Written by: The Bro
A Man Without A Country
At this point it would be impossible to deny Drake’s success. Soon to be seven #1 albums, endless hits, and a unanimous victory in the last major rap beef are just some of his achievements. On paper it seems like he has achieved everything until you think about it a bit harder. For all his number ones, a classic album has famously evaded him. Meanwhile ghostwriting accusations (and leaked reference tracks) have hurt his credibility as an MC. His response to these questions has largely been to further immerse himself in the pop world, where credibility rarely matters. Yet even still I find myself wondering who Drake is as an artist, besides a shameless reactionary. His latest project, More Life, brings more questions than answers.
At this point in time there are more Drake phases than Star Wars films. From Houston Drake to Champagne Papi, a person can trace their life’s story by which trend Drake was riding at the time. I was in college during Drake’s Houston phase and the So Far Gone days of old. Since then Drake has exchanged city appropriation for cultural appropriation, morphing himself into part time Jamaican dancehall king, part time UK roadman. The grime vibes start on No Long Time, which features UK legend Giggs. Throwing around multiple “tings,” I can envision Drake in the studio clad in a tracksuit as he rides the wave with the mandem. It doesn’t feel authentic, less so paired so closely with a grime artist.
Next the album goes island hopping. On the infectious Passionfruit, Dancehall Drake emerges with what sounds like his next smash hit. This is the song that even Drake haters will secretly bop their head to for the next few months. The island vibes continue on the house jam Get It Together, which features an amazing appearance from the talented Jorja Smith. It marks a trend that lasts throughout the album, where Drake often feels like an after thought on tracks with standout features. Smith’s strong vocals fit the track perfectly, to the point it almost feels like a record Drake bought from her. Likewise Sampha’s appearance on 4422 is another standout. Drake has never been a good singer, and this becomes more clear on an album that features multiple great ones.
The flutes are unleashed on Portland. It almost sounds like a response to the huge success and memes spawned by Future’s Mask Off. Unfortunately unlike Mask Off, the track feels like a miss outside of Quavo’s “Ike Turner with the left hand” musing.
Drake doesn’t seem to retake the spotlight until Sacrifices. It’s just a great song, including one of the most quotable hooks of the year. Perhaps most surprising, melody madman Young Thug leaves the autotune in the bushes and floats with a great verse on which he tries to explain his genius (“I’m talking monkey like Jumanji”).
Whether on the islands or with the mandem, Insecure Drake hangs over multiple tracks like a spirit. Nothings Into Somethings gives me Marvin’s Room flashbacks, which isn’t a good thing. For all the success and money, it often feels like emotionally Drake will always be that nerdy kid in high school who got laughed at and can’t get over it.
Perhaps Drake’s description of the project as a “playlist” instead of an “album” is apt, as it feels more like a collection of songs than a coherent body of work. If there’s any coherent theme to the playlist it’s a general sense that you’ve heard these flows before. Lose You and Do Not Disturb sound like typical monotone rap Drake songs we’ve heard since 2009. They warrant a “oh man, he’s rapping” response, and that response’s level rises or falls based on how much rap you actually listen to.
The constant quality of the features continues on Glow, where a ghost appears. An energetic, rapping Kanye West simultaneously stunts and laments guilt (“I hope I deal with karma before my son do”) in all his glory. The Earth, Wind & Fire sample further adds to a feeling of revival for Mr. West. Meanwhile Drake’s contribution to the track aren’t noteworthy, but perhaps he sacrificed himself to give us the old Kanye back. If so it would make up for this overly long, aimless playlist.