Drake Gives Us More With More Life, but is More Always Better?

Drake’s new album (or as he calls it, “playlist”) is an immersive experience: 22 tracks and 81 minutes of music. The project is certainly ambitious, but such a vast amount of content is difficult to absorb and nearly impossible to process as a collective unit. The result is perhaps what the Toronto rapper intended; the collection becomes more of an aesthetic than a measurable work of art. After nearly an hour and a half of listening, lyrics tend to drift to the periphery. There aren’t too many memorable lines in the playlist, or verses for that matter. It seems dropping hot bars is no longer a top priority for Drake. Instead, More Life is all about groove and texture, a series of tracks that alternate between his new Caribbean flavored dancehall stylings, mellow Brit-rap influenced trip-hop atmospheres, and more hard-hitting ATL trap beats. The playlist designation makes more sense in this light; like a playlist, More Life is something you might put on at a party, vibe heavy and perfect for disengaged or distracted listening.

But the stylistic panoply that is More Life also reveals a lot behind Drake’s process, a formula fine-tuned to produce chart topping hits and commercial success. By cherry picking styles and choice slang words from various cultures, Drake is using trends to his benefit. Like a sponge, he’s absorbed sounds and aesthetics from his multicultural city of Toronto and repackaged it as the new cool. And it’s extremely effective. Most of the best moments on More Life come from samples or appropriated elements. This mockingbird effect results in songs that, regardless of their actual originality, are vastly popular because they are fresh to the majority of listeners’ ears. A good example is the album’s opening moment, a thirty second sample of a Hiatus Kaiyote song. The sample is screwed up several keys, and after playing out, never reappears in the rest of the track. In a way, this is a microcosm for the album: a sample of underground music, taken out of its original context and placed in Drake’s creative domain, after minimum alteration. And to unquestioning or oblivious fans, all that matters is the collection of catchy and accessible singles.

Even at the surface level, just by a glance at its title, More Life tells us what many of us might have already known about Drake. By giving his fans “more” instead of less, by giving them exactly what they wanted and expected, Drake is maintaining his static position as rap’s most popular pop figure. He remains unconcerned with taking political or social stances, maintaining an exclusive focus on making hits. And it makes sense; his formula isn’t broken, so why fix it? With More Life, Drake is making it clear that he’s content with being the biggest rapper in the game, even if he’s not necessarily the best.

Daniel Sheehan

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