Imagine Drake in clunky Timberland boots, speaking to an intent DJ Semtex on OVO Sound Radio, say, “The only category that they can manage to fit me in is a rap category. Maybe because I’ve rapped in the past or because I’m black.” That’s the Toronto kid for you, simultaneously making his point obtuse while zooming in. He’s a rapper, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a pop star and an artist. And let’s focus on that word artist. It’s thrown around with gusto in 2017, but what does it even mean?
Well, for one, it means you’ve got range. And Drake’s isn’t infinite — it’s global. So adeptly does he pick up the slang, accents and flows that we early aughts folks deemed inauthentic. Now, in the playlist and Tumblr era, these exchanges feel par the course. And after the Twitter fingers and the number one hits, he’s ready to come back to the melody, where his bread is buttered.
That’s what Drizzy’s done on More Life. So eager was he to move on after Views' lack of critical favor (no matter how much it sold), that he’s given us 22 tracks of So Far Gone level earnest, tempered with Take Care skill. This is what Views was supposed to be.
Where Music is in 2017
Calling More Life a playlist is a unique kind of obviousness. It’s just an acknowledgment of where we’re at. But it’s brilliant. It allows Drake to sequence the hell out of More Life, pairing each song with its counterpart in emotion, like lining up mood rings by shades.
There’s one particular three song sequence that’s almost too good to be true. Watch as “Lose You” moves effortlessly into “Can’t Have Everything,” and then watch Kanye come to bat in the third spot spouting a desperately incongruous flow on “Glow.” I mean, come on. Yet Ye´ has enough charisma to carry the track despite making rapping for your friends in math class sounds. Their voices crown the song in an emotion that never quite hits home.
And that’s what’s so great about it.
Like it or not, a Drake that’s too perfect isn’t Drizzy at his best. He needs spontaneous mistakes to bring out his profound empathy. He’s naturally so many things to so many people, that trying at it just feels like he’s sucking up. Not here and not ever again if I get my way. Give me Drake awkwardly hugging Jhené Aiko after SNL, because it makes him, cozying up to whichever 12 he’s dealing with, that much sweeter. He’s a master of being incomplete. Like us, he’s perpetually arriving.
Many Drakes for Many Days
There’s a meme on black Twitter that goes like this: Some Drake meets another Drake while yet another Drake is passing by and they all look at each other like, “What are you doing here?” You can name them. Jamaican Drake, Memphis Drake, Houston Drake, London Drake, Bay Area Drake, Atlanta Drake... I’m missing a few, but you thought he was borrowing these cultures, trying their feathers on for hilarious success. But you’re wrong. Drake is all these things.
Not in the pure, I grew up around the way, way, but if music is supposed to be a bridge, then Drizzy is the fast lane. If you would have told me that calypso would make a comeback under this man, that house would be a real genre he’s playing with to great effect, that somehow he’d blend afrobeat with neo-soul and that he’d clothe these moods in his signature elixir of supreme intimacy and dread (and that it would be good), I would have told you to sit your ass down and be quiet. I would have said not now and not ever. But here we are. Careening into a future where Migos can call an album Culture, and the hysterical embodiment of the divide between actual culture, and that juicy trap treat, can have Quavo spit his best verse (maybe ever), on a song called “Portland”.
On More Life, Drake is a "most interesting man in the world" commercial, except that man is no more a master over his own life, than smooth rocks in a river bed are over that body of water's current.
Mad Men Drake
One of my favorite scenes in Mad Men finds Don Draper in an elevator with Michael Ginsberg. Ginsberg is livid. Don presented his idea instead of the upstarts in the pitch. He’s looking up at the taller Draper, dripping in anger, reaching for whatever you would call ethics, at a time when black folks were getting lynched (and people called it a picnic). Don says, “Look, I don’t like going in with two ideas. It’s weak.” Ginsberg replies, “And you don’t wanna be weak, so you pick yours.” At the end of the ride, Ginsberg says, “I feel bad for you.” And Don, in one of the zingiest zingers in television history says, “I don’t think about you at all.” Consider the idea that Drake is both of these men. Both of them. Both are stumbling toward an uncertain future.
He captured himself here in that perfect way. How hard is it for an artist to give us so much of himself without losing it? Drake’s More Life is a tight rope walker in-between the twin towers. He’s also someone that my mom can listen to.