Since the beginning of his career, Drake has followed one simple blueprint; to make music that reflects the season Toronto finds itself in, literally and metaphorically. While VIEWS served as an ominous soundscape to a never-ending winter and reflected a booming hunger in the city, his newest release, More Life, presents the fruits of that labour in a sunnier, more celebratory arrangement.
As Drake pays tribute to the GTA by acknowledging places like Galloway, the Skydome (aka Rogers Centre) and even Palazzo Nightclub, he continues, more importantly, to speak in a coded language only certain communities fully understand, as on the high-powered "Blem." However, More Life doesn't stop at Toronto. Much like his current "Boy Meets World" tour, Drake pulls from all corners of the world to complete the playlist.
Producer Nineteen85 samples South Africa's Black Coffee on the effortless-sounding "Get It Together" before transitioning into the Nelson Mandela namesake, "Madiba Riddim," reflective of its homegrown roots. Drake also calls on UK grime artists Skepta ("Skepta Interlude") and Giggs ("No Long Talk," "KMT") for near-flawless features, and taps Atlanta's Quavo and Travis $cott ("Portland"), not to mention Young Thug and 2 Chainz, the latter of whom delivers an immaculate verse on "Sacrifices," for all-around gentler takes on trap music.
Despite this being a "playlist" rather than his own album, it's still Drake who shines brightest here, especially at his most honest, when the spotlight is only on him. Boi-1da's booming production on "Free Smoke" and "Do Not Disturb" encourage Drake to deliver equally roaring bars, while "Lose You" and "Passionfruit" find Drake grappling with romantic insecurities.
Despite Drake's careful efforts to create a sonic mosaic that mimics Toronto's own cultural patchwork, at 22 tracks, there's bound to be a few missteps. "Ice Melts" eerily resembles D.R.A.M.'s "Cash Machine," "Since Way Back" is hardly interesting enough to take up six minutes and the Sampha-featuring "4422" seems out of place, despite its candid beauty.
However, excluding its minor gaffes, More Life cements a place for genres long-overlooked by mainstream media; dancehall, grime, Afrobeat, house, trap and, of course, rap, and takes Toronto on a world tour to celebrate life — More life.
Pick up More Life on CD here. (Young Money / Cash Money / Republic)