The album is the commercial pinnacle of 2017. Where Views somewhat failed to support the big hit One Dance, Drake’s latest record successfully delivers twenty-two tracks with a return to self-pitying 40-produced raps and a collection of in-form artists as we reach the summit of his skills as curator. Drake covers everything from UK Trap to South African House, as he assembles melodies and riddims delivering great energy throughout the record. It’s affirmation he has become a walking, breathing, living meme; with an uncanny ability to adopt culture and make it his own, to take something popular, relevant and trending and repackage it in Drizzy-heart-stamped wrapping paper. And it’s fantastic.
A lot of people are getting this album wrong. This can’t be treated as a credible piece of music, or compared to Arca, Frank, or even Kendrick’s latest efforts. This is a silly, silly playlist. A collection of everything that’s good sonically in pop culture, and it’s a lot of fun.
To dive in to the mass material a little, we’ve got features from Quavo, Travis Scott, Kanye West, PartyNextDoor and 2Chainz. We have entire tracks from Skepta and Sampha, both impressive respectively. We have two tracks from both Young Thug and Giggs. And we have the Hagler-produced sample of J-Lo’s If You Had My Love on the aptly named Teenage Fever.
Standouts include Young Thug actually talking English for the first time on Sacrifices, South-African House producer Black Coffee’s appearance on Get it Together, and pop-hits-in-waiting Madiba Riddim and Passionfruit. But there are standouts all through the eighty or so minutes of the record. There’s an impressive guest feature from nineteen-year-old Jorga Smith. There’s also the immersion of everything that is OVO in Since Way Back, where there is enough silence and slow tempo to momentarily lose the sense of time and the acknowledgement that any other music still exists.
Also notable is the humour in the album. In Gyalchester Drake chorally yells:
‘Hermes link… Ice blue Mink!
The reference perhaps an ode to Cam’ron’s pink mink phase circa 2003, but Drake clearly portrays his ravenous appetite for a variety of music genres as he spits:
‘I switch flows like I switch time-zones’
The track’s title itself perhaps implying that Drake visited Manchester on tour and discovered there were many peng gyal in the area. Because it’s 2017, and speaking in patois is in fashion. Elsewhere we switch from this comical side, where Drake talks of drunk-texting J-Lo, straight back to the invented hood figure, dissing the late Meek Mill and flexing as one of the more bizarre rap superstars.
Drake is Blem for real. He’s high on life, and he’s sitting high up on top of the charts and stream views. As the album progresses, Drake becomes more of himself, more talk of eating at Applebees and more stories of old flames. More tributes to music he grew up listening to with Glow’s Earth, Wind and Fire sample. He gets more expansive in his rapping and taps back in to his inner Drakeness as we get More Drake, More Life.