Label: Republic Records
Released: March 18
What do you do when it seems like you can't rise any higher? You spread yourself wider. That's the driving philosophy behind Drake's fifth studio album, More Life, marketed as a "playlist" with a barcode.
Coming off of 2016's Views, many wondered whether the Canadian's search for global domination had led him to hit the limits of his creativity. So much of Drake's career has centered around autobiographical accounts of his ascent—listing off aspirations in one song and later rapping about them becoming accomplishments. But for a man who has earned and maintained a throne as this generation's most popular and commercially successful rapper, it's sort of like, "Who even gives a fuck anymore?"
So he found a new way to present his tales of conquest and betrayal, through an expansive sequence of world sounds. When a product needs a refresh, you simply switch up the packaging.
Drake's decision to promote his project as a playlist, but sell it as an album, worked to his favor. It excused him from the cohesive constraints many albums are judged against, serving as a safety net for an artist who has always been a fan of contorting his art and adopting various waves from the African diaspora, including Afrobeat, grime, R&B, trap, and contemporary hip-hop. It's incoherent sonically, but remarkably consistent.
Sometimes, Drake catches shit for this. But he carefully chose regions that would appreciate him and artists he has relationships with to help bring these songs to life. Songs like "No Long Talk," Madiba Riddim," "Blem," "Skepta Interlude," and "Get it Together" are examples that do this theory justice. Songs like "KMT" put his huge American audience secondary to his UK base, a phenomenon captured best through the debate over Giggs' verse.
Partnering with the likes of South Africa's Black Coffee and the UK's Giggs, Jorja Smith, Sampha, and Skepta not only help him gain saturation in these areas, but also big up artists he's been a fan of. Perhaps this is the product of his Canadian upbringing or his world travels, but it's both a calculated commercial maneuver and a testament to his true enjoyment of art—ideas that shouldn't be treated as mutually exclusive.
More Life is the work of an artist who doesn't want to be contained in any creative boxes, but is also in search of honest inspiration. It isn't his most definitive work by any means, nor will it be a classic. But it's successful in its ability to broaden the reach of the biggest man in modern pop music, and it keeps the machine that is Drake afloat until his next offering. —Brandon ‘Jinx’ Jenkins