Drake More Life Young Money Entertainment / Cash Money Records

08 10

For the next trick in the ever-shifting strategies of high-profile album drops, Drake’s More Life was released as a ‘playlist’. There may be commercial motivations – Billboard states that streamable playlists are eligible to appear on the album chart – a detail that some labels are beginning to catch up with. But Drake is the first artist to come at the playlist creatively, and he’s the right man for the job. On More Life, he settles into his role as curator-in-chief – half rap superstar, half globetrotting pop A&R.

Drake’s never made any secret of his broad, pop-facing gaze. Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world and Drake uses the diversity of his hometown as a kind of borrower’s permit – picking up musical codes and regional colloquialisms from the artists he admires. Though he’s never managed to do so with this much sophistication and maturity.

Get It Together is a scintillating back-and-forth with ascendant UK singer Jorja Smith, set against the backdrop of Black Coffee’s sugary South African house. Kmt, the second of two Giggs collaborations, is as towering and ice-cold as anything the London rapper would put out on his own terms. Both Skepta and Sampha gets tracks of their own, offering welcome breathers from the sometimes indulgent solipsism of Drake’s other full lengths. On More Life, he invests in the sonic trademarks of his guests; he’s not window-shopping. They will always be shown in the best possible light (Travis Scott, Kanye West) and in the case of 2 Chainz and Young Thug, they arguably sound even better than usual.

Drake’s not fully outgrown the old him yet though, there’s still a veritable feast of Aubrey-isms on show. Stories of drunk texting J-Lo, a song called Gyalchester and lyrics like “I play my part too, like a sequel” serve as friendly reminders of his slightly goofy but likeable persona.

A cynic could write off More Life’s ‘playlist’ categorisation as a defense mechanism – a way for Drake to secure commercial dominance without the responsibility of presenting the record as an album, and therefore offering it up to be judged as a definitive work. With these tracks though, it feels more like a fitting title for a truly digital, post-genre entity. The album-as-Tumblr creative model seems perfectly suited to an artist who’s driven by collaboration.

Rich with detail and subtle perfections, you could make a case for More Life being Drake’s best full length project since Take Care. Through format, he’s found space to breathe without pressure and an ability to step away from the spotlight. Through the music, he’s managed to make his scene-hopping feel celebratory rather than contrived or opportunistic.

Music journalists often discuss the “universal language of pop” – it’s a handy semantic tool for legitimising or intellectualising the commercial incentives of mainstream music. But after initially raising doubts, with the More Life playlist, Drake has convincingly positioned himself as an architect for a borderless age of pop music.

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