It’s been about nine-months since Drake released his fourth-studio album, Views, meaning that the majority of babies born today were probably conceived to a cocktail iteration of “Redemption,” “Feel No Ways,” “Weston Road Flows,” and “Still Here”—the latter is reserved to reassure the man’s performance (“Doin’ well dog”). Sparse conventional Aubrey cuts yield to the album’s dominant pop/dancehall aesthetic, making this one of Drake’s more interesting, risk taking projects. However, Views, while it certainly has bright spots and made its way into my top-25 2016 album list, lacks cohesion and direction, finding Drake attempting to handle multiple disciplines without mastering one.
Interestingly though, this constant music exploration is creating an inverse relationship between his identity and popularity; with his identity being spread thinner, his popularity is skyrocketing. As he currently sits atop music’s thrown, I’m confident that his upcoming release, More Life (expected to drop before March), will increase his attempted multilane musical mastery, with a keen focus on trap—arguably today’s hottest sub-genre. But if you’re not a trap fan, don’t fret—More Life will feature a multitude of hits, spanning a medley of sounds, peppered with classic Aubrey.
More Life will bear a striking thematic resemblance to Views by employing unconventional Drizzy music. On the latter project, Drake stretched his musical flexibility by supplementing his standard Hip Hop/R&B discourse with dancehall tracks, like “One Dance” and “Controlla.” He hasn’t received any lacking support to evidence regression. Fans aren’t crying for him to spit bars like he did on Thank Me Later, and they’re not lobbying for the guy’s emotional divulgence like on “Marvin’s Room”—they seem to enjoy his expansive approach. Drake’s brand and popularity have ballooned, forcing him to appease a much broader demographic than his initial audience, inducing a sonic dilution as he bolsters his palatable aesthetic. Drake’s like a single mother working two jobs to make ends meet. Except instead of being broke with a gaggle of kids to support, he’s a wildly successful dual music threat: a pop star wearing a Hip Hop trench coat—a lethal combination for a modern trap star (I can't believe I just described Aubrey Graham as a “modern trapstar”).
As I stated in my “2017 Musical Direction” article, saying that trap will dominate this year, Drake seemingly always finds himself in an advantageous musical position thanks to his foresight and instinct. Trap music is currently that advantageous position, and Drake will undoubtedly continue to latch himself onto that movement to increase his popularity and demographic scope. In the ‘90s, you’d be hard-pressed to find overlapping Three 6 Mafia and R. Kelly fans. But today, Drake straddles both demographics, and is instrumental in pushing trap into the mainstream—a place where Drake is most comfortable. His mainstream encapsulation is not only a testament to his transcendent music, but also to his innovation.
Project monikers have become arbitrary—the differences between a mixtape and an album are sometimes so marginal, even indistinguishable. However, Drake might be pioneering a movement by dubbing More Life a “playlist.” Not an album, mixtape, studio release, EP, etc.—it’s a “playlist.” Just like we make them for sex, working out, and pregames, Drake is making one for 2017. That word itself is somewhat indicative of the direction he’s pursuing with this release. Playlists are predominantly used to celebrate joyous occasions: i.e. sex, working out, and pregames, hinting that this project will be engorged with hyphy hits. However, the term “playlist” is still ambiguous. They are carefully curated tools specifically designed to reflect differing emotional states—we’ve all got some sort of sad, rainy day playlist stashed at the bottom of our Spotify profiles. But they don’t all have to be so purposeful. Like weed, they also simply liven mundane situations (my “grocery store playlist” hangs with the best of them), signaling that Drake will use More Life as a life-enhancing initiative.
In fact, in a Complex interview, Drake described this project as “a playlist to give you a collection of songs that become the soundtrack to your life.” (A little ironic considering that he took shots at Kid Cudi on More Life single, “Two Birds One Stone”—the same artist who gave us “Soundtrack 2 My Life.”) This statement foreshadows an ostensibly eclectic release, similar to Views, as Drake attempts the difficult feat of creating a universal playlist. Given his genre melding on Views that hinged upon dancehall, I believe that Drake’s going to continue that approach with More Life, substituting the dancehall emphasis with trap.
Since this is supposed to be the “soundtrack to our lives,” he’s going to surround the playlist's trap core with diverse tracks. So far, he’s released three singles: “Two Birds One Stone,” “Fake Love,” and “Sneakin’.” All sound radically different from each other, with some borrowing influence from his previous work, suggesting that More Life will be a combination of new Drake mixed with good ol' Aubrey. The first one is probably the most classic Drake Hip Hop track. The 6 God delivers a barrage of bars, detailing that he’s not the emotional, wide-eyed kid he was back in ’08, and that he has no qualms gunning for industry vets, like Pusha T and Kid Cudi. “Fake Love” sounds like a Views B-side, considering that it’s basically “Hotline Bling 2.0.” I’m not hating or anything (I think this song’s fire), just remarking that he’s texturizing his upcoming project by incorporating previous sounds. Lastly, we have “Sneakin’”—a main reason behind my trap prediction.
“Sneakin’” is Drizz’ first collaboration with Hip Hop’s anti-hero and budding trap star, 21 Savage. From the London On Da Track production to Drake’s slurred, mumbled speech to 21’s feature, “Sneakin’” bleeds trap vibes, finding Drizz fairly comfortable in his adopted home. His manipulated flow effortlessly glides across London’s beat, sounding as if Drake’s adolescence was spent on Zone 6’s corners. Considering that he’s by no means a textbook “trapper,” and is fairly new to the South’s music, trap could become his burgeoning sound. In addition to featuring trapper 21 Savage on More Life, Drake is also recruiting viral trap superstars, Rae Sremmurd, and the T-R-A-P-G-O-D himself, Gucci Mane.
Further proof of More Life’s inevitable trap heart is Drake’s recent Amsterdam performance, where he unrelieved a new song off the upcoming playlist. Watch the video below, close your eyes, and tell me who you think that is (literally—here’s my number: (908) 229-0180). I’ll give you a hint: his hair is stupider than him, and his lyrics are indecipherable. No, not Yachty—I’m going to spare him. I’m talking about Lil Uzi Vert. After Drake’s performance, Capital One phoned Lil Uzi Vert asking him if his identity had been stolen (not really). Drizz is turning into Hip Hop’s chameleon, absorbing popular music trends into his artistry. I’m not sure if this strategy is tactical, or will force Drake into a schizophrenic meltdown. That’s an article for a different day.
Whether this playlist will find more comfort at a party, during sex, or strolling the bread isle at the grocery store remains to be seen. Well, I guess we can scratch the latter option considering that I’ve already perfected the “grocery store playlist.” But while the ideal listening context is unknown, given concrete evidence and my part-time job as a medium, there is one thing I can say with certainty: my trap prediction is ironclad. All kidding aside, the reality is that regardless of the playlist’s sonic core, this will be another sound addition in Drake’s iconic library. Just don’t be shocked when you see Drizz sporting a Gucci ice cream face tat.