We look back on Drake’s “More Life” two years later.
The post-Views era of Drake’s career could very well be seen as a turning point. The 2016 release angrily followed up 2015’s surprise If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, where we slowly began to see Aubrey embrace the villain within that people sought to turn him into. What A Time To Be Alive was clearly a Future-lead effort, but most of Drake’s shining moments on that project featured him throwing jabs upon jabs. “30 For 30 Freestyle” is an especially deep cut.
While Views will forever be a polarizing project, a super hit for many and a big miss for what seems to be an equal amount of people, it was clear Drizzy felt he had to go a different route and make himself more accessible. In comes the highly diverse, extensive “playlist” known as More Life.
It was clear Drake put a lot of stock into this project, as he announced it in the fall after a rather active summer of music (“For Free,” “4PM in Calabasas,” “No Shopping,” “Big Amount,” “Why You Always Hatin'”). He even packaged it with “Sneakin'” featuring 21 Savage, “Fake Love,” the bruising “Two Birds One Stone” diss track and the remix to Dave‘s “Wanna Know.”
“Two Birds One Stone” caused a lot of controversies, taking aim at Cudi’s mental health and whether or not Push actually did the drug dealing he claims. And this just raised many questions. Why was he coming back so soon though? I reckon he had to remind fans he was still enjoying music, he had friends in the industry, and the leftover spice from the Meek Mill beef was dissolved. Of course, he still got some shots in on the album but it very much so felt like he was looking forward.
March 18, 2017, he gathered all of us for yet another worldwide listening party on OVO Sound Radio. In an interesting move, perhaps to respect the release date of good friend Rick Ross‘s Rather You Than Me, he released on a Saturday afternoon. After a brief speech, we got right into Nai Palm‘s angelic vocals from Hiatus Kaiyote‘s “Building A Ladder” and knew 6 God was about to take us somewhere. That he did. “Free Smoke” was one of his more aggressive and upbeat intro tracks, where he typically opts for something slower and more introspective.
Still introspective for sure, but shit talking galore. He reflects on falling asleep in sorority houses, coming up under Wayne, daring people to come and see him outside, and wanting to move to Dubai because he can’t deal with the people here. Can’t forget the JAY-Z reference, nodding at his suggestions in “Light Up” about ignoring people who will start petty feuds. As Drizzy’s career reflected over the last few years, he enjoyed sniping rappers way more. Hov caught some shots too.
One of the most noticeable and enjoyable parts of this “playlist” was its cohesion even in transitioning between various genres of music. The inclusion of a song’s opening beat in the preceding song’s ending made it all feel fluid. One would often have to check their phone to see if it was one song with a beat switch, or songs were actually changing. Even if transitions between songs like “No Long Talk” and “Passionfruit” or “Teenage Fever” and “KMT” shouldn’t work, they just do and it feels right. The arrangement contributes to a narrative as well. We see the tension between his ego and insecurities throughout the entire project.
Now, of course, this album brought about comments on appropriation or Drake trying to be someone he isn’t. I see both sides 100% and respect all arguments pertaining to the situation. That being said, for someone who isn’t a purebred artist specializing in Dancehall and Grime, he delivered some solid tracks. Surely not the best ever, but songs like “Madiba Riddim” and “Blem” you can’t help but move too. He made the tracks feel-good bops, which can appeal to any ear in many situations.
He gets into his R&B bag of course, with the Jennifer Lopez-interpolating “Teenage Fever,” detailing a man who’s fallen for another woman while he’s already claimed. He can’t seem to stay away though and writes an open letter on this song. The PARTYNEXTDOOR-assisted “Since Way Back” is yet another gold mine from the two. Drizzy and PND really bring the best out of one another. “Nothings Into Somethings” you can’t help but sympathize, as he’s got to watch Serena Williams go off and get engaged to another man without so much as a peep to him. Apparently, she told him it was nothing, but it clearly became a big something for her.
The features are a treat too! We’ve got Young Thug, Jorja Smith, Black Coffee, and Giggs whom Drake had not collaborated with previously. Thug especially shined, with his verse of the year candidate on “Sacrifices” and then a fun, nearly inaudible chorus on “Ice Melts.” Jorja was really put in the mainstream spotlight with her amazing performance on “Get It Together” and Giggs was gritty as ever in “No Long Talk” and “KMT.” Longtime Drizzy collaborators Sampha, Quavo, Travis Scott, 2 Chainz, and Kanye West appeared as well. Sadly “Glow” never worked for me and it still does not. Sorry, Ye. I know y’all had better on that collaborative mixtape we never got.
The strength of this album was Drizzy’s openness. Open with his life, openness to collaborating, to trying new things, and enjoying himself through it all. And while he does step outside himself and add new skills to his arsenal, he brings it back to his foundation – rap. Verses on “Portland” and “Sacrifices” are full of bravado but simultaneously tear down speculation through his way about babies. We later learned it was true and warranted, but at the time it seemed he was masterfully dodging punches and returning his own.
“Lose You,” “Can’t Have Everything,” and “Do Not Disturb” are among some of his best lyrical performances of all-time. He drags Meek and newfound foe Tory Lanez through the dirt, sonning them and limiting any potential they had of gaining an edge in their respective battles. This is where the anger in Views seemingly returns but in a more-focused, cutthroat kind of way. He’d already ended Meek but this was the nail in the coffin. For Tory, it was him detonating a bomb in his home base before the Brampton artist could even truly plan an attack.
This album definitely felt like his last words on a lot of things, and many speculated how he could ever follow up with another one. What else would he have to say? What else was there to accomplish? A lot. More Life, though I love it, came and went for the world. We got a half-hearted video for “Gyalchester” and not even a video for “Fake Love” the lead single. There was strong video potential all over this album, but it wasn’t promoted afterward with the same energy that was felt going into it and in the actual music. He didn’t even submit it for any Grammy’s.
We wouldn’t have gotten More Life without Views. He had to deal with a reaction like that in order to step back and regroup. More Life was a fast-follow up, coming just shy of a year after Views. However, I think Drake was looking beyond More Life even in making it. “I’ll be back 2018 to give you the summary” and then he basically vanished from music until…January 2018. We all know what happened then, “God’s Plan” and his insane 2018 run. More Life may not have been the perfect “comeback” album, but it set up an incredible comeback run for Drizzy when many somehow thought he was headed on the decline.
More life, more time to get it right. Perhaps he didn’t feel any pressure at all. He knew a “down year” was just a launchpad to come back bigger and better. Regardless of the album’s intent, it is worth a revisit as we celebrate two years. Surely not among Drake’s best work, but with a discography like his, that’s not much of an insult. Sync up your airpods, and run that More Life.