Drake’s new “playlist” is full of hits and misses


Photo courtesy of The Come Up Show via flickr

Drake performing on his “Summer Sixteen Tour”.

Steven Le, Staff Writer

Months upon months of hype, speculation, and delays have led up to this 22 track “playlist”. More Life is Canadian rapper Drake’s latest project since his album Views, the latter being incredibly disappointing. More Life was released on Saturday, March 18th and is definitely an upgrade from Views. It is a mix of trap bangers, grime tracks, R&B flavored ballads, and… dancehall? Let’s dive straight into the tracklist in order, which seems to be how Drake wants listeners to experience More Life.

One of the first things I noticed about the album overall was that most of the songs flow perfectly into each other, usually with a sample that carries over into the next track, which sort of justifies the title of “playlist”. Sometimes, I can’t even tell a new song started when I’m not paying close attention. Speaking of samples, the first song “Free Smoke” starts off with a soulful sample, plays a recording of Drake’s acceptance speech at the most recent AMA’s, a sound that appears throughout this project, then moves into a freestyle sounding track. This was a slightly above average rap song, the most interesting parts being some of the lyrics, “I drunk text JLo” taking the spotlight. This references the rumors of Drake’s romance with Jennifer Lopez. The next song, “No Long Talk” has more things to talk about, both good and bad. It has a hard hitting, bass heavy beat and features a variety of flows from Drake. It features grime artist Giggs, who isn’t the worst, but doesn’t contribute much to this track. The bad part of the track is that Drake tries to add a British accent on some of his vowels while mixing in his Jamaican patois from Views, and it’s just as terrible as you would think it is.

The album continues to fall apart after “No Long Talk”. The next 5 cuts, “Passionfruit”, “Jorja Interlude”, “Get It Together”, “Madiba Riddim”, and “Blem” are sort of this album’s dancehall phase. The fact that Drake pretends he’s Jamaican is enough for me to not like these songs. They’re all bland, and I will likely not listen to them again. The brightest spot in this group of tracks is “Jorja Interlude”, which features Drake rapping a smooth verse over a bright beat with beautiful Jorja Smith vocals laced in, and this track even samples the Stevie Wonder outro of Drake’s Take Care hit, “Doing it Wrong”. “Madiba Riddim” has a decent beat (but still features boring vocals), and Jorja Smith is the best part of “Get It Together”. To clarify, Jorja Smith is a contemporary R&B/Soul singer who recently entered the industry. I was a fan of her debut EP, Project 11, and I was waiting to see how she sounds on a feature, although it’s a shame Drake chose her to be on such a mediocre song. It’s great to see Drake helping out small artists who deserve more fame. Other than these rare spots of light, most of these songs have lifeless beats, cringeworthy vocals, and detracted from the album.

After “Blem”, the album starts heating up. UK singer Sampha, who has collaborated with Drake before, sings a beautiful interlude on “4422”. His voice is very distinct and stands out from the other features. Following this soulful track, Drake spits laid back bars over a hard, bass heavy beat on “Gyalchester”. The aggressive ad libs on this track really help carry Drake’s smooth flow, making this a highlight of the tracklisting. “Skepta Interlude” is just some normal bars from grime artist Skepta over a decent beat. The mediocre bars like “slice up work like pepperoni” are really what drive me away from this track, although it wasn’t a terrible song. The song “Portland” features Quavo and Travis Scott, two rappers that have been putting out great music recently, and they usually provide great guest verses. The beat features a flute behind trap rhythms, which sounds like a child on a recorder. Drake was going for a sound like Future’s “Mask Off”, but the beat just sounds childish. However, the wordplay on this track, like “No I did not sign with Jay but I still send a Tidal wave” (a reference to Jay Z’s Tidal music streaming company) makes up for it’s mediocre beat. My favorite part of this song was definitely Travis Scott’s verse, which features the apocalyptic production that he is known for. The beat then beautifully transitions to soft, almost depressing pianos as “Sacrifices” (featuring 2 Chainz and Young Thug) starts. The verses on this track aren’t as good as the ones on “Portland”, but the beat is so moody, mysterious, and minimal that’s it’s hard not to like this track. The hook, which features a good tune from Drake, who is gifted in crafting melodies, is definitely what makes the song feel intoxicating.

