Drake may not consider himself the lonely king, but he is. Two Saturdays ago, he released his More Life “playlist” to obvious record-breaking streaming numbers and instant gratification. Or, in the wake of last year’s middling creative disappointment that was Views, instant acknowledgment of the error of his ways.
It’s sort of odd to wonder when Drake fatigue would actually hit the world but we’ve finally reached that point. To wit, there’s no other person on the planet currently that can say they’ve hit No. 1 with every single release. Drake could have rested on the facts but he’s consumed by changing criticism, by scoffing at those ghostwriter accusations (“How you let the kid fightin’ ghost-writin’ rumors turn you to a ghost?”) to get back to fighting ghosts.
More Life, a project that carries more features than any previous effort with Drake's name primarily attached, comes roughly 42 months after Nothing Was the Same, his 2013 album; 25 months after his If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, Drake at his most aggressive; 18 months after his and Future’s joint mixtape, What a Time to Be Alive, and 11 months after Views. That’s four large bodies of music in less than four full years. More than 100 songs, a colorful collage of emotions, sneers, jokes, points of self-awareness, Tumblr inflections, reflection and even vapid circulations around exes and foes like a vulture seeking the remaining flesh. Drake has hit complete overload. And he knows it.
What battle he did have in regards to the mediocre aspects of Views, he snuggled back up to the drawing board to bring that “fire” out of him again. “Do Not Disturb” and “Can’t Have Everything” contain his most vicious put-downs, including more swipes at Meek Mill. Quick example: “Tell your big homie I’m all for going there again.” It’s gotten so far along in the feud between the two that Drake is now patting Meek away like a cat with a ball of string. Even Drake’s own mother, Sandi Graham, chimes in, chiding her only son with the kind of admonition that says, “You’re turning into something you’ve never liked, but I still love you.”
As arguably the lord of oversharing, the man who helped turn the Instagram caption into a subliminal note to anyone who could have fit in the crosshairs, Drake is still batting a pretty high average, yet he’s on fumes. We as consumers loathed Views because, unlike the other guys who originally sparred when Drake debuted — the J. Coles, Big Seans and Kendrick Lamars — Drake didn’t shift upward in terms of creativity or artistry. Well, sort of. Only Drake wants to maximize on being a child of geographical multiplicity, no matter how much he may appear to be Campaign Trail Hillary Clinton when he does so.
Cole is still stranded in the limbo of being a good, but not all that engaging, rapper. Big Sean morphed from clumsy Kanye West understudy to motivational speaker still thankful for life, good or bad. Kendrick spent his first two albums being centralized to the ups and downs of Compton before walking right up to the White House with a megaphone and a message for the rest of the world. Lamar wants forever, as clearly evident from 2015’s “Alright” and more recently with “The Heart Part 4.” Standing the test of time by being a motor-mouthed firebrand with an edge? That’s Kendrick. Standing the test of time by creating little pockets of moments that you recall after a specific piece of your day? That’s Drake, forever a moment-chaser.
There’s a ton of ego driving More Life, something that shouldn’t be ignored at all. Only Drake could be told his previous effort was far too long only to double back with something even longer. Only he could flex harder on the “world view” he has for his career by implementing UK grime and rhythms from Africa, the Caribbean and more. At this rate, his flow and twang adopting is reaching Carmen Sandiego levels of passport-stamping. Whatever bad we thought of with Views, Drake replaced it with something rather adventurous and fun (“Fake Love” notwithstanding, because that song is still horrible).
We can’t get him to apologize to Kanye for his guest verse on “Glow,” easily the weakest moment from a big name here. Even if their particular relationship has gone from idol worship to cold war participants they still exist to one another and will acknowledge it as so. We can’t eye-roll hard enough at UK rapper Giggs interloping Burt Ward-era Batman, complete with flashing onscreen special effects. But this is Drake’s world; the more slices of forgiveness he does offer (Weeknd shoutouts on “Lose You”), the more he’s willing to stomp on people just to avoid showing a hand of weakness.
“I was an angry yute when I was writing Views,” he says. The concession arrives on track 22 of More Life, “Do Not Disturb.” On a track that feels like the perfect segue from Take Care’s “The Ride,” Drake uses another timestamp and another city to perfectly state his case. He is peerless, at least on this global world view. No other rapper in recent memory can claim the title of having the most successful album of a given year. Then again, no rapper besides him could land his questionable tattoo choices in the headlines. Drake is his own genre at this point, a boundless entity who wants to touch all of the world while also preening at the possibility of that actually happening.
More Life should be considered the positive version of what can occur when Drake not only feeds into the monster that is criticism: he comes out better for it. His mom has decidedly understood that Drake, battling self-prophecy, his own paranoia and new foes, has come to a different path. She says it’ll end him. Which is why after this, he’s going to actually be gone for a while. Probably to the nearest tattoo parlor to get a small tattoo of a Yorkie or something. But the world is about to see Drake on sabbatical, which both parties equally deserve.
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