“More Life” has bangers but no new ideas

“More Life” was pretty cool. Like I enjoyed it, and it’s something nice to bump in the car, but Drake certainly didn’t give us much new stuff on his new album. On “More Life,” we didn’t see much growth or evolution from Drake. I don’t believe we heard Drake say anything very important. So at the end of the day, “More Life” is fun to listen to, but it’s nothing new or exciting.

Since reaching his current standing in the music world, Drake has received quite a bit of criticism for being a pop star instead of a true rapper. His music isn’t as deep or socially conscious as Kendrick or Cole. Instead, he’s a rapper out to make popular music, not necessarily aiming to convey a message or make a point. I think Drake is even beginning to accept this. Calling “More Life” a playlist, instead of an album, seems to me a cop-out aimed to shield Drake from the criticism of hip-hop heads who will dismiss his success because he has pandered to the pop charts and strayed away from traditional rap. Calling it a playlist sends a message to the listener that this collection of 22 songs is just something to enjoy, rather than examine. At the end of the day, though, it’s hard to knock Drake, as he’s enjoyed more commercial success than maybe any other rapper ever. All 22 of the tracks on “More Life” managed to chart the Billboard Top 100 at the playlist’s release.

This playlist seemed like a glimpse into the past of Drake’s career. The first two tracks on the album had me wondering if “More Life” was a second version of “If You’re Reading This” or “What A Time To Be Alive.” By “Passionfruit,” it was clear to see that there would be a little piece of every Drake album featured on this.

Drake has plenty of bangers on the playlist in tracks like “Free Smoke,” “Portland,” and “Gyalchester,” featuring some of hip-hop’s most commercially successful artists like 2 Chainz, Young Thug and, of course, Quavo. Before he even released this, I absolutely freakin’ knew there’d be a Quavo feature on this.

We see the pop star Drake that hip-hop heads complain about in songs like “Get it Together” and “Madiba Riddim.” It’s not that these tracks aren’t enjoyable or well produced, but they’re pandering to a pop audience rather than a hip-hop audience. Fluffy tracks like these make Drake vulnerable to criticism from hip-hop elites, but, at the same time, the fact that he has such a wide pop following speaks to his star-power and ability to reach across genres.

Speaking of reaching across genres, my favorite version of Drake appears as there are several tracks on the playlist where Drake crosses over into R&B. “Jorja Interlude” appears early in the tracklist and is fantastic. “Teenage Fever” is one of the best songs on “More Life,” sampling Jennifer Lopez on the hook. In principle, that seems kind of awkward, but hey, it made for one of singing-Drake’s best songs to date. The R&B spectrum of Drake’s portfolio is the best version of Drake. Not many other rappers can pull off a record like this, at least not like singing-Drake can. In fact, this ability to cross over into R&B music is something that set Drake apart early, as he was able to capitalize on this in “Take Care” on tracks like “Marvin’s Room” and “Doing It Wrong.” I wish Drake would accept that he’s not the best rapper in the game and embrace his ability as a sort of hip-hop/R&B artist because this is where he truly excels. I’d like to see that all-singing, no-rapping album that he has speculated about, but until then, I guess we’ll just wait.

“More Life” also displayed Drake’s continuous fascination with incorporating foreign cultures into his music. On “More Life,” he continues to incorporate Carribean beats and accents into his own music, despite the fact that he’s received some criticism for this. To be honest, the accent kind of throws me off. I’m not sure when Drake began to think he was Jamaican. Like dude, you’re from Toronto. Drake is blem, for real.  Either way, it’s different, and Drake deserves some credit for being able to pull from Carribean music and make popular music in the United States.

The absolute best part about “More Life” is Drake’s effort to bring grime, the British cousin of American hip-hop, into mainstream American music. Drake features grime artists Skepta and Giggs, who absolutely crush their verses. The best song on “More Life” is “KMT” featuring Giggs. Drake himself even attempts the British accent on “No Long Talk,” and it actually kind of works. If “More Life” introduced me to anything new, it’s grime. This is the best, and most original, part of “More Life.”

Ultimately, “More Life” was alright. It’s fun to listen to, but not much else. It’s hard to critically assess “More Life” because Drake wasn’t aiming to wow anyone with a profound message or a life-changing revelation. At times, I felt like I was still listening to “If You’re Reading This” or “Take Care.”

But “More Life” was made for fun, and that’s what it is. In my opinion, “More Life” is a sign of Drake’s inevitable decline as a true rapper. Other than the grime thing, he doesn’t do or say anything new. At times, it seems like he’s making a desparate reach to reinvent himself, but ultimately falling short. I’m not saying Drake won’t remain popular, but I feel that moving forward, traditional rap may increasingly disown a tired ole Drake, and he may have to pander more than ever to the pop audience in order to remain at the throne of music where he currently resides.

“More Life” was nothing new. But it’s hard to be too critical of Drake, who harnesses his star-power and achieves more commercial success than anyone else in the industry. So don’t look to deep into “More Life.” You’ll ruin it for yourself. Instead, use the equalizer on your Spotify to boost the bass, take a drive and enjoy “More Life.” Drake may fall someday, but for now he’s still the king.

More ‘chun for ya head top, so watch how you speak on Drake’s name, ya know?

Cover photo courtesy of Genius.

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