Drake’s latest project More Life begs the question: who exactly is Drake?
Because of its designation as a playlist as opposed to an album, More Life gives Drake an avenue to dip into multiple styles and sounds without worrying about a message or theme to tie it together. Still, the “playlist” is surprisingly cohesive. Songs flow well from one to another and it’s almost never jarring. No Long Talk, an aggressive track inspired by London rap and featuring British artist Giggs, flows surprisingly well into Passionfruit, a dance ballad – even though the songs couldn’t be more opposite. The biggest exception to this is the lead single Fake Love, which is a great radio song but feels tacked on in order to boost sales based on it’s placement in the project.
Now to the music: It is track three, a brassy synth blares over a bouncy, tropical, beat (is that a marimba?). As the instrumentals rise and fade the record abruptly scratches, “Hold on, hold on… Hold on, I got to start this record over again,” cuts in a DJ and the instrumental spins up again. It’s one minute into Passionfruit and the vocals haven’t come in yet. Suddenly, like a gentle explosion, Drake cuts in, accompanied with a new set of drums, and the song goes from head-nodding to full blown dance party. Passionfruit is one of the standout songs on Drake’s new playlist More Life and unlike his previous album, Views, he’s taking risks while still making songs with the classic Drake sound and quality.
It would be unfair to say there is one single best song out of the 22 song tracklist that spans so many different styles. There are, however, standout songs within the different styles Drake pursues. Of the more standard rap tracks, Sacrifices is the most definitive. Drake gives a perfectly simple hook that compliments a short and sweet Two Chainz verse and a feature from Young Thug that is easily the best guest verse on the playlist.
The run from Passionfruit to Blem is where Drake’s unique skill in creating dance songs, and offers a solid 20 minutes of tracks to add to any party playlist. 4422 doesn’t even have Drake in the song, opting instead to have R&B artist Sampha sing his heart out, providing the perfect emotional song for nights spent huddled under a blanket with the lights dimmed and an ex-girlfriend on the brain. Also Gyalchester is fantastic and should be mentioned because “Hermes link, Ice blue mink,” is such a fun line to rap along to.
There is a fairly consistent quality throughout, but some songs certainly fall flat. Free Smoke is generic and sounds like every single Drake rap song distilled into one, which maybe isn’t a bad thing. Portland has unusually bad mixing, a beat that’s carried by what sounds like the world’s best fourth-grade recorder flute, and forgettable features from the usually stellar Quavo and Travis Scott; The song is more disappointing than anything and one would expect a song with such talent behind it to be god-tier, not barely-passing.
More Life highlights Drake’s identity crisis. It has pop tracks, dance tracks, rap tracks, emotional tracks, and those hybrid tracks that only Drake does, and he executes them with polish. He also borrows from Jamaican slang and style, London slang and style, Toronto vibes and producers, but also house music, trap production and features, south Florida flows, and sounds from every era of his music, to good effect. However, It’s all over the place, and Drake never latches on to a definitive identity. It can’t help but feel like he’s embraced the idea of being a “culture vulture” and picking up and dropping different styles for the sake of staying trendy. Maybe it’s not a bad thing, though, because it makes for consistently good music.