Earth’s biggest rapper is back with his latest... playlist. That’s right, in the latest twist of streaming sculpting the music industry into something entirely new, Drake is telling us his latest album isn’t actually an album at all. It does provoke the question: what is an album these days? Perhaps let’s not get into that right now — the matter at hand is a critical assessment of Drake’s latest effort - and More Life is a 22-strong effort of songs, the purpose of which is to tide us over until the next album release proper. And for us UK listeners, this project/playlist/ensemble of recordings is a very positive move for UK grime — two of London’s finest rappers, Giggs and Skepta, feature, and the genre’s influence pervades throughout.
The only thing about classifying your album as a playlist is, quite a few people would be expecting an inferior product; a music collection without as much thought and artistry. Free Smoke, the opening track, certainly doesn’t fit such a description. It’s classic Drake — an ethereal piano sampling beat rings out as Drizzy enters with a deliberately single-toned delivery, declaring: “I saw people doing things / almost gave up on the music thing / but we all so spoilt now / more life, more everything." You really couldn’t ask for a more potent opener.
Next up is the first transatlantic collaboration on the collection. No Long Talk, as well as featuring Giggs from Peckham, is a very London-flavoured track from its title to the beat, even before Giggs introduces his deep bass vocal. The British influence doesn’t stop here either; there are lots of samples in between tracks of Londoners calling out 'dun know', and not for the first time on a Drake record, a strong dancehall influence. The influence of Jamaica has thus far been stronger in the UK’s grime, but Drake seems intent on changing that.
Track three, Passionfruit, also allays the notion that More Life isn’t going to be full of quality, the first song here with a commercial edge. It’s the first track where Drake gives us his trademark sung vocal, over a beat with dancehall written all over it. It’s superb music — the production meets its star’s very high standards more than adequately.