With 2016’s letdown Views almost a year in the past, Drake has finally delivered his latest project; the much awaited and much delayed More Life. Branded as a playlist, but in essence another mixtape (after all, what’s the difference), More Life is 22 tracks of Drake and company at it again. It’s a definite step up from last year’s disappointing Views, but More Life continues Drake’s recent musical trends – forays into dancehall, experiments with grime, and an ultimately unsatisfying and forgettable release.
At first glance, More Life seems like the typical Drake project, and to be honest, it is, but it isn’t too. The usual production team of life companion 40 and other guys like Boi-1da, Nineteen85, and PartyNextDoor are still close at hand, but the range of features and collaborators on this project is far wider and far more varied. Too often, this results in an album with a lot of ideas, but a severe lack of cohesion – although in the terms of a “playlist” as Drake calls it, a fair few of these songs stand strongly on their own.
The very tropical and groovy Passionfruit is easily one of More Life’s strongest cuts, an R&B track with an underlying dancehall influence that could definitely become this project’s Hotline Bling – with an instantly catchy chorus and a captivating bounce, it’s sure to get stuck in your head and stay there. Unlike on Views, Drake’s dancehall appropriation really stands out. Tracks like the beautifully intricate and lush Get it Together, where features Black Coffee and Jorja Smith do a lot of the heavy lifting, are surprisingly engaging, while weaker cuts such as Madiba Riddim and Blem feel like Drake once again butchering his influences.
For the first time in a while, Drake is consistently (or at least consistently trying) to drop bars like back in the day. Drake is a man of many masks, constantly switching between the personas of soft R&B romantic and hard as nails rap godfather, although the quality of his lyricism doesn’t match. On tracks like Free Smoke and No Long Talk, Drake’s attempts at imitating his new UK grime pals is downright embarrassing, especially when people like Giggs and Skepta drop in and instantly overshadow him. Every bar is predictable; cuts like Gyalchester are skippable material. Without excellent performances from legends Giggs on KMT and Skepta on his own Skepta Interlude, the whole grime element of this project would be laughable.
But it isn’t just UK hip hop legends on More Life; some of the top trap stars drop in to teach Drake something too. On Portland, the match made in heaven of Travi$ Scott and Quavo work wonders over a minimal beat and some random off-key wails from Drake, but if that wasn’t enough, the dynamic duo of 2 Chainz’s low key bars and Young Thug’s melodic trap flows on Sacrifices is way more amazing than it has any right to be. Honestly, if Drake didn’t bookend this track with his forgettable performances, it would be perfect. Young Thug comes back for penultimate track Ice Melts, and once again, he dominates every aspect of the track. Even Kanye stops by for the track Glow, and as predicted, overshadows Drake. It’s not even that every one of these features is amazing; it’s just that Drake is downright unimpressive.
Lead singles Sneakin and Two Birds, One Stone are nowhere to be seen on More Life, seemingly abandoned for the final cut. It’s a shame, because out of the three, Fake Love was easily the weakest track while the moody Two Birds, One Stone, one of Drake’s best tracks, has been left out. So many of More Life’s tracks could not be there, and nothing would change; in fact, it would probably be better. Cuts like Nothings into Somethings, Teenage Fever, and Lose You feel like interludes extended for three more minutes than they should. Even Sampha seems to suffer from Drake-itis on the boring three minute interlude 4422, only saved because, after all, it is Sampha. It’s sad to say, but so much of this album constantly feels like either a loose end or beating a dead horse – an idea that doesn’t go far enough, or an idea that doesn’t go anywhere.
Undeniably, More Life is a definite step up from Views. But it feels like Drake’s way past his peak, overshadowed by simply everyone. Playlist or not, a messy, inconsistent, and sometimes incoherent project like this has no excuse. There’s definitely a lot of salvageable material here, but so little of it is owed to Drake. Classic, impressive Drake is in the past, and nothing was (or will be) the same.