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WPGM Commentary: More Life – The Quintessential Drake Playlist

drake more life
Before we begin, let’s make it clear this isn’t a review of More Life. This is a casual thought-piece about it. I feel like Drake is occupying an uncharted space right now and he’s a phenomenon that is strangely fascinating. Having reached heights beyond his wildest dreams, he now possesses star power of a ridiculous level.

He is becoming larger than life and that’s great albeit slightly terrifying for the pop/rap community. How can anyone compare with this success? Drake’s reign will go down in history. I am afraid of how More Life will manifest in time, and how Drake and his peers will be able to surpass it, while not being consumed by it. Why is that something to be concerned about? Why is that even a possibility? However, it isn’t solely about that.

Well, as controversial as it may sound, More Life is what Views should have been. For many, its solidified him, for others, it has put him back on track, and for some, it shows how his artistic, poisonous tentacles know no bounds. This is why it’s concerning and possible, More Life’s meaning and impact is not to be overlooked.

Shock and horror! I reviewed Views and I had a blast reviewing it. Could it be the biggest change of opinion?? Should my whole amateur journalistic credibility be abandoned? No. People’s opinions change and music is something that fluctuates (in certain circumstances). Music is a strange beast, and the mind treats it that way.

At the time of writing, Views was great to me. It was the magnum opus until I escaped the long gestating period. Views didn’t have the longevity I believed it did. It was a magnum opus in terms of commercial success, that is undoubtedly true. It was also a magnum opus in that he executed his vision of where he stood in culture, both within hip-hop and pop music.

However, critically and as a creative, it was not his opus and time showed that. More Life isn’t his opus either but what it is, is the album Views wanted to be, a collection of high-quality rap and pop songs that come together to be a cohesive, earth-shattering and engrossing body of work.

Views had its impact as I’ve said and the vast majority of the album still slaps, however it is a victim of Drake’s over-indulgence to give too much. More Life suffers a similar affliction but only ever so slightly, I only find myself getting antsy around track 19 (partially because it’s a snooze-fest) and after that it’s a neat, atypical Drake finish.

What’s impressive is the sheer scope of More Life and the journey that you go on sonically. It’s so diverse and lush, the production is beautiful. In fact, that’s what brings More Life’s sound to life. It’s a colourful experience. The way the instrumentals breathe and grow, surrounding you, like paint splashing upon your body. An endless canvas.

They’re all encompassing, from South African House music to gritty pure Grime thanks to Giggs and Skepta. The instrumentals are a story themselves and the lyrics are simply scattered atop the exoticness. That is what drew me into More Life, and it’s also what gripped me throughout. After countless listens, the instrumentals are what really speak to me, create a long-lasting atmosphere that resonates on an emotional level.

That isn’t to say that lyrically it’s a weak project, but it isn’t If You’re Reading This… quality either. It’s hardened pop music with some rap cuts. More Life is the most honest representation of Drake currently, during this period of time. Just as Views did, it takes us on a journey of where he’s been as an artist and individual the last few years and again, it shows his versatility.

As an artist, he’s a chameleon, he changes colours to whatever suits the track. He’s been dubbed a culture vulture and to a degree it’s true, however, I wouldn’t make it sound as malicious as that. He has an ear for sound (it shows) and he takes a stab at it. More Life is Drake’s version of [insert music genre!] which rubs a lot of people the wrong way. Sure it may be disingenuous, a bit suspect and at times, too sweet.

Yet with More Life, it never gets to the point of where it’s forceful or rammed down your throat, kind of how the dancehall single push was after Views. ‘Dancehall Drake’ dominated the remainder of the year and it was far too much, it was sickly and intrusive. I’m not sold on Drake doing dancehall, he’s far better at the moodier, wounded bad luck lover, even if it’s becoming his schtick.

