So we got what we should all probably now expect from Drake these days. Clocking in around the 81-minute mark, More Life has plenty of its namesake to it, running — as intended — as long as an OVO Sound Radio show. And inevitably, with the 22 track ‘