When I heard Drake had released a new album (It’s not a playlist. It charted, he got paid, he’s on nearly every track. It’s an album), I was looking forward to being exceptionally angry at how bad it was. Upon listening, I wasn’t disappointed.
This is an album rated 7.8 on Pitchfork, criminally surpassing J. Cole’s 6.8 for his 2016 effort 4 Your Eyez Only (which was, to be clear, comfortably one of the best albums of 2016). This is an album which has been compared to The Blueprint. This is an album which has been called a ‘masterful tour of all the grooves in his head’. Masterful. MASTERFUL. Then again, that was from Rolling Stone, who wouldn’t be able to churn out a negative review if Nicki Minaj waltzed around singing about how prodigious her posterior is. Hold on a second…
It took me precisely four minutes to become disillusioned with this record. Four minutes, because ‘Free Smoke’ is actually a reasonably good tune. I like the introduction to it—though I don’t really understand its purpose—I very much like the production on the track (which almost reminds me of ‘Piñata’ from the eponymous Freddie Gibbs-Madlib album), and there are some rather comical lines; take ‘Women I liked was ignoring me/Now they like “Aren’t you adorable?”/I know the question rhetorical’. The hook is incorrigibly annoying, however.
Not as annoying, though, as Drake attempting in all futility to sound as though he is from Forest Hill. (The London one, obviously. He actually did live in Forest Hill, Ontario, for a while—one of the most affluent areas of Toronto, and rather different, I dare say, to South East London.) Apparently, he ‘still [has] love for the West End’, despite being Canadian. I fear that all the time he has spent with Skepta et al. has skewered his sensibilities somewhat. You’re from Toronto, mate.
Alas, Drake remembers his homeland on ‘Blem’, and I really, really wish he hadn’t. I was already sick of my contemporaries referring to their cigarettes as blems while at the local watering hole. Now they’ll be using it to talk about being stoned, too. My main problem with ‘Blem’, which incidentally is one of my main problems with this whole album (it’s not a playlist), is that it’s three and a half minutes long and has little-to-no variation the whole way through. Misunderstand me not, reader, if I am presented with an eight minute techno track then you can be sure I’ll be getting down. Unfortunately, the production on ‘Blem’ simply isn’t strong enough to counterbalance the boredom it elicits.
While we’re on the topic of boredom, allow me to draw your attention, dear reader, to the length of this album: one hour and twenty-one minutes, and change. The album could be half as long, which coincidentally would make it twice as good (the optimal length being, of course, zero minutes, making and thus the finest album Drake has ever made). Compare Freddie Gibbs’ marvellous new record You Only Live 2wice: fewer than thirty-two minutes long. Compare J. Cole’s aforementioned 4 Your Eyez Only: forty-four and a half minutes long. Compare, even, Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven: just eighty-seven minutes long, split into four movements; an album which was essentially composed as a soundtrack is just a few minutes longer than this monstrously long piece of work. And admittedly, my own Northern Soul playlist on Youtube currently consists of 48 songs each at roughly two and a half minutes of length, meaning it is approximately two hours long. More Life, however, isn’t a playlist. It’s an album.
In the interests of fairness, there are two or three tracks on this thing I don’t find totally vile: ‘Gyalchester’ (rubbish bars though); ‘Skepta Interlude’ (probably because Drake isn’t on it); ‘Teenage Fever’ (though it suffers the same temporal problem as ‘Blem’); ‘Can’t Have Everything’ (again, nice production, effortlessly bad lyrics). The crux of the issue, though, is that if one listens to, say, ‘Free Smoke’, and enjoys it, one only has to go and listen to any other rapper—literally, any other contemporary American rapper—to be reminded of just how horrible Drake’s bars are: Joey Bada$$, Freddie Gibbs, J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar are all massively more talented than Drake, the man who was referred to by XXL as ‘an elite talent’. In fact, the only other MCs as terrible as Drake all seem to feature on the record—Travis Scott, Quavo (of Migos fame), 2 Chainz, and, especially, Giggs. The widespread and frankly embarrassing love of Giggs is something I will never understand. My hatred of him has been only confirmed by bars thus: ‘I got bitches in the Merky swerving, looking all curvy/And you already know I love them breasts, looking all perky’.
I find the widespread critical acclaim this album (it’s not a playlist) has garnered quite distressing. The huge thing seems to be that he managed to incorporate a few different genres into his new record, as though artists have never done it before, and certainly never done it more successfully. Perhaps tellingly, the best tracks on this album are either the ones on which Drake doesn’t feature (Sampha’s ‘4422’, though, again, it’s a little repetitive) or the ones which are straightforward trap music (‘Free Smoke’). Drake’s bars simply don’t live up to his reputation, the production can’t hold its own compared to records of recent years, and the multiple features on this record only make it feel more bloated than it already is at eighty-one minutes long. Do yourself a favour. Bypass More Life, and go and listen to the new Freddie Gibbs record. You won’t regret it.