when crafting this opener. With standout lines like “I drunk text J-Lo // Old number, so it bounce back,” and “how you let the kid fightin’ ghost-writin’ rumors turn you to a ghost,” Drake’s impeccable ability to turn real life mishaps into boastful victories is on full display.
This leads straight into “No Long Talk” where Drake exhibits a British accent, albeit somewhat forced, to float over an IYRTITL-esque banger provided by none other than Murda Beatz. This track continues the rap-heavy feel that “Free Smoke” initiated, indicating that this project’s sound is far more focused on rapping than that of Views.
More Life truly is a playlist of Drake’s past music alongside that of his colleagues; therefore, I will group and categorize the songs accordingly instead of tackling the tracks in a chronological manner.
The IYRTITL vibes continue throughout the album with braggadocious bangers like “Gyalchester,” “KMT,” and “Can’t Have Everything.”
These tracks will definitely satisfy fans of Drake’s 2015 sound that was presented on IYRTITL and What a Time To Be Alive. “Gyalchester” specifically, may be my favorite “trap Drake” song to date. The beat is ridiculous and Drake laces the track with an immense amount of quotables that I can’t get out of my head. When it comes to trap-influenced beats, Drake has established that he prefers them to be heavy hitting and minimalistic. Each of these tracks perfectly captures this sound and could have easily been on IYRTITL.
Ever since Views, Drake has opened the floodgates for Dancehall to invade the U.S. As somebody who hated “One Dance” upon its release, this is easily my least favorite style in Drake’s arsenal. With that being said, I must say that Drake has finally found his footing this time around. “Passionfruit,” for example, is a smash hit that is sure to be in the Top 40 for months to come because of it’s intoxicating groove. If Drake knows one thing, it’s how to craft a catchy melody. “Madiba Riddim,” “Get It Together,” and “Blem” all follow suit accordingly, carrying the same tropical flavor, with “Madiba Riddim” being my favorite of the bunch. This is the song that “One Dance” should have been.
The resemblance is uncanny, but I feel that Drake now has a better grasp of the sound and is able to craft a better song as a result of that. “Get It Together” was initially my least favorite track on the album, but I find myself reciting “you need me to get that s*** together // so we can get together” more times than nearly any other line on the album. This collection of songs sounds like Views “b-sides” that upstaged the “a-sides.”
Next, we have the NWTS style throwbacks. The moody, sample based styles of “Jorja Interlude,” “Nothings Into Somethings,” and “Teenage Fever” all harken back to 2013 NWTS Drake with the polish and confidence of post-IYRTITL Drake. “Jorja Interlude” and “Nothings Into Somethings” are two cases of expertly crafted Drake songs that are far too short. On a song-by-song basis, this is one of my favorite sounds that Drake pursues. “Nothings Into Somethings” heavily resembles “Fire & Desire,” which was easily one of my favorite tracks on Views. With its heavy hitting bass and dancing hi-hats paired with Drake’s depressingly touching delivery about a girl that broke his heart, it’s easy to see why this particular style elevated Drake’s career to new heights. “Teenage Fever” expertly samples “If You Had My Love” by Jennifer Lopez for the hook of the song, and once again, this is another case of excellent samples being used perfectly on this album.
The features on More Life are an interesting topic because almost every song with a feature sounds like it could have been pulled from one of their own projects. While this isn’t the case with every song, it is for the bulk of them, hence the playlist designation. “Skepta Interlude” sounds like it was lifted directly from his latest album Konnichiwa, “Portland” (thank you Murda Beatz for giving us another trap banger utilizing flutes, we need more of these) could have easily been on Travis Scott’s Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight, “Ice Melts” sounds like a hit that should have landed on Young Thug’s Jeffery, and “Since Way Back” (which may be my favorite Drake and PARTYNEXTDOOR collaboration to date) sounds like a gem that P3 was missing. For the most part, Drake takes a back seat on these songs, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It may sound like I’m criticizing Drake for supplying us with songs that could have been on other people’s projects, but when all the songs are as good as they are, I can’t complain.
“4422” for instance is easily one of my favorite tracks on the entire album, and Drake isn’t even on it. Sampha delivers an awe-inspiring performance that only he could provide and Drake lets him take the spotlight. This is a case where I’m not sure that this song would have fit on Sampha’s debut album Process, so I’m glad Drake put it here. Kanye’s appearance on “Glow” is a beautiful one, and while I wasn’t expecting that type of collaboration from the two, I have no complaints with how it turned out. And can we talk about Thug’s performance on “Sacrifices” for a minute? I’m not sure what animal awoke within him, but I’ve never heard him so coherent and awake before. Aside from Sampha’s contributions, it’s no question that Young Thug stole the show as a feature.
I want to talk about “Do Not Disturb” separately, because not only is it my favorite song on the album, but it’s also the best possible closer that I could have ever hoped for. Everything about this song is the embodiment of Drake at his pinnacle
. From the beautiful “Time” sample by Snoh Aalegra to the beat that Boi-1da once again masterfully crafts, every aspect of this song works. The cherry on top is Drake’s performance as he effortlessly tears through the beat with a laid-back delivery that still demands attention.
From what I can see, the main complaint people seem to have with Drake is that he plays it safe and doesn’t push boundaries with his music anymore. While that may hold some truth, can you really blame him? Drake knows what the masses like, and he does that exceptionally well, arguably better than anybody else in the genre. Over the past few years, Drake has continued to expand and polish the sound that was initially presented on Take Care. His current level of notoriety and recognition is comparable to Lil Wayne’s impressive run in the early to mid-2000’s. Everyone and their mother can tell you who Drake is without even hearing a last name. Sure, he may not be making genre-defining music, but look at his mentor. Name a Lil Wayne project that took creative risks after Tha Carter III (aside from Rebirth, but let’s agree to not talk about that). Drake isn’t worried about being the greatest rapper to ever do it, he’s more focused on being the most popular artist of all time; and if we’re talking numbers, he’s well on his way to snagging that title.
More Life is the perfect showcase of Drake taking his influences and working them into his own sound. While it does play it safe at times, More Life is still an exceptional album. I’m giving this “playlist” an 8/10 because it perfectly encapsulates every style of Drake that he has presented us with so far, as well as providing us with equally great tracks from the many features on the album. When you look at this album as a playlist, it all clicks and allows for a much more enjoyable listening experience. Instead of seeing this project as the next bold step in Drake’s career, I see it as a Greatest Hits compilation with hits that we’ve never heard before.
Favorites: Free Smoke, Jorja Interlude, Madiba Riddim, 4422, Gyalchester, Portland, Nothings Into Somethings, Teenage Fever, Ice Melts, Do Not Disturb
Least Favorites: Blem
More Life review written by Cody Upchurch; follow him on Twitter @CodyUp21;