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Drake channels past works to craft original playlist More Life

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Amid a flurry of hype that had been building since its announcement last fall, More Life, a so-called “playlist” of original music created by Drake, debuted on March 18. The playlist was originally rumored to be released in December. Multiple release dates were teased as Drake peppered the sound waves with hit singles such as “Fake Love” and “Sneakin’.” More Life’s 22 tracks have been described by Drake as “a body of work [he’s] creating to bridge the gap between [any] major releases.” Drake certainly accomplished his goal of bridging the gap, while also drawing from a variety of inspiration that his fans might recognize from several of his past works, such as Views and Nothing Was the Same. That is not to say that More Life is a completely rehashed series of tracks from older albums.

Rather, Drake seems to have selected what he believes to be the most popular aspects of his older works in order to effectively create a soundtrack of his fan’s lives. The latter idea may cause longtime Drake fans to wonder if the playlist was made for the fans or for Drake himself.

Drake’s choice of More Life’s opening track, “Free Smoke,” is just further evidence of the rapper’s love for featuring and sampling female vocalists on his tracks. In the strong opener, Drake samples the vocals of Hiatus Kaiyote’s lead singer, Naomi Saalfield. Many Drake fans will recall several other strong female vocalists from his past works, such as Jhene Aiko on “From Time,” off Nothing Was the Same. Alicia Keys’ chorus on Thank Me Later’s “Fireworks” could be considered the distant relative of Saalfield’s soaring verse.

Drake’s verse on “Free Smoke” should not be overlooked. The verse’s snappy lines range from “I drunk text J-Lo,” to “Women I like was ignorin’ me/Now they like, ‘Aren’t you adorable?’/I know the question rhetorical,” leading to a level of cockiness and energetic flow that is reminiscent of Views’ “Hype.” The overall braggadocios tone of “Free Smoke” is a common theme in Drake’s discography, perhaps best epitomized by “Started From The Bottom.”

Considering Drake’s love of grime music, his choice to include the East London hip-hop genre in More Life is borderline selfish, but decently executed. “Skepta Interlude” is a wonderful introduction to the grime formula, avoiding some of the harsher aspects of grime but still conveying the genre’s typical breakbeats and deep basslines. Skepta receiving his own track is a welcome part of More Life, seeing as how Skepta’s true grime style would be a bit too harsh if it immediately followed one of Drake’s verses.

The cohesiveness of More Life’s remaining features and samples ranges wildly, from poor to flawless. A noteworthy feature comes from 2 Chainz on More Life’s middle track, “Sacrifices.” 2 Chainz’s seamless transition from Drake’s opening verse makes for an alley-oop of calm, yet cocky rap. The two rappers’ flows are nearly identical, making for a very melodic track. Young Thug’s closing verse ties the track together nicely by following Drake and 2 Chainz’s calm bravado with a sprinkle of signature Thugger rhymes.

The beauty of “Sacrifices” stands in stark contrast to the preceding track on More Life, “Portland.” Once again, Drake brings the bravado of “Hype” to the table within his opening verse on “Portland,” but his choice to feature Quavo and Travis Scott turned out to be a poor one. Unlike “Sacrifices,” “Portland” lacks cohesiveness between each verse, instead relying on an all-star cast of rappers to carry the track. This does not pan out and instead, it seems as though each artist was rapping for a different track. Quavo especially seems like a fish out of water with a trap-inspired verse nestled between Drake’s and Travis Scott’s verses. The verse almost seems to be derived from Migos’ culture.

Travis Scott is also guilty of standing out too much, and his verse would certainly be more appreciated as its own song rather than a feature. Worst of all, however, is the recorder beat playing throughout the entirety of “Portland,” as if the different rapping styles of each artist was not distracting enough. Parts of Quavo’s verse sound as if the rapper is battling with the beat in order to be taken seriously.

More Life’s closing track, “Do Not Disturb,” harkens back to “6PM In New York,” the closing track of If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. “Do Not Disturb” wraps up the album neatly, leaving no loose ends as Drake advises the listener as to what they can expect from him in the future.

Drake promises to never leave the rap game, but also tells listeners he will be taking time off during the summer. As for what Drake’s next big project holds, fans will have to wait until 2018 to see. Hopefully there will be plenty of “chunes” to hold fans over in the meantime.

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