Drake sent the internet into a frenzy on March 18 when he, alongside his labelmate and OVO co-founder Oliver El-Khatib, fulfilled his promise of premiering his latest project, “More Life,” to the masses.
The duo ran the chunky 22-track effort in a stream on Episode 39 of “OVO Sound Radio.” For those not keeping track, Drake has been working on his “playlist” since October of last year. Snippets of unreleased songs have appeared online, while Drake himself has fed the flames by playing cuts at after-parties and during his “Boy Meets World” tour.
“More Life” is the superstar’s seventh studio LP and the streets are talking about it in spades. Dubbing himself the “6 God” for his upbringing in Toronto, Canada, the rapper has created yet another album that galvanizes those in the music industry who have an opinion, those who want to make jokes and those who want to simply get in on the discussion.
The months, weeks and days leading up to “Views,” his previous album, were full of anxious anticipation. The world wanted to know if Drake would deliver a universally acclaimed album that would make him the best rapper breathing. Unfortunately, “Views” wasn’t that album, but it did solidify Drake’s position as one of the biggest recording artists in the world as he broke streaming and sales records and topped all the charts. He quickly got back into the studio to create “More Life.”
The intro, “Free Smoke,” is reminiscent of Chance the Rapper’s “Coloring Book” and Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo” in that it pulls on gospel influences. Drake begins talking about his detractors while also mentioning Smoke, a comrade of his who is currently in jail. “Writing our names on the double cup / we didn’t even have enough for a tour bus,” is vintage Drake recalling his road to fame. A brief jab to Jay Z about not listening to him was also a standout on this cut.
On “No Long Talk,” “More Life’s” second track that features English grime rapper Giggs, Drake adopts a reggae accent that’s as admirable as it is corny. But the song is an early declaration that “More Life” is out to showcase Drake’s diverse pallet — mostly for better, sometimes for worse.
The third song, “Passionfruit,” is ostensibly the most Drake-esque title listeners have gotten a hold of since “Hold On, We’re Going Home.” The tropical vibes and complete switch-up from the previous two songs is pleasant, and listeners get to hear a Drake who is staying within the realm of his vocal comfort zone.
After listening to the first four songs, it’s clear that the first portion of “More Life” is an exceptional vehicle for Drake’s ability to interpret worldly sounds and translate them for his own massive audience in compelling fashion.
“More Life” takes a clear turn after the ninth song, “Gyalchester.” A braggadocio song, which features Drake with a Migos-trap flow, says, “I switch flows like I switch time zones.” For the first time on the album, Drake is spitting out rhymes over icy trap instrumentals.
The next noteworthy cut on the album is “Portland,” with features from Travis Scott and Migos frontman Quavo. On “Portland,” Drake sounds like he’s floating on a “Back to the Future” hoverboard. “Never let anybody ride your wave,” will be one of the chants of the summer while people dance in the clubs.
Drake begins talking about his life — money, big house, no kids — on “Sacrifices,” with features from 2 Chainz and Young Thug. “And I’m convinced / I made sacrifices and I’ve been ballin’ ever since,” is the hook, which should inspire listeners and other artists alike to get to work. 2 Chainz gave a solid verse, but he’s definitely better on other tracks. Last up on “Sacrifices” is Young Thug, who sounds clear and more determined than ever. Young Thug tells a street tale about how he got shot which ended his football career and goes into how his sacrifices only enriched his life afterwards.
“More Life” continues to settle into the mood of a typical Drake album to some extent with “Teenage Fever,” “Nothings Into Somethings” and “KMT.”
“Nothings Into Somethings” sounds like a cut from his “So Far Gone” days and marks another track with crooning Drake vocals. He’s not as poignant as he’s been on other songs, but this short interlude-like track may just be dissected more intently once “More Life” further once listeners really dig into the record.
“Teenage Fever” samples Jennifer Lopez’s hit, “If You Had My Love,” by distorting the original vocals to give it the perfect, haunting vibe for Drake’s romantic turmoil. A clear ode to “House of Balloons,” one of The Weeknd’s first albums, Drake’s infatuation with a woman takes listeners back effectively and it sounds like he’s being a teenager again.
Following up a love song with a chest-beating cut boasting about his status in the game, “KMT,” featuring Giggs, is quite likely the hardest-hitting track on “More Life.” Drake raps, “Love is just not in my plans,” solidifying him not only as a romantic crooner but also as a relentless, re-breathing rapper who wants nothing more than success.
There’s no cohesive flow or balance to “More Life.” It’s spontaneous and random, quite like the nature of a playlist. “More Life” is fun, but also unorthodox, and listeners get a glimpse of his early-morning mood and introspective raps on “Lose You.” In what sounds like a track he likely wrote on a plane, Drake asks if he has lost his listeners with his abundance of positive gains, wealth and international fame.
“Lose You” is a great example of bars-by-design Drake, who often couples entendres and real talk in a way that blurs the ow in a way only he can perfect. The flow, introspection and self-reflection on “Lose You” reminds listeners why Drake is such a good rapper when he chooses to be himself and no one else. Did he lose us? The answer is no, but as Drake’s third act on “More Life” reveals, he is still fighting to be the best (even though many already regard him as so).
The back-and-forth between Drake and his biggest inspiration, Kanye West, makes “Glow” a memorable moment in hip-hop. “Glow” nails the Earth, Wind + Fire sample with the late Maurice White’s voice leading the charge. West uses the track to reflect on his future and his son Saint, “Hope I deal with karma ‘fore my son do,” he raps. Meanwhile, Drake claims he’s trying to move past his bitterness. “I still have my guard up,” he raps. “Blame this thing I’m part of / Trying to avoid more confrontation / I just gotta try harder.”
As much as “More Life” is meant to be a new entity in Drake’s catalog, it’s also a nice boost for his legacy. Recent albums like “Nothing Was the Same” and “Views” were predictable and, at times, mundane. But, “More Life,” is a balance between pop and rap; potential hits and memorable bars; great features and good songwriting. It covers all the bases in a way that may not make for the most fluid listen but hits all the right marks.
“More Life” sounds like Drake went out of his way to prove he can write multi-genre music. The highlights overshadow the minor short-comings, and while this may not be an undeniable, universal classic, it would be a lie to say Drake didn’t return with good music. That’s all his fans asked of him, and that’s what he delivered.