Over the years Drake has often been accused of being a “culture vulture” - the Canadian kingpin wears isn’t shy about wearing his influences in plain sight, making hits by borrowing off everyone from Mac Dre to Migos. More recently though, he’s been focussed the UK and the Caribbean to source his sounds from, which naturally has people questioning his intentions.
It all boils down to personal opinion, and the artists he’s been co-signing certainly approve of the global platform he’s offering; commonly praising his love for the sound and culture. Drake is a music lover first and foremost, always hunting for new directions to take his work, and after last years underwhelming ‘Views’ album, is putting these new influenced and friendships at the forefront of his newest release ‘More Life’.
Billed as a playlist as opposed to an album, ‘More Life’ is an accumulation of everything we’ve come to know Drake for: a mesmerising mix carefully curated in the vein of his OVO Sound Radio show, (as well as the blog that precedes it). He serves up a batch of 808 driven bangers for the streets with ‘Free Smoke’, ‘No Long Talk’ and ‘KMT’ (the latter both feature South London’s hard-talking Giggs); continues his penchant for the more exotic sounds the world has to offer with ‘Blem’, ‘Passionfruit’ and ‘Get It Together’; and gets in his feelings with signature confessionals ‘Teenage Fever’, ’Lose You’ and ‘Do Not Disturb’.
The thing that resonates most about ‘More Life’ is Drake’s ode to the people and cultures that have influenced him. He has had a fondness for the UK since he first touched down in 2010, warming up for Jay Z in Manchester (the city’s women get their own dedication here with ‘Gyalchester’), and this has only increased over the years, with his co-signs of artists like Skepta and Giggs. Giggs makes two show-stealing appearances after having appeared several times across Drake’s Boy Meets World Tour, and the South London rapper’s streaming activity in the US has increased by 147% since the release - demonstrating that new listeners are embracing his sound already.
Walsall songstress and Clash Next Wave alumni, Jorja Smith is sampled across ‘Jorja Interlude’ as well as joining South African house producer Black Coffee on the massive ‘Get It Together’, while Grime overlord Skepta gets to shine solo on his own interlude. And Sampha, who has collaborated with Drake before on 2013’s ‘Too Much’, is is called upon for, ‘4422’, which gives listeners a palate cleanser as Drake transitions from the light dancehall sound of ‘Blem’ to the bass-heavy ‘Gyalchester’.
It’s easy to be cynical at Drake’s “playlist” label, however the hour-and-twenty minute journey through his influences feels like one. It’s likely that listeners will jump around and select the parts that are appropriate to their own tastes. In a world where playlist culture is growing rapidly, especially with some many streaming services available nowadays, ‘More Life’ is an example of what can happen when an artist is given the space to have fun experimenting with differ-ent sounds and collaborators, without being held accountable to the precon-ceived notions of the album format.
This is the strongest project Drake since 2013’s ‘Nothing Was The Same’, and one that owes itself to sounds across the globe. “I’ll be back in 2018 to give you the summary, more life,” he raps as he closes out the playlist on ‘Do Not Disturb’. Where does he go from here? Only 6 God knows.
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Words: Mike Wood