Aubrey Drake Graham is one of the world’s most recognisable musical figures at the moment thanks to his consistent timings in terms of releases and remaining relevant to the mainstream community. His 2016 album ‘Views’ was his most eagerly anticipated project to date and managed to break 1 million sales in it’s first week of release, solidifying his place alongside the likes of Beyoncé and Justin Bieber as the biggest artist on the planet at the moment. ‘Views’ was ordinary, plain and uninventive, blending mind-numbing chart hits with half-hearted attempts at dancehall roots to create a crowd-pleasing album that will ranks, in my opinion at least, as his worst project to date. Despite this his flame will not burn out and the release of this ‘More Life’ project has been ferociously awaited, with the whole world tuning in to his OVO Sound Radio stream when he previewed it. The album has gone on to break Ed Sheeran’s streaming records and dominate the charts, but how good is it really? Has this “playlist” slumped to new lows after a shoddy job on ‘Views’ or will it be a return to form for Drizzy?
The production is magnificent, it is exactly what we could have wanted upon hearing the teaser tracks in the build up. His producer Noah “40” Shebib really strikes a tune with almost every single cut on here. Whether it be the slick dancehall vibes of ‘Get It Together’ and ‘Passionfruit’ (my personal favourite on the album), or the hard hitting grime and trap influences on ‘Free Smoke’ and ‘KMT’ (more on that track later), the playlist rarely hits a roadblock in terms of a sonic level of enjoyment from the instrumentals. The dancehall on this project sounds far more genuine and well-thought out than it did on ‘Views’, paying more homage to the homelands of it’s discovery and above all doing it justice on a grand scale. The best instrumental on the album is comfortably the one on the Travis Scott and Quavo featured ‘Portland‘, a song I was stupidly excited about when I saw the feature list and it did not disappoint. Much like Future on ‘Mask Off’ and D.R.A.M. on ‘Broccoli’ before him (did someone say culture vulture?), Drake implements the woodwind instrument into the beat with optimum efficiency and as a result the instrumental becomes infectious and toe-tapping in every sense of the term. It really does say a lot when I can’t pinpoint a flaw in the album in terms of production, huge props to 40 for that and it sets the album in such good stead.
Lyrically and vocally, Drake switches it up massively to what we usually hear from him. He dives in head first to new cultures and styles; from the gritty streets of North London to the sun, sea and sand of Jamaica, this is a journey we all take with this project simply from the use of Drake’s vocals. On ‘Blem‘ Drake deems it necessary to call someone a “wasteman” which is comedy in a way but also shows an embracing of UK culture in a simple form, something which I feel is an understated weapon in Drizzy’s arsenal. His mannerisms do have the potential and ability to be fairly frustrating to listen tom however, particularly on ‘Gyalchester‘ which is a stupid name for a track and has some infuriating tones on it, including the way he says “kicker”; the track itself is good though and the beat is hard. Singing Drake is a blissful experience on this playlist, especially on tracks like ‘Nothings Into Somethings’ and ‘Teenage Fever’ where he can serenade even the most heterosexual of men at times.
Drake seems adamant here that he is the best rapper on the planet, and he is also not prepared to let his ongoing beef with just about everyone in the rap industry die down. On ‘Gyalchester’ Drake tells us “I know I said top five, but I’m top two and I’m not two” suggesting that there is nobody around him that can do what he does, and that he is the true king of hip-hop. Whether or not you agree with it ( I personally don’t) you have to admit it’s a brilliant lyric and it’s a great showing of confidence, the side of Drake that hip-hop fans love. He also reignites his feud with Jay-Z on ‘Portland’ where he raps “fake fuck with me back then but it’s getting harder for you to fake it now.” He continues, “fuck being rich when I’m forty man, I’m tryna make it now” referring to the amount of time it took 47 year old Jay to become as rich as he is. Fuel to the fire.
I have to mention it. Drake’s reputation as a culture vulture has struck once again on this project, and it has never been more obvious this time round. On ‘KMT‘ with Giggs, our beloved Aubrey is clocked sporting a new style of flow and cadence as he compensates for how hard the beat is which is fair enough, I am all for changing your style. But this ‘change’ is shocking, he has literally copy and pasted the flow of Soundcloud rapper XXXTentacion on hit track ‘Look At Me!’ and made it his own. That isn’t on. That is the sort of action that makes me angry at Drake, because he is talented enough to do his own thing be him, because nobody can be Drake better than Drake. It is just something that had to be flagged up otherwise he will just continue to pull the wool over people’s eyes forever more.
The features are absolutely perfect on ‘More Life’. There’s not much more to it than that. Sampha steals the show on ‘4422‘ as he has done in the past on Drake’s 2013 hit ‘Too Much’ and Kanye West’s ‘Saint Pablo’, his haunting vocals encapsulate all the right emotions and make you disappear into the void of his song. Speaking of Kanye, he does a stellar job on one of the projects more unique cuts in ‘Glow‘ and I personally believe he outdoes Drake on this one as he sings and raps with passion and emotion, much like the Ye we know and love. Skepta is an absolute monster on ‘Skepta Interlude‘ and proves to us all that his ability and reputation has outgrown that of simply just UK Grime music, he is now a true phenomenon of the genre. Linking with UK Grime we also have Giggs do his thing on both ‘KMT‘ and ‘No Long Talk‘ where he bleeds his grime roots and introduces America to the UK rap culture with serious power. He sounds like a super-villain on his features as he shows his dark sides and goes as hard as is humanly possible on his verses, although keep an ear out for a certain line about Turkey, as well as one about Batman which I can’t decipher between trash, comedy gold or both. Quavo and Travis Scott are amazing on ‘Portland‘ too and it makes me so happy to see two of my favourites being given this kind of platform, the job they do on it is fantastic, particularly Quavo’s hook where he smashes the references, varying from WWE legend The Undertaker to NBA legend Michael Jordan. My love for Young Thug is also only amplified by his features on ‘Sacrifices’ and ‘Ice Melts’ where he shows us his normal and crazy sides in abundance.
Top 3 Tracks: Passionfruit, Portland, Skepta Interlude
Worst 3 Tracks: Since Way Back, Do Not Disturb, Can’t Have Everything
This could well be a huge contender for the best project of the year, it is competing with Loyle Carner and Stormzy so far that is for sure. It was 100% worth the wait and is a million miles ahead of ‘Views’ in every possible way, from the cultural infliction to the features. I must admit that I am a bit gutted that ‘Sneakin’ with 21 Savage didn’t make it onto the track list but it is already plenty long enough. As far as I see it, this is right up there with Drake’s best work and it is, in theory, B-sides with some extra padding from ‘Views’, that in itself is bizarre given the quality of it all. 2016 was Drake’s year and barring disaster, he could be the king of 2017 too. There’s only one man who could make Drizzy’s wave crash and his name is Kendrick Lamar, unfortunately for Drake, it looks like K-Dot is on his way and is carrying weapons…