Written by M.J. Rawls
‘More Life’ Is A Full Body of Work That Shows Drake’s Versatility
When you reach the top of the mountain, there’s nowhere to go but down.
An example of this would be Mike Tyson’s surprising defeat at the hands of 42-1 underdog, Buster Douglas in 1990. Winning sometimes begets an unintentional complacency until something comes to jar it lose. Drake has built a career trajectory for himself where the standards for his work are unbelievably high – and rightfully so. Versatility is a great attribute to have in the music industry, especially conjoined with longevity that both rapping and singing can bring.
His 2016 release, Views felt a bit disjointed and some questioned his artistic fire. However, songs like “One Dance” helped move him further into a broader audience and demographic. In listening to the 21 tracks, there was a war of opposites. throughout the album. A disunion between the mainstream growth the need for the Canadian-born artist to assert himself in the roots of the competition of hip hop music. While Views was a massive success to the tune of 254 million streams on Apple alone, was there a need to leave his previous, competitive foundation behind?
More Life first announced back in October of 2016 with eager anticipation from fans and critics alike. There were a couple of bumps in the roads with some delays, but the body of work described as a playlist would eventually grace the airwaves of OVO Sound radio on March 18th. In a way, that medium was the best way as an introduction of the album. More Life is not only an all-encompassing look into Drake’s career – It is really formatted into playlist form. Many of the tracks flow right into another which seems like you took snapshots of previous Drake albums and placed them into a 22-song body.
Right from the start, Drake sets off to start strong with “Free Smoke,” referencing his beginnings and triumphs with delivery to supplant himself in the rap hierarchy. It’s telling that he started the “playlist” with rapping instead of a song like “Keep the Family Close.” Looking back to Views, “Controlla” and “One Dance” were great tracks, but the placement in the album took away from their impact in listening to the entire album in it’s entirely. Songs like “Passionfruit,” “Madiba Riddim,” and “Blem” continue the Jamaican dancehall influence and feel a bit more natural in this setting. Drake’s hunger to be a melting pot of influences brings in UK born rappers like Skepta and Giggs to further that. One of the running critiques of Drake has been that he takes a lot of influences for himself, but More Life that draws most of its heart from British styles of music, sets out to acknowledge others as well as a sort of introspection.
Keeping with the playlist theme, Drake does his best to showcase other artists within his narrative – sometimes completely giving them control of it. UK singer/songwriter Jorta Smith features prominently on two tracks, “Jorta Interlude” and “Get It Together.” “4422,” features the sultry vocals of Sampha. The piano laden “Sacrifices,” showcases the styles of 2 Chainz and Young Thug for an entertaining listen. Looking throughout his career, Drake is best when being at his most open and vulnerable when it comes to his present-day thought process. Like the like from The Dark Knight, “you either die a hero or live long enough to become the villain, Drake ponders why the support has turned to vitriol against him in this honest narrative.
“Winning is problematic/ people like you more when you working towards something/not when you have it.”
The great revelation of More Life that Drake can be hungry while broadening his horizons. Perhaps the brief tiff with Meek Mill and the massive success of “Back to Back” gave him the charge that he needed. We all have our stumbles, as acknowledged in the final track, “Do Not Disturb”; “I was an angry yoth when I was writing Views.” Reminiscent of Eminem’s revelation on 2010’s Recovery that his 2009 album, Relapse was less that his standard. Maybe it’s that transparency that keeps us in tune with an artist over time.
“I know you can reach your desired destination and accomplish your goals much more quickly without this confrontation,” Sandi Graham (Drake’s mother) says softly on a message at the tail end of the track, “Can’t Have Everything.” There’s nothing like a mother’s words to get is back in the right head space.
It’s not a secret that there are many dimension to Drake as an artist, but now we have a full statement that they can all co-exist together.
More Life Rating: 8 out of 10