REVIEW: Drake brings the heat on ‘More Life’


“More Life” – Drake (2017)

Michael Nied

He may have started at the bottom, but by now there’s no denying Drake’s dominance of the music industry.

The Canadian-born hip-hop artist secured his status after a banner year in 2016 that saw him topping the singles charts twice and topping the year-end albums charts with his fourth studio album “Views” that sold an equivalent of 4.14 million albums.

On Saturday, Drake returned to the scene with his latest project, a playlist titled “More Life,” and it looks like he’s set for another career defining year in 2017.

During a March 10 stop in Hamburg, Germany, on his “Boy Meets World Tour,” the “Hotline Bling” rapper told fans, after the evening’s performance, that he was putting his final touches on the project. Eight days later, the final product hit the web, and it’s potentially the artist’s most cohesive project to date.

With 22 tracks making their way onto the playlist, “More Life” is an ambitious project by any standard and features two more tracks than last year’s already impressive standard edition of “Views.”

“More Life” sees Drake returning to frequent collaborators including Kanye West (“Glow”), PARTYNEXTDOOR (“Since Way Back”) and Travis Scott (“Portland”), as well as some new faces such as British up-and-comers Giggs, Skepta and Sampha.

The playlist kicks off with a soulful introduction from Nai Palm on “Free Smoke” before the sweet, piano-led production gives way to a grittier, trap-infused production and Drake takes over. Reflecting on his humble beginnings, Drake dares his competition to step up and compete with his work but warns that they won’t be able to keep up.

Each track on “More Life” flawlessly transitions into the next; However, Drake provides enough sonic switch-ups that no two songs sound alike throughout the playlist. His productions move from the dancehall on tracks like the joyous “Madiba Riddim” before descending into the biting chill of trap on tracks like “Since Way Back.”

The playlist’s lead single “Fake Love,” released back in October, made it to the finalized “More Life” track-list, and still registers as a high point with its standout production and earworm-worthy hook. The track also fits a recurring theme on the playlist, which sees Drake reflecting on his career and the difficulties associated with fame.

Drake’s distinction that “More Life” is a playlist instead of an LP album gives him more creative license, which he takes advantage of to feature a handful of rising artists. British acts like crooner Sampha and rapper Skepta each provide the sole vocal tracks to interludes on the project. Drake’s absence on the interludes was a daring decision and provides some of the weakest moments on “More Life”; However, it also introduces a slew of American fans to the rising talents.

Notably absent from the project are any of the prominent female artists in Drake’s circle. After burning up the 2016 charts twice with Rihanna (on Rih’s “Work” and his “Too Good”), it’s a bit of a surprise that the pair didn’t hit the studio for “More Life.”

Also absent is Young Money label-mate Nicki Minaj. Drake dropped a verse on Minaj’s “No Frauds” earlier this month, and Minaj made a surprise appearance at a Paris date on his tour, but she isn’t included here.

Even Jennifer Lopez, rumored to be in a relationship with Drake earlier this year, is only present on the album via a sample of her 1999 cut “If You Had My Love” on the angsty “Teenage Fever.” Although the songstress’s lyrics made it to the album, her voice has either been distorted beyond recognition or the sample is performed by another artist. It’s a tough break for J-Lo, made worse by Drake referencing their fizzling relationship in the playlist’s opening moments.

“More Life” moves Drake further into his career while providing him an opportunity to reflect on his accomplishments and the highs and lows of fame. The playlist features slick productions and innovative collaborations with established and rising acts, but Drake remains the star and driving force behind the project. His flow remains impeccable and it’s increasingly clear that he’s enjoying his time at the top regardless of any darkness that gets in his way.

The Best

“Madiba Riddim” After dominating the charts with tropical productions on “Hotline Bling” and “One Dance,” Drake moves the party to 2017 and struggles with fake friends on another vibrant house tune.

“Since Way Back” Clocking in at over six minutes in length, Drake’s collab with PARTYNEXTDOOR is a frosty ode to a straying lover Drake can’t stand to let go of.

“Teenage Fever” Jenny from the Block may not actually be present on the grimy breakup anthem; however, the contrast between her iconic chorus and Drake’s verses offers an emotional glimpse into a relationship at its breaking point.

The Worst

“4422” Clocking in at over 3 minutes, this sullen ode to a breakup feels like an interlude that carries on about two minutes longer than necessary and features no actual contribution from Drake himself.

“Skepta Interlude” “More Life” may be a playlist instead of an album, but it’s relatively unheard of to feature two tracks on an album that don’t even include the artist. Skepta’s flow works well over the trap production, but allusions to spitting bogeys and cutting pepperoni aren’t amongst the slickest lines on the compilation.

Michael Nied is the entertainment reviewer, contact him at [email protected]