Is it a mixtape? Is it a compilation? Regardless, the rappers latest project features the road rap of Giggs and nods to the South African house scene
Drake may be an international pop star able to sell albums at will, but often his best work appears outside of official avenues on mixtapes, one-offs and collaborations. Earlier in his career, his OVO blogspot page offered up between-album tracks that hinted at potential new musical directions. In 2015 his summer anthem 0-100/The Catch Up arrived via Soundcloud and so did Back to Back, his Grammy-nominated Meek Mill diss record, neither of which ever found a jewel-cased home. Even his endlessly quoted 2011 line You only live once (YOLO) appeared on The Motto, a Take Care bonus track. A lover of pomp, Drake loves to build album hype, but his moves on the margins slowly morph into his major mainstream statements.
Last October, Drake announced More Life with a December release date along with a few songs, including the quintessential narcissistic Drake hit Fake Love. Unsurprisingly, that release date proved to be soft, and after numerous delays More Life: A Playlist by October Firm premiered on Saturday night on OVO Radio, his Beats 1 radio show. Initially the delays appeared odd for what was supposed to be a stopgap release, but at 22 songs this clearly wasnt a minor project for the rapper.
Views, Drakes commercially successful, but critical maligned 2016 album saw fatigue set in with the rapper regurgitating tales of fame and ex-lovers. More Life offers little solace for those who never bought what the Canadian rapper was selling but for his fans that gave his songs billions of streams last year, theyll hear no issue. Last year Drake pivoted into afrobeats and dancehall with One Dance and Controlla, and the early More Life run of Passionfruit, Get It Together, Madiba Riddim, and Blem proves that wasnt a passing interest. Even with an appearance from South African house producer Black Coffee that cluster recalls Drakes pre-Views pop turn in the exquisite 80s R&B pastiche of Hold On Were Going Home. His influences now stretch across the African diaspora, but since So Far Gone, Drakes melodic ability, not rap, has been his true skill.
Even if on top of the pop world, Drake remains obsessed with rap power ranking, and Cant Have Everything, with the line We evolved, used to think vacation meant Niagara Falls, shows hes fine to keeping find new fights. But in the spirit of a playlist, his guests are given plenty of spotlight: Skepta Interlude proves why the grime star found a fanbase outside of London, and Young Thug on Sacrifices adopts a neat Lil Wayne-esque staccato flow. Still the best look belongs to south London rapper Giggs, who appears twice and burns through his verse on KMT, where he snarls Fingers all itching, twitching, looking all jerky / Whipping that white girl, cooking that Cersei.
The subtitle of More Life is A Playlist by October Firm, a nod to the fact this isnt Drakes true follow-up to Views. Instead the project is closer towards old school rap mixtapes, where unreleased tracks sat alongside potential singles and one-off tracks from crew hanger-ons. Even if the album lacks the humor of the Views songs 9 or Childs Play no line here bests Why you gotta fight with me at Cheesecake / You know I love to go there the breadth of styles recalls his 2012-2015 Soundcloud that found space for both Fetty Wap and James Blake remixes. Regardless of the format, Drake closes More Life rapping: See you back in 2018 and Ill give you this summary. A nice sentiment, but fans know their pied piper wont wait on natures clock if he has more to say.