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Double Takes: Drake ups his game on ‘More Life’

On Saturday, March 18, Toronto-based rapper/singer Drake released More Life, a playlist that serves as his latest project. Drake fans rejoiced. Others groaned. On this double-take, Emerald writers Cassandra Brady, an avid fan, and Dana Alston, unabashed hater, offer their thoughts on Drizzy’s sprawling 81-minute effort.

Dana’s take:

Drake (born Aubrey Drake Graham) has made a career out of the dramatic. That was never more true than during his time on “Degrassi,” but his downtrodden persona has always hung over a majority of his musical projects. Drake has explored just about every bit of his angsty mind 10 times over, musing on lost loves, family trouble and yes, being ignored by the Grammy’s. His obsession with himself is his defining trait as an artist.

It’s also the least likeable aspect of his art. None of his releases made this more clear than last year’s overhyped dud, “Views.” Led by “One Dance,” a dance hall chart topper, the album served less as a collection of songs and more as the best example of Drake’s charisma vacuum. It was 20 songs deep and each one felt like an extended look at a painting nobody cares about. Drake wrung every last drop of his patented whiner mode onto the albums 81 minutes, resulting in pretty lukewarm marks from critics and fans alike.

The drabness of “Views” is what makes “More Life,” a non-album, non-mixtape “playlist,” all the more refreshing. Rather than settle for what sells, the rapper expands his musical palette and sense of humor. The opening track alone features a rousing, piano-led introduction from Australian soul artist Nai Palm and an anecdote about drunk texting J-Lo’s old number. On “Get It Together,” Drake invites British singer Jorja Smith onto a slick house beat, resulting in an uptempo highlight.

At 22 tracks, “More Life” may make Drake doubters roll their eyes. But Drake has never been more focused on entertainment value. The project’s list of producers and guest artists is massive, and the subsequent variety in sound is impressive. Kanye West contributes lyrics and beats to the thumping “Glow,” while 2 Chainz and Young Thug pop up on “Sacrifices.”

In other words, “More Life” is at its best when Drake steps behind the curtain and lets other artists show off. In other words, the rapper is the least appealing part of his whole project. But for the first time in his career, Drake seems to have come to terms with it. The result is an unexpectedly exciting follow up to “Views” that moves at a remarkably entertaining clip.  It’s Drake’s best project since 2015’s “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. Even if he returns to wallowing self-pity in the future, it’s nice to have Drake present a little variety for now.

Cassandra’s take:

On first listen, Drake’s new album “More Life” is a re-hash of 2016’s “Views.” But when listened as a mirrored version of “Views,” it feels as if it is a reflection of Drake’s journey through his summer of vibrant romances and overcoming alienation and anxiety.

Drake takes the advice of his mother, Sandi Graham, and comes back higher with a positive tone even greater than his past. Drake inserts a meaningful motherly message on the track “Can’t Have Everything” where she advises him to stay clear of negative energy and keep his confidence moving forward in the game. Through this sweet mother and son moment, we see where he found his inspiration to stay strong and be on his own wave while creating this album. 

He infuses more Caribbean sounds with a splash of “unruly” tones which take you to the islands getting you “gold no spray tan.” The breezy sound on tracks like “Passionfruit” and “Madiba Riddim” come alive and make you want to whine with a coconut in hand. Springing us forward to warmer weather, these tunes carry us into spring and will float all the way to summer.

With this lighthearted sound, Drake’s notorious self-reflection brings another aspect to the album. This time we tap into another dimension of Drake’s subconscious allowing us to hear a headstrong, no-care version of Drake. He takes us out of the clouded hopeless romantic Drake and into a centered perspective of “Views”: one that is true to Drake’s heart. This especially sticks out on tracks like “Teenage Fever” and “Lose You” where he slows down the vibe and expresses his carefree confidence with a new romance while also reflecting on the rap game as a whole. He revisits the teenage fever feeling in which the only thing that matters is the present.

Notably, Drake shouts out something close to our metropolitan neighbor to the north, the city of Portland, with its own song. Portland, slowly becoming the new wave Los Angeles, brings artists like Travis Scott to the state of Oregon with nothing but positive things to say on this feature. We feel the chill Oregon wave through a variety of electronic beats with a pop-infused sound. Drake pays homage to Portland and the cool vibe we feel on the daily. “Portland” oozes with confidence as Drake boasts about being at the top of the rap game and how he will never fall. He also takes the opportunity throw shade at fake company — potentially referencing the tit-for-tat beef he and Jay-Z have engaged in.

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Cassandra Brady

Cassandra Brady