Drake has a way of gaining back control of both the way the media speaks of him and the way the public perceive him. His last album Views is among his worst he’s released – overly long, lyrical missteps and cheap Dancehall impressions have had it age poorly just after one year. Despite this, it’s his best-selling album by far with him being the first artist to truly take advantage of the way the chart takes streaming into account.
Drake has cleverly labelled More Life, his new project, a ‘playlist’ which in itself gets rid of the expectations that come with an actual album. Especially the expectations of a project that would follow something so polarising as Views. It’s because of this that the reception to More Life has been resoundingly positive, despite it carrying many of the same traits of his last project. More Life is incredibly long (again making use of the streaming charts), borrows from even more cultures that people will debate Drake has any business in borrowing from and has many corny questionable lyrics.
What’s more enjoyable about More Life compared to Views is weirdly a double-edged sword. Drake isn’t as much of a felt presence on this album like he was on Views. The most memorable parts of the album come from his guest verses, such as the two tracks with Giggs on or Skepta’s Interlude, where Drake shows he does have some respect for the Grime scene he’s pushed himself into/had such a huge part of putting on the map in the US. On the other hand, he puts on an English accent on multiple occasions which are gross. Other highlights include a startlingly clearly spoke Young Thug on Sacrifices and the song that’s entirely sung by Sampha, 4422. Because Drake isn’t at the forefront so much on this album, the corny or sometimes offensive lyrics that plagued Views (remember Childsplay?) aren’t so in your face and don’t totally overshadow everything else on the project. In much the same way Travis Scott let his features carry him on Birds in the Trap last year, Drake lets his features bring life to the project giving us moments that are truly unforgettable.
Also much like Travis Scott, Drake feels like he’s merely here to provide us with an atmosphere. More Life flows in a way that’s much more cohesive than Views despite it merely being a ‘playlist’; there appears to be a great effort going into somehow making such a significant amount of styles not sound totally jagged when listening to it. This is where his experimenting pays off. But there are many problems to this experimenting too and where the double-edged sword cuts. The streak of average Dancehall tracks in the first half of the album are incredibly arduous to sit through in one sitting. Drake sounds far too uncharismatic on these sometimes colourful, yet sometimes lifeless beats to even replicate some of the best singing moments of his career. The reason songs like Marvin’s Room, Hotline Bling and Hold On, We’re Going Home worked so well as that even if the subject matter was problematic, Drake gave off the impression that he had an ounce of emotion in his singing. On these tracks, he sounds like he’s looking for the new One Dance yet only gives us moments of greatness in each track, showing that they would’ve been something much more had they been given more time.
The best moment on this project come from the actual Hip Hop tracks, Drake feels unrelenting when he is rapping, in a way that’s similar to what has become a fan favourite for some, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. These tracks are near on hookless when compared to that album, yet it works to his benefit because it comes across as him not wanting to hold back at all and knowing that whatever he does will top the charts. Something is entertaining about watching the man who made a career off of being vulnerable, pounding his chest in defiance.
It’s such a strange experience listening to Drake at the minute, he gives off such an impression of both laziness and experimenting at the same time. More Life isn’t an entirely bad project, it has many great moments, but it deserves critiquing in broadly similar ways in which Views did. The 22 song track list is unwarranted and probably would be a much more concise experiment had it been 15 tracks. Remember that just because an artist made an improvement on a letdown of an album, it doesn’t mean it needs to be praised or canonised. Even Drake himself doesn’t have faith in this to call it anything more than a Playlist.