Categorising More Life as a ‘playlist’ is an interesting yet calculated move from Drake. It displays a sense of awareness that this material is not worthy of a formal ‘album’ status, so it makes its way onto a new type of collection. Of course, it is quite likely that the financial benefits that Drake will surely reap from this release will be astronomical regardless of its informal, demo-ish nature. Nonetheless, releasing a playlist of original material is an interesting concept, so how does it pay off?
Free smoke is a heavy start. A trap-influenced banger beat kicks off the project in a bold introduction. Drake’s lyrics are reflective and bitter, commenting on the aspects of the hypocritical and excessive life that many of his contemporaries lead. While his sentiments of ‘I’m above this’ might read as disingenuous, Drake’s reflection on his own progression as an artist is at least an interesting way of setting the tone for the project. The production is, however, a mixed bag. While the drums feel like a kick in the chest with every hit, the wispy sample lurking in the background leaves the beat with an anaemic lack of presence. ‘No Long Talk’ falls into a similar trap. Introducing the project’s grime influence with a Giggs feature, the song is once again marred by lacklustre production, specifically in regards to Giggs’ vocals which are mixed way too low and sound breathless.
Hearing the transatlantic quirks of this record is a little off-putting but also endearing
Drake makes frequent use of UK slang (“Wasteman”, “Ting” and “Blem” making frequent appearances). Hearing the transatlantic quirks of this record is a little off-putting but also endearing. Drake is clearly infatuated with the Grime culture emanating from London so his championing of this in his lyrics and inclusion of British features is likely to have a positive impact for the scene. An example is ‘Skepta Interlude’; a true-blue grime track in which Skepta takes over the mic for two minutes-or-so. This alludes to the ‘playlist’ aspect of this release as Drake’s promotion of UK artists is a core aim of this release. An album highlight is ‘4422 ft. Sampha’, the fantastic UK singer who is shooting to fame with the release of his debut Process. The song has a beautiful, swimmy instrumental and Sampha’s voice is as gorgeous as ever.
More Life upholds much of the Strong dancehall, house and Afrobeat influences as found in many of Drake’s previous recent works. ‘Passionfruit’ is the first of these tracks and is certainly one of the highlights of the project. A pleasant instrumental carries Drake’s smooth, melancholy singing like a supportive friend, and is one of the more genuinely interesting examples of his ventures into a more international approach to making hip hop and dance. ‘Madiba Riddim’ also fulfills this role, bringing more uplifting and summery vibes to the project.
Despite this, there is a lot of underwritten trite. A lot of the songs here have plenty of potential but fall into the same trap that ‘One Dance’ did when it was released – it just felt unfinished, as though it was merely the genesis of a song that would be much better if given more time and structure. ‘Nothings into Something’ is a perfect example of this, as a druggy ballad that is criminally underwritten and meandering. Another is ‘Portland’. The flutes in Portland are hilarious. An interesting choice of sample, they took me out of the bravado of Drake, Quavo and Travis’ verses and really just made me want to giggle.
‘Glow ft. Kanye’ is a standout but far from a highlight. Kanye’s presence is dominating, commanding the track over a spacey instrumental, but his singing is, as ever, bad. ‘Glow’ is used as an obvious metaphor for success, but the song just reads as an ego-anthem without any gumption. ‘Since Way Back’, despite a slightly aimless structure, features some blissful, low-key Arca-inspired production. It features a Glitchy beat with reversed and warped samples; the song is interesting for its production but also features some inspired and wistful vocals from PartyNextDoor and Drake that give the track an emotional edge. ‘Ice Melts’ takes some notes from Lil Yachty with a comically sunny instrumental. While one of the more strongly-written songs, it’s still lacklustre when compared with the few good tracks on this album.
More Life, even with its informal release campaign, is still an exercise of wasted potential
Drake’s More Life is likely going to appeal to hardcore Drake fans. But then again, so did Views, an album which is marred by underwritten songs, weak production and meandering vocals. More Life, even with its informal release campaign, is still an exercise of wasted potential. Despite the positive impact on the UK grime scene that is likely to come from this high endorsement, More Life has little else to offer other than the occasional semi-decent song. ‘Passionfruit’ is cute, ‘Madiba Riddim’ is fun, ‘Do Not Disturb’ is impassioned. However, all the padding and insipid detours around these tracks leave More Life feeling too long to justify and too safe to be memorable. If Drake thought this would be his Untitled Unmastered he is sorely mistaken.