Rapper and singer/songwriter Drake released his latest “playlist” (it’s really an album), More Life, this past Saturday. The album boasts 22 new songs that that showcase the artist’s capabilities across a range of melodies and genres. It’s become difficult to label the Canadian-born artist as solely a “rapper.”
Drake has dabbled in R&B on his past albums, but in More Life, he goes a step further and incorporates even heavier essences from Jamaican dancehall, afrobeat and other global influences than he did on his last effort, Views.
Before listening to a single note, the impressive array of featured artists immediately stands out. More Life features well-known artists like Kanye West, 2 Chainz, Travis Scott and Young Thug, while also providing a platform for less-known artists such as Skepta, Sampha and Giggs, all hailing from the U.K.
The “playlist” format really stands out when listening to the album in its intended order. A song will come to an end, and oftentimes there is a quick monologue by the preceding or forthcoming featured artist or even Drake himself. The conversations end up creating natural breaks within the album. We see this on the very first track, “Free Smoke,” which concludes with his friend Baka, boasting a deep West Indian dialect commonly found in Toronto, aggressively speaking about OVO, the record label Drake co-founded.
A lot of the songs also incorporate female vocals. The trend helps tie together songs such as hardcore raps and smooth cabaret tracks. “Free Smoke,” a rap, starts off with a soulful female sample by Nai Palm of Hiatus Kaiyote. Even though the song “Get It Together,” which incorporates essences of marimba drums and swanky rhythms, wouldn’t necessarily fit into the same category as “Free Smoke,” singer Jorja Smith adds a similar tone to Nai Palm’s, especially in the introduction.
On another note, when listening to the album for the first time, it may be difficult to pick up on these similarities, making the tracks seem confusing or random. I definitely advise you to listen to the songs in order — and a few times — before making a concrete judgment.
Coming back to featured artists, one of my personal favorite collaborations in the album is with Skepta. The British grime-rap artist has a unique voice that adds a fun variation to Drake’s rather bland vocal style. Skepta has his own track within the album called “Skepta Interlude,” produced by OVO Records. The track is energetic and dynamic. Skepta’s frantic British accent is accompanied by blaring horns and heavy bass, making this a pretty epic track.
Drake also incorporates some aspects from his past within his new songs. For example, the song “Get It Together” has a similar beat to a song from his previous album, Views, called “One Dance.” Both songs feature fun, danceable Caribbean drum beats. The songs also both feature female vocalists, Jorja Smith in “Get It Together,” and Kyla in “One Dance.”
His lyrics also portray elements from some of his controversial previous experiences. Writer Nicholas Mojica from the International Business Times had a lot to write about in his article when it came to Drake claiming his feud with rapper Meek Mill to be over.
Within his song, “Free Smoke,” Drake sings, “How you let the kid fightin’ ghost-writin’ rumors turn you to a ghost?” The lyrics hint at Mill and Drake’s previous beef in regards to ghostwriters, Mojica wrote.
Despite some really great stylistic methods, the songs with only Drake are very repetitive. Without some variation from other artists, Drake’s voice is unwavering during the duration of the songs. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate his signature deep and brooding tone, but not for up to two minutes on top of a monotone, repetitive beat.
I think this album is dynamic and powerful for the most part. The issue is, the massive length of the album really took away from my initial listening experience. As previously mentioned, it takes a few listens of the 22 songs to really appreciate them.
More Life highlights Drake’s efforts to diversify his music by incorporating a variety of different artists and genres in his pieces. He does a great job tying his material together through unique subtle similarities.
I give More Life an 8.5/10. I really learned to appreciate its complexity, but I can see how if someone can’t, it can be overwhelming and or confusing. Also, without the numerous talented features, I do not think the album would be as solid.
Contact CU Independent Arts Writer Sam Danshes at firstname.lastname@example.org.