Spring 2013 was the last time Drake went quiet. It had been a year and half since Take Care. The number of scene-stealing guest verses he typically releases between albums to stay in shape had dwindled. He’d announced the title of his next album, released a lead single and a video...only to leave us all hanging with no new information in the months that followed. Absence, when you’re at the top, is often the best promotion. The nights that “5AM in Toronto” and “Versace (Remix)” dropped may as well have been Christmas morning on Rap Twitter. “I been so quiet I got the world like, ‘What the fuck is he planning?’” indeed. These days, though? We know all too well what kind of diabolical shit Drake is up to. And the transparency could not be more boring.
We’re dealing with a different Aubrey now, one whose central strategy is ubiquity. He’s an Apple Music artist now, and like the biggest tech company in the world, his remarks now arrive on schedule. After years of build-up, Views dropped in April with a whopping 19 new tracks, one of which—“One Dance”— would go on to finally secure Aubz the coveted No. 1 Billboard spot that had eluded him since 2009, when “Best I Ever Had” peaked at No. 2. (“Hotline Bling” also went to No. 2, but was thwarted by Adele.) The rest of Views helped the album break all sorts of dubious streaming records. BILLIONS of plays. And yet, by November we’d already been given THREE new singles (and a remix, shout Dave) in service of a new project, More Life, originally slated to drop in December. That’s after a summer of loosies, guest verses, and generating news on the daily with a monster tour alongside Future. The 6ix God used to take downtime to recede, recharge, and re-dominate. Now it seems like his business model since entering the upper echelons of the A-list is to cast an impenetrable shadow from that ivory tower, an unrelenting stranglehold. And it’s getting exhausting.
It’s the dawn of a New Year and we’re wondering when in Q1 this next project—a playlist, according to the Boy—will arrive. The Scary Hours seem penciled in months in advance. The line between romantic relationships and collaboration promo is blurred. And to be honest, the quality expectation is up in the air. Drizzy’s coming off his biggest year, numbers-wise—but the critical reception of Views tells a different story. One could even re-frame More Life as a bid to recapture critical acclaim along with the commercial. He hasn’t fought against the critical tide since 2010’s Thank Me Later. (There’s another line of thinking that bills More Life as Drake’s Endless; that is, a way of ending his label obligations to Cash Money. Like a tax write off, it’s a move made from a position of power but it doesn’t guarantee great new music.)
It’d be brand new to act as if one mediocre album will suddenly lower anticipation to listen to new Drake the second it drops. But one can’t exactly get “excited” for it when the guy keeps dropping verses and songs that vary in quality. Sure, it can be argued that omnipresence is a major key to maintaining relevance. But the whole point of reaching A+ certification in the game is earning some trust and faith from your fans.
More Life will probably be cool, and filled with 2 a.m. turn the function upside down it’s a lituation jams. But it won’t be an event, and that’s not simply because Drake isn’t billing it as an album proper. If he really wants to come back with an album/playlist/project/whatever that delivers on all fronts and silences the detractors who try to undermine his reign and his legitimacy, I have a suggestion. Take a break.
The results are proven. He came back to work “smelling like vacation,” with “I’m on One,” and felt so recharged that he went on an NBA Jam-level hot streak that included “Club Paradise,” “Free Spirit,” and “Dreams Money Can Buy”—great songs that he boldly cut from the album in favor of maintaining a theme. Then Take Care arrived just before Thanksgiving. On “Know Bout Me,” a verse recorded during the Nothing Was the Same sessions, he mentions an even longer sabbatical than the time before “I’m on One,” and it yielded what many consider his most focused work yet. I’ll always appreciate an artist who can keep the streets satiated, but Drake’s earned some time away. The throne will be waiting for him when he returns. And if it’s in contention? All the more incentive to go harder.