Less Drake Gives Us ‘More Life’

3.5 STARS

Drake broke records with “Views,” his previous album—it reached more than a billion streams on Apple Music alone, and was streamed a whopping 245.1 million times in just the week after it was released—but the project itself was undeserving of its many accolades. A tedious, overlong mess of a project, “Views” did not set the bar high for his next project—but thank God, “More Life,” his seventh studio project, does not disappoint. Far less hyped up—physical copies have yet to be released, the project wasn’t announced until the day before it was dropped, and a Saturday release is atypical for the music industry—“More Life,” with its less in-your-face promotion, is a surprising success. Drake calls “More Life” a playlist instead of an album—perhaps in anticipation of fans calling out an incoherence they saw in “Views”—and subsequently passes the reins over to the artists, who let Drake sit back and enjoy the show.

“More Life” succeeds where “Views” fails. That 2016 album, in which his sound deteriorates into a commercialized, forced, and unimaginative attempt at the hip hop/pop genre that Drake still managed to dominate with mediocre songs was Drake’s unsuccessful claim to the “artiste” title he worked so hard to earn in previous albums. (Let’s hope “Hotline Bling” was successful because it is undeniable proof that Drake had fallen, a possibility so terrifying that fans had to play the song on repeat to believe it themselves, rather than the much more disappointing probability that people actually liked it.) This playlist, however, affirms Drake’s place among the greats in contemporary music.

Drake made the best decision he could have when he allowed other artists to take control of certain songs on “More Life”: By giving others more artistic freedom over the playlist, Drake avoids over-saturating his music with his own miserable self—again. Though “More Life” is even longer than “Views”—22 tracks—the regular input from other artists keeps the playlist fresh. In “No Long Talk,” Drake allotts himself only one verse, ceding the rest of the song to UK rapper Griggs; “4422” is a mournful plea sung entirely by English artist Sampha; Kanye’s production genius shines in the collaboration “Glow,” sampled from Earth, Wind & Fire’s 1974 classic “Devotion.” These concessions put less pressure on Drake to impress, expose his fans to newer artists they may not know, and create a consistency in its diversity, benefits that were noticeably absent from “Views.”

That’s not to say that “More Life” is radically different from “Views.” On the contrary, Drake continues adopting beats from other cultures, specifically Jamaican and Caribbean, as he did with “One Dance” and “Controlla.” “Mabida Riddim”—“riddim” is Jamaican patois for “rhythm”—has a similarly dancehall-inspired beat. “Blem,” itself a Jamaican-inspired slang word, continues in that vein. Most notable is his constant use of slang throughout the project. When other singers aren’t taking the lead, Drake often defers to patois, especially in his song titles, solidifying his place at the forefront of infusing different style and cultures into one sound. The trap beat underlying “Ice Melts” and the multiple features from UK rappers only emphasize his dedication to encompassing a wide spectrum of music and further blur the lines between hip hop and pop.

Drake continues to lament throughout the album, but his transparency and refusal to hide behind any musical pomp imbues his self-pity with an authenticity it previously lacked. Drake subtly evokes his drama-filled love life in “Teenage Fever,” which features former girlfriend Jennifer Lopez’s hit single “If You Had My Love”; but JLo is noticeably absent from “Get It Together,” on which she also supposedly sung. “Mabida Riddim” explores Drake’s continued disillusionment with the industry and his so-called “friends”: “I cannot tell who is my friend / I need distance between me and them / Gonna have to teach me how to love you again / God knows I’m trying.” In “Can’t Have Everything,” Drake reveals his struggle with wanting everything but not being able to have it. He “want a lot, can’t have everything / Can’t have everything / Want a lot, can’t have everything / But I want everything.” This issues are both conceited and unexceptional, but are so quintessentially Drake that you can’t help but feel for him.

As the album tapers off in “Do Not Disturb,” Drake croons that he is “Takin' summer off, 'cause they tell me I need recovery / Maybe gettin' back to my regular life will humble me / I'll be back in 2018 to give you the summary,” hinting at a subsequent silence that is unusual for the prolific artist. Time may help get Drake officially back on track, musically speaking, and avoid burning out—especially considering the few projects by Drake and collaborators rumored to also be coming out this year. In a new business move, Drake could be priming us for his next project by not being constantly at the forefront of the musical conversation, but instead disappearing for a while to come back even harder. Whether he sticks to his word remains to be seen, but we can all rest easy knowing that Drake has finally returned to form.

—Staff writer Mila Gauvin II can be reached at mila.gauvin@thecrimson.com.

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