Unless you were living under a rock for the last month, you know that Drake recently dropped his *******playlist******* More Life. The album is already topping the charts and will, no doubt, make Drizzy a lot of money. Yet, it is far from a good album and acts as another data point in the downward trend of Drake’s work and image.
Ever since the album Views, Drake’s work has lacked any sense of artistic integrity. Rather than take elements from songs and genres that he likes, something that many rappers do, Drake hijacks the latest trend in worldpop and then claims it as his own (Also what the hell is up with his Jamaican fetish???). The lack of storytelling or a common theme in recent projects have forced most people to write him off as a sellout, something that I fully believe he is.
The last time that Drake showed any resemblance of artistic vision was on What a Time to be Alive, the mixtape with Future represented the end of a 2014-2015 campaign that saw Drake fully embody who he wanted to be. A hyper masculine figure fully capable of flexing not only rapping prowess but also of physical image. 2015 brought with it the Meek Mill beef, Back to Back, and If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, between these two projects Drake established himself as raps power monger. During this period his bars were clever and angry, the perfect mix of what Drake wanted to embody. Having grown from the renown sadboi from Marvin’s Room, Drake was now where he wanted to be. And then 2016 came around.
In 2015 Kendrick Lamar cemented himself as the best rapper since the 90s. To Pimp A Butterfly was a magnum opus, the likes of which we may never see again for another decade or two. While Drake could not, in any way, shape, or form, compete with Compton’s prodigal son, 2015 was a strong enough year for Drake that he could lay claim to the top of rap. 2016 changed that in a big way, Kendrick released untitled unmastered and Drake released Views around the same time. untitled unmastered, an eight track compilation of rejects from previous albums, ethered Views in the eyes of the critics. Views was a steaming pile of trends with ugly cover art and bad lyrics (“Chaining Tatum”, are you kidding me!?). There was so much hype around the release of the album that this got most thinking that Kendrick’s worst were still better than Drake’s best. Drake went on tour for Views and each night was an over the top visual spectacle, it looked as if Drake might find a niche of his own. Then in October 2016, he ridiculed Kid Cudi’s mental health, this was the last straw, Drake was officially a jerk-sellout-muscle bound-tool of the industry.
More Life sees Drake acting as a curator of worldpop. Taking elements from nearly all continents and compiling them into a single body of work. This would be interesting, commendable even, if the list of features indicated that Drake was creating something rather than slapping his name on something that Popcaan cosigned. More Life and Views, to many, sound as if label executives were DJing a 9th grade dance. There is little to no substance to either album and the songs sound filtered and photoshopped. Simply, the albums are bad.
That being said, the music sounds good. As with all of his work, Drake has figured out a way to make his music sound appealing and is able to make it popular in the mainstream. “Passionfruit” will probably be the most ubiquitous song of 2017, the smooth beat and wholesome message makes it perfect for elevator listening. But that isn’t where rap is going, and Drake should know that. Rap is going in a more raw and intellectual direction. While there are out liars (Kodak Black, I’m looking at you), as a whole, rap music is not what it was ten years ago. Ten years ago rap was the very definition of unenlightened, Soulja Boy had the biggest song of the year. It was still pre-808s and Heartbreaks, the album that would pivot rap into an introspective and brooding genre. After 808s, rap became more intellectual and emotion driven. It became more personal and real. It seems like Drake hasn’t gotten the memo.