Why Drake’s More Life Works as a Playlist
Drake dropped More Life at what could be considered the least intriguing moment of his obnoxiously successful career. His music industry dominance both unquestioned and unprecedented yet increasingly uninteresting. It almost feels like he released his last album not that long ago, with Views memes still circulating around certain corners of the Internet.
Drizzy just keeps busting out new tracks, never seeming to break a sweat even though he’s wearing a lot of outrageous turtleneck sweaters. Somehow, we don’t think of him as another lame-o, sell-out pop chameleon because he fails to draw attention to his artistic transformations—he simply transforms. In More Life, for example, tracks like “Can’t Have Everything” and “Passionfruit” feel aloof and jaunty; but, so did chart-topper “Hotline Bling” when it first aired on the radio as a silly cover of a D.R.A.M. record.
"More Life is interesting because this is Drake right on the peak of his biggest project yet, doing his biggest tour and still having so many good ideas that he just wants to put out without making it a big ordeal,” said Drake's producer, Nineteen85, earlier this year in an interview with Billboard. “That's why he's trying to call it a playlist, because he has a bunch of people in a space, hanging out. He's so aware of what everybody else is doing musically that he likes to introduce new music and new artists to the rest of the world.”
More Life’s strange compilation of tracks is clearly not an album – it’s not a unified whole or a story meant to be told in any sort of order. Drake exempts his listeners of the pressure they might feel to consume the 81-minute track list in one sitting. By calling it a playlist rather than an album, Drake is free from the unwritten industry commandments and allows himself to create more casually and reject the notion that a lengthy project is, inherently, a bad one. In fact, the excess may just be the point. With 22 tracks, the record is too damn long which could arguably be intentional. This gives the playlist the slight essence of a forgotten closet being cleared out, like Dylan’s Basement Tapes.
Undeniably, it’s a looser Champagne Papi that makes More Life work. It’s sprightly, more exploratory and totally unrestrained with its collection of influences ranging from Brit rap to reggae. Drake’s alternative labelling of More Life is a means to dismiss expectations and easily quiet any and all accusations of inconsistency the genre-surfing record might contain.
More Life isn’t some kind of bold new innovation on Drake’s part. In the hip-hop world, mix tapes have long acted as inbetweeners for studio albums. Lately though, we’re seeing artists from other genres take similar approaches to releasing tracks like this. Charli XCX dropped Number 1 Angel in March; a mixtape intended to take the place of her delayed third studio album. The ten new songs—featuring an eclectic mix of industry names—discuss the bona fide pop star’s problems with being a major label artist in 2017.
The Six God has harnessed the establishment of music streaming to send a message about the state of the music scene while emphasizing his Take Care-era brag that he “got rich off a mixtape.” Drake is one of the first major artists to put a stream-only playlist on the charts. Either way, More Life serves to highlight the new norms for music listening. The playlist is his version of an impeccable 22-song list, but it’s so diverse and features several artists that aren’t him, so there’s no reason to believe that there isn’t a track on it for everyone.