Drake definitely goes back to his Take Care roots on the next couple tracks. “Nothings Into Somethings” is this album’s relaxation track, as the sample in the beginning of the track even says this song is something to “relax, pop a top to”. This track features atmospheric, dark, faded production. It sounds like something The Weeknd (who is missing from this album even though he was supposed to be on it) would’ve done on Trilogy, which isn’t a bad sound, but it’s incredibly played out. Many artists try to replicate The Weeknd’s old sound and fail, but Drake managed to do a decent job, even extending his vocal range a little bit. The next track, “Teenage Fever”, has Drake diving into his musical past. As with many songs on Take Care, this song features Drake crooning to his ex. It also features similar production as the last track and okay verses, but one quality really makes this track stand out. Instead of Drake singing a chorus, a sample from Jennifer Lopez’s “If You Had My Love” pops in. This is probably the most brilliant sample Drake’s producers have experimented with. It’s pitched so perfectly and has a dark, depressing quality, which fits right into the moody instrumental. The only problem I have with this song is that it feels too built around the Jennifer Lopez sample, and just doesn’t feel like Drake contributed much.

After this song is about where the highlights stop. The next song, “KMT”, also known as “Kiss My Teeth” (with another Giggs feature), is another grimey rap cut, and recently got into a bit of controversy, as Drake was accused of stealing new rapper XXXTentacion’s flow on his breakout song “Look at Me!” Aside from the controversy, Drake spits a good verse, and the beat humorously samples Sonic The Hedgehog’s “His World”, but Giggs’ verse is almost painful to listen to, with an incredibly delayed-sounding flow, and very lackluster lyrics. The song ends with “Batman, da-na-na-da-na” for goodness sake! “Lose You” is a decent emotional rap cut, where Drake asks his loved ones if he has lost them due to his commitment to his career. “Can’t Have Everything” is a pretty bland song, as Drake sounds like a robot while he unconvincingly raps that he can’t have everything he wants. He basically keeps the same flow and delivery throughout the track, and does nothing in the production to make this song interesting.

I’m almost ashamed to talk about this next song. “Glow”, featuring Kanye West, is probably the worst I’ve heard from Kanye in a while. Kanye and Drake singing together sounds like a great concept, but is executed so terribly. The incredibly slow beat does nothing for this song as Kanye spits lame bars while Drake croons on in the background. The only thing that makes this song listenable is the Earth Wind & Fire sample at the end of the track. I’ve never liked PARTYNEXTDOOR’s moody autotune R&B, and no amount of Drake cosigns will make me like it. “Since Way Back”, featuring PARTYNEXTDOOR, which runs on for a painful six minutes, made me so sleepy I couldn’t even listen to the lyrics and find any meaning in the song. Uh… I think it’s supposed to be deep?

This next song is probably everyone’s favorite, and has been all over the internet prior to More Life. “Fake Love” is the only song from a set of three singles Drake released last year that made it onto More Life, which is a shame, since I liked “Sneakin” and “Two Birds One Stone” a lot, the latter being a beautifully eerie diss track against Pusha T and Kid Cudi. Of course Drake had to cut out the two good tracks and keep the boring pop single. I kind of liked this song’s acoustic riff and “Hotline Bling” sounding percussion at first, but after analyzing it, the song revealed itself to be an incredibly boring trap/R&B/pop song, not to mention seeing a million covers of this song all over the internet ruined it. The next song, which has Young Thug’s other feature on this album, “Ice Melts” is a low quality copy of Lil Yachty’s happy, melodic trap rap style, and features a melody that sounds similar to Future’s “Draco”. The bass is muddy and the mixing on this track is mediocre. The album concludes with “Do Not Disturb”, which features Drake spitting over a minimalistic beat that features a pitched sample that is looped throughout. It sounds eerily similar to “Cameras” from Take Care, although I don’t know if that was on purpose. It’s an  autobiographical, reflective track that transitions to bars about Drake’s recent success, and overall is a good conclusion to the project. Drake says “More Life” at the end of this song, which is kind of corny, but it’s still a good way to wrap up the 22 tracks.

Overall, More Life felt like a combination of other Drake projects, from the moody, atmospheric sounds of Take Care, the trap rhythms of If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, and the Jamaica inspired tunes of Views. The main problem this project suffered is the sheer amount of filler songs. Like Views, there were simply too many mediocre tracks that could’ve been cut out. The concept of this being a “playlist” was interesting though. The transitions from track to track were gorgeous, some of the instrumentals were very sonically pleasing, but some of the production sounds demo-quality. The lyricism wasn’t the greatest, but wasn’t terrible. Overall, More Life was decent, and with 22 tracks and experimentation with different sounds, there is something for different types of music fans. I think that the fact that Drake calls this project a “playlist” means that he wants this to be treated like leftover tracks, like a bland version of Kendrick Lamar’s Untitled Unmastered. My favorite tracks are “4422”, “Gyalchester”, “Sacrifices”, and “Teenage Fever”. My least favorite track would have to be “Blem”. Overall, I give this new Drake project a decent 5/10.