Aubrey Drake Graham has done the unthinkable: silenced critics who thought his infatuation with grime and UK rap was just a fad. We're all guilty of poking fun at the Canadian rap star for wanting to be a "roadman"—even he thought it was funny—but it's safe to say that the multi award-winning, platinum-selling, football stadium-worthy artist has showed himself to be a true fan of all things British. Many were right to show some concern though: would he end up being like all the other hip-hop giants that tried to tap into our culture with that fake love he sings about? It crossed my mind, but only for a moment. From drawing inspiration from Brixton rapper Sneakbo for his 2011 LP, Take Care, to working with UK funky acts Crazy Cousinz and Kyla on "One Dance", Drake's ties within the British underground music scene has been certified by the best to ever do it.
So when he announced his 22-track "playlist", More Life, people in the UK music industry guessed there was going to be a heavy British influence, if only for the fact he rolls deep with grime MC Skepta—someone who's had a lot of influence on the music and style worlds for years now. I personally thought it was coming with Views, but I'm glad he didn't rush the wave—at that point, hip-hop purists weren't ready for such a global-sounding album. Drizzy definitely gave us a taste on Views of what was to come; borrowing C Biz' flow on "Grammys", heavy usage of Jamaican/British/Toronto slang and, of course, his No. 1 hit song "One Dance".
More Life is a detailed record of the genres Drake has encountered over the last few years of being on the road: there's soulful house ("Get It Together"), chillout house ("Passionfruit"), Afrobeats ("Madiba Riddim"), grime ("Skepta Interlude") and road rap ("KMT", "No Long Talk"; both featuring Giggs). These are the sounds—I'm guessing—Drake listens to on a daily basis, so for him to make a project like this was bound to happen. Yet, and still, hip-hop fans haven't connected with the experimentation.
I'm trying really hard to listen to every track on More Life but it's just not my thing. This house music drake is not it for me.— ¯\_( o_O)_/¯ (@Biggavelii_) March 21, 2017
More LIfe sucked. Jamaican Drake thinks he's now British Drake but can't let go of H-Town Drake and mixed in ATL Drake. Cornball.— Cease (@Thee_Czar) March 21, 2017
More Life was ruined with the shitty UK rappers— brandon (@handstomyseIf) March 22, 2017
Lately, there's been a lot of UK vs US talk on the Interwebs. It first started when Samuel L. Jackson had some words to say about British actors being "cheaper" for movie directors to hire—the delivery? All wrong—and this rolled into the drop of More Life, with mostly American rap fans attacking Skepta and Giggs' accents and mic styles. "To see the wider rap community refuse to engage with Giggs can feel frustrating because, when it comes from a place of ignorance—not opening up to understand the lyrics, seeing Britain as an inferior player in rap music, not being aware of the cultural history—there's a strong parallel to be drawn with the way rap was responded to when it first broke out in the US," writes Ryan Bassil of Noisey.
Frustrating, indeed. It's almost as if they're scared what will happen if they do actually like the music. Not that we need the validation but, maybe said purists just need some more music that showcase what deft lyricism we have to offer? (Giggs' Spotify plays have already increased by 146%, so, y'know). Compiled by myself, James Keith and Tobi Oke of Complex UK, here are 50 UK rap and grime tracks—old to new—for all to enjoy.