On October 23, 2016, the day before his birthday, Canadian artist Drake announced that he would be releasing not an album, but a playlist in 2017. Drake can call it whatever he wants, but it doesn’t change the fact that More Life, which premiered on March 18 through OVO Sound Radio, is a painfully average collection of music. The project is a lengthy 22 tracks. But with no central theme or message, it lacks unity.
On his sparse rap verses, Drake imitates today’s popular Atlanta rappers. This is evident on songs like “Sacrifices,” featuring 2 Chainz and Young Thug (both Atlanta rappers). Drake reflects over an 808-heavy beat, “40 got house on the lake/ I ain’t know we had a lake/ She complaining how I’m late/ I ain’t know it was a date.” Drake made it as an artist for his introspective and clever wordplay, not trap-tastic one-liners like these.
The guest list includes UK artists Sampha, Jorja Smith, and Giggs, as well as Kanye West and PARTYNEXTDOOR. Despite the impressive cast of guest artists, More Life is stale. Take “Ice Melts” for instance, on which Young Thug mumbles nonsense, literally:
“Baby I’m needin’ somethin’ somethin’/ I wanna beat it up with somethin’ somethin’/ You’re a diamond out the rough or somethin’ somethin.”
If there’s anything we need less of in 2017, it’s nonsense.
Drake finds a sweet spot on dancehall-inspired pop tracks, “Passionfruit,” “Get It Together,” and “Madiba Riddim.” But three tracks aren’t enough to save an entire playlist of duds.
While other contenders for rap’s top dog, such as J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar, are stepping up their creativity both lyrically and thematically, Drake is forcing an uninspiring message:
I’m famous. I’m rich. I have everything. I want more things. My relationships never work. But it’s the woman’s fault because I’m famous and she can’t handle it. Oh yeah, f*ck Meek Mill.
Drake, 30, teased these messages on his sophomore album, Take Care (2011). But critics and fans consider Take Care to be Drake’s career-defining ‘classic’ because the record had real feelings. Drake’s energy was unmatched at the time, and the emotions on songs like “Marvin’s Room” were raw and uncut. More Life has no such feeling.
More Life’s defenders will credit the medley of cultures represented on the playlist (UK grime, dancehall, ‘00s R&B). However, the sound biting is a cheap trick Drake uses to be hailed as an innovative artist. It’s as if Drake and 40 (his longtime producer) didn’t spend enough time parsing through filler tracks.
Drake doesn’t stop working and should maybe listen to the advice of his own sophomore record: Take care and take time. Drake’s vacation shouldn’t be as long as Frank Ocean’s four-year hiatus, but certainly, coming back next year is too soon. Hip-hop and R&B fans will listen to Take Care forever. Sadly, More Life won’t be relevant next month. For the sake of his own career and his fans, Drake’s next album (or playlist) needs to be timeless.