Review: Drake’s More Life
On last year’s highly anticipated Views, Drake had many moments that were downright horrifying. On More Life, Drake has few moments to speak of at all.
There are few who would hesitate to say that Drake is at the top of his game right now. As much as it pains me to say, though, I happen to be one of those people. When If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late came out back in early 2015 to critical acclaim, I was immediately drawn to the Drake who was rapping on a set of moody, stripped-back instrumentals. The implications of being a superstar, bringing success back to the Six that raised him, not letting anyone deny him of the top spot in the rap game; these were all topics that Drake was able to thoughtfully and cleverly flush out in the course of this mixtape. This was the moment, to me, where Drake really came into his own as a rapper not only technically, but also in terms of finding his sound.
So, like many, I was very excited at the prospect of Drake exploring these concepts further on his followup album Views; but, like many, I was severely disappointed. He seemed to be going for an album that was more radio-friendly, which I have no problem with. But songs like 9, Pop Style, and Grammys, which seemed almost like B-sides from IYRTITL, ran amok with struggle bars (“And I turn the six upside-down, it’s a nine now”…God). And for the first time, Drake introduced his own take on Dancehall music, a sub-genre of Reggae that is hugely popular in many Caribbean countries, on songs like Controlla and One Dance. While these songs exploded on the radio and were (and still are) widely popular, I absolutely hated them. I have no issue with experimentation, but execution is everything. Drake failed to make music that was even remotely interesting, given the rich history and sound of Dancehall music as a whole.
To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t excited for or even particularly interested in giving More Life a listen to begin with. I had heard Fake Love already, and I knew that this horrible regurgitation of Hotline Bling (a song which I really like, by the way) alone would be a preview of what the rest of the “playlist” would sound like: more of the same halfhearted Dancehall music that made Views the agonizing listen that it was. And while I will give Drake credit for bringing back some of that cockiness that I love so much on tracks like Free Smoke (which is a really great start to the playlist), Gyalchester and KMT, my predictions were mostly right. The stretch of More Life that starts with Passionfruit and ends with Blem is intolerable. The rest of the playlist is full of trap-style beats over which Drake spits struggle bar after struggle bar (“40 got house on the lake, I ain’t know we had a lake/She complainin’ how I’m late, I ain’t know it was a date”), or songs where he just sings terribly (“…can’t just leave it off that waaaaaaaaaaeeeeeeeeeeeeee”).
The features on this playlist are unpredictable as well. While I loved Young Thug’s contribution on Sacrifices, I hated Gigg’s verse on KMT, and I was excited for Drake to give UK Grime a platform. I wasn’t really a huge fan of Quavo and Travis Scott’s features on Portland either; it seemed to me like they maybe just hit Ctrl+V from some leftover verses on Culture.
Ultimately, More Life’s biggest flaw isn’t any one of these things; it’s the fact that almost every song on this playlist sounds like a half-assed attempt. It’s just so painfully okay that I have a hard time even finding the right adjectives to describe my feelings about it. With all this said, Drake is at a pivotal point in his career. He still has the ability to release something as significant and career-defining as Take Care or IYRTITL, but also has enough mainstream appeal that he could just keep releasing mediocre, radio-tailored music and profit off it. I’m hoping that More Life is merely something just to tide us over until he releases a more complete project. But somehow I doubt it.