Drake continues his quest for global domination with the release of More Life, the 22-track country-hopping, genre-spanning “playlist” that opens the borders of hip-hop and redefines the pop star in 2017. In another left turn from the 6 God, Drake disregarded a uniform aesthetic for the project, like the introspective R&B on 2011’s Take Care and the return-to-form bars on If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, opting instead for a collage of his current inspirations, using his favorite artists and sounds as a vision board to show where his head is currently at.
Constantly innovating, Drake advances his efforts on Views to break out of the mold of the typical rapper, equal parts singing and rapping, in an attempt to stop being pigeon-holed solely in hip-hop. While artists like Justin Beiber, Justin Timberlake, and Ed Sheeran add more and more rap into their pop songs with continued mainstream success, Drake has been open about his frustrations entering the pop stratosphere. "I'm apparently a rapper, even though 'Hotline Bling' is not a rap song," Drizzy shared with UK’s DJ Semtex in a rare interview. "The only category that they can manage to fit me in is in a rap category, maybe because I've rapped in the past or because I'm black," he expressed when asked about his Grammy wins. He clearly found inspiration behind his frustration, as his ambitions on More Life find him not only diving even deeper into Caribbean music, but playing with deep house, grime, trap, and more.
In a world where we expect sudden, surprise releases from the biggest names in music, most shocking about More Life was how traditional the release was - on time and on schedule. Alongside manager Oliver El-Khatib, the 6 God unveiled his playlist curated by October Firm on Episode 39 of his OVO Sound Radio show on Beats 1 Radio on Saturday night (March 18th). Fans collectively listened to the premiere of the project start to finish, instead of having it immediately on demand to skip tracks when a song didn’t catch their ear. More Life was later made available on all streaming services, a move away from his past Apple Music exclusivity. It was all part of Drake’s plan, telling DJ Semtex, “I love the way it’s put together. It’s really put together as a seamless listen. Basically, what I asked myself was, ‘What would happen if I just did an OVOSOUND Radio but every song was a new Drake song?’ That was kind of my idea for it.”
“It’s just an evolution of the mixtape,” he explained. “It was getting tough to be like, ‘I’m dropping a mixtape but it’s for sale on iTunes.’ It was like, ‘Oh, that’s your album.’ I didn’t want people to say this is my next album. Views was my album. This is something that, after Views, I was just inspired. I wanted to keep the music flowing.”
Defining it as a playlist was ingenious, allowing Drake to curate from the talent he’s met around the world and tapping into the relationships he has culled with global talent. The Toronto-London connection is on full display, featuring many of his favorite artists from across the pond. On More Life, we find the 30-year-old making stops around the world on his journey to the UK. He lands in South Africa for the Deep House track “Get It Together,” a flip of Black Coffee’s “Superman,” and returns to the Caribbean and Jamaican patois featured on Views with “Passionfruit” and “Madiba Riddim,” two dancehall-ready summer hits.
UK’s Sampha provides haunting vocals on “4422” and Drake’s love of Grime, a British form of hip-hop with roots in dancehall and reggae, shines throughout the project. Giggs is featured on the chest pounding tracks “No Long Talk” and “KMT” and Drake gives his good friend and rising star Skepta his own interlude. He doesn’t forget about the US rap world that birthed him, with mentor Lil Wayne speaking on two interludes, and the heavy-leaning Kanye feature of “Glow,” with West sounding more hopeful and positive than he has in a while. Drake doesn’t forget the hotbed of mainstream rap and heads to Atlanta, with Quavo, Travi$ Scott, 2 Chainz, and Young Thug making appearances on “Portland,” “Sacrifices,” and “Ice Melts” - some of the brightest spots on the project.
Drake’s decision to create a playlist instead of a traditional album allowed him to release a project of moods, inspirations, and ideas instead of a hyper-focused album. The relaxed feel of More Life proves that Drake is just as much of a fan and a student of the game as he is a teacher - one who has cemented his place as the next in line to take the crown. The 6 God continues to evolve, opening borders and revamping the pop and rap world to fit his own definition.