You know by now Drake is ‘that guy’ and if anything, after this project, I don’t want to hear solemn Drake again. At least, not in the same way. If he really has struggles and problems, he needs to convey them in a different, more meaningful way. The way he displays his emotions and ‘issues’ of late, is in a watered down form for the sake of fitting the perceived pop mantra.

Keep it shallow, keep it catchy, give the audience something to relate to but for goodness sake, don’t make it too deep! No, no, deep successful pop music exists as does deeper, moving rap. Everything with Drake lately is a bravado, it’s a mask, it doesn’t feel genuine because he takes a stab at everything, in every way possible.

He sounded nasty and hungry on If You’re Reading This… and he had every reason to. He was surrounded by contract controversy and he was pissed. That ‘mixtape’ was a result of his anger, and a statement to show people he was far more than your soft shake-up of an R&B and rap artist. Then Views was the natural continuation of that. It was a developed piece of work to demonstrate he isn’t just capable of R&B tunes, he can also do pop, dancehall, and even trap.

More Life is an exemplification of his style and I feel it achieves what Views was trying to be in a more pure, succinct way. Although it won’t make a difference to him, how can he measure the success of a ‘playlist’ or ‘collection of throwaways’ compared to an actual album about him and his beloved city? Is he too far up on the ladder to see the impact and longevity More Life will have?

That’s the concern, that artists like him are far too concerned with topping themselves over and over again, to the point of us wondering ‘where is the ceiling anymore?’ What is the limit to what we consider and manage success. How do we measure it in a digestible way, when all records are being broken and these things that once meant something are meaningless, once they are beaten.

It’s terribly consuming and scary, what will it do to artistry? There’s a real risk that artists go the Drake route for the sake of success, which could result in a lot of empty, shallow musicians. We’re not just seeing it with him though, and it isn’t ‘only’ perpetuated by the musician, it’s the media more-so.

Every publication secretly is clambering for a bunch of accolades and statistics to justify and somehow quantify an artist. In time, it’ll be used to compare and knock down artists because of what they ‘haven’t achieved’. There’s far too much emphasis on what a project will do nowadays due to the current climate of record sales. It becomes the focal point.

Everyone gets eaten alive alongside those statistics and records becoming more important than opinion and personal experiences. With More Life, everyone wonders what it’ll achieve and what it can do, will it surpass x y and z? Where is the passion and analysis of what a project like this means to an artist and his listeners. What is More Life to the 21st century music industry?

Moreover, what will More Life be without that ‘personal’ connection attributed by the artist himself? Drake has distanced himself from this project, incase it backfires and I’d even go to say, he learned that from the critical reception of Views. That disconnect could prove harmful because from what I’ve seen on forums and the blogosphere, people are enjoying More Life far more than Views.

A lot of fans had a similar experience to me, they loved Views, it was his best work at that moment in time and for a couple of weeks, perhaps even a month or two after. However, over time it wasn’t what we thought it was and I, among others probably feel like fools. We were wowed by what Drake could do, that it blinded us from what he failed to do.

Furthermore, More Life has some of his best songs that represent this movement and moment he is in right now. In fact, it has one of his best songs of all time and that is “Teenage Fever“. It’s sublime and exquisite, the beat is affective. The main synth line is emotion bottled up, it rattles the soul alongside bass that is so dense and cataclysmic, it was probably forged in Hell.

I’ve thought about it, and I’ve come to the conclusion that More Life will be a success and it’ll do whatever Drake wants it to do. It’ll be pulled apart and drained of its personality, so only the bones of its shallow successes remain. Regardless, this has certified him as the pop star of rap, it’ll land him more accolades and hits to come with it. What more could he want?

This project has had an immediate impact and it’s the definitive swan-song before he shuffles behind the curtains. This is the last thing we’ll hear from him for some time and it’s the only way he could have dropped the mic, there is no way he could have stepped away, other than delivering this musical juggernaut. More Life is the quintessential collection of Drake’s sound and aesthetic, irrespective of its affect on us and the industry, for good and bad.

More Life, More Domination, More Drake…for now.

Words by Jake Gould

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