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COURTESY OF REPUBLIC RECORDS

March 23, 2017

TEST SPIN: Drake — More Life

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SPIN ONE

By Nick Mileti ’17

Imagine that the More Life playlist is your first exposure to Drake. What sort of artist would he appear to be? With plenty of Afro-Carribean beats, lots of bare bone bangers and a handful of thoughtful verses, Drake seems to be reinventing himself once again.

Listen to More Life on Spotify:

The majority of Drake’s music over the past year (including More Life)  has been deceptively unoriginal in its proximity to other chart-topping rappers. How different are Drake’s and 2 Chainz’s verses on “Sacrifices?” With 2 Chainz long being considered an example of the dumbing down and degeneration of hip hop, Drake seems to be oddly similar in his choice of beat, delivery and, frankly, his uninspired punchlines.

One should also notice the rappers that are featured on More Life. Between two Young Thug features, 2 Chainz and Quavo, it would be hard not to place him in their category if this was your first encounter with Drake. And we will gloss over the forgettably disappointing  PARTYNEXTDOOR feature on “Glow.”

But Drake has always been unique, and he shows no signs of assimilating into a category. Even from his early days, Drake was the only rapper that would stir your thoughts with a passionate verse and then also sing a chorus that made you sing (or cry) your heart out. After Controlla and One Dance, Drake noticed that he, once more, has found unexplored territory in hip hop by mixing in African and Caribbean-inspired melodies.

And More Life shows a response to those two mega hits. Sitting still during “Blem” seems almost as inescapable as the romance in “Passionfruit.” Features from Giggs and Skepta show Drake also tapping into the exploding London hip-hop scene, which is an exciting prospect.

Where does that leave his old fans? The abundant singing in More Life is an unquestionable blessing; “Nothings Into Somethings” and “Teenage Fever” make us feel like choruses from Take Care or Nothing Was the Same.

Nostalgic fans do not only miss the choruses, they also miss the bars. On “Lose You,” Drake finally addresses the alienation his fan have felt from his latest lyrics. Over interspersed chords on a grand piano, Drake asks if his original fans have stayed with him in his new endeavors.

Sadly, on a 22 track album, there does not seem to be enough verses that really have something to say. “Do Not Disturb” (and the pre-released “Two Birds One Stone”) shows us that Drake is still conscious and has the ability to write those lyrics that stole our hearts in the first place. We just are not hearing enough of them.

But that does not mean Drake has lost us. As with life, certain moments, phases and feelings are irretrievably in the past. Drake will continually to evolve and develop a new identity, and expecting to hear sequels to So Far Gone and Take Care will seemingly only end in disappointment.

But perhaps we can grant Drake his wish and let More Life be a new playlist — a different playlist — for our new life adventures, whether or not it is anything like the Drake we used to know.

SPIN TWO

by Jonvi Rollins

Right before I downloaded More Life I considered lowering my expectations; Drake’s decision to label it as a ‘playlist’ instead of an album suggested that it didn’t deserve the hype. One of the main critiques of his last “real” album, Views, was that the project failed to deliver on the massive buildup that it followed prior to its release. The downgraded status of More Life may have just been an attempt to prevent this from happening for a second time in a row. Still, with those thoughts in mind, I decided to hold the project accountable regardless of what the artist calls it. Drake wants you to anticipate the work so that he can provide a pleasant surprise. I thought that he wouldn’t be able to fool me, and that he was just making up excuses for a lackluster work that would potentially signal his decline from the pinnacle of the rap game. But after listening, I realized how foolish it is to ever doubt Drake’s ability to deliver. More Life, through its variety and character, proves that Drake has reached a point of unfalsifiable greatness by his own terms.

Pieces of the rapper’s best work presents itself in the playlist, making finding at least two songs that you don’t like a very hard task if you’re a Drake fan. If you want more of the emotional lyrics against Caribbean vibes, present in a few songs from Views, you’ll enjoy the soothingly sad “Passionfruit” and “Madiba Riddim”. If you’re looking for the aggressive Drake that made an appearance on If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, you’ll get glimpses of pugnacity in “Free Smoke” and “Portland.” If you just want to listen introspective tracks like a select few from Nothing Was The Same, you’ll find solace in hearing the “Lose You”, which has lyrics like “I need to start sayin’ shit when I notice it/Be open with people I need some closure with.” The only way to completely dislike the project is to want the playlist to be less grand in scope, because no matter which Drake you’re in the mood for, More Life will find a way to give it to you.

The messages that are conveyed mirror what we’ve been getting from the artist for the past few years. He still has issues with girls that he can’t seem to resolve. He still wants to remain one of the greatest rappers of his time. He still doesn’t trust his friends. He’s even still taking shots at Meek Mill on “Free Smoke,” where he says, “How you let the kid fighting/Ghost-writing rumors turn you to a ghost?” Yet, he keeps finding different ways to say the same things, accompanied by various well produced beats, forever capitalizing on his own popularity to make himself more popular. The overall balance between singing and rap — as well as island infused rhythms and more energetic beats — that More Life possesses is proof of Drake’s masterful awareness of his own brand. On top of that, he’s even added more to his international appeal through the additions of British artists. In the tracks that feature Skepta and Giggs, both rappers from the UK, Drake gives a lot of space for other artists to establish themselves.

The playlist is great not only for its music, but for what it symbolizes about Drake’s career moving forward. There’s no question that Drake has already transcended into superstardom, but any questions of when he’s going to fall off have been hushed by the excellent craftwork of his latest project. He doesn’t have to resort to mumble rap and hypnotic beats to draw in listeners. He doesn’t have to create an album full of racial commentary and strong instrumentals, like Kendrick, to get a Grammy nomination. Drake has undeniably garnered success through his own formula, and has shown no signs of slowing down.

 

Nick Mileti is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at ncm45@cornell.edu.

Jonvi Rollins is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at djr277@cornell.edu.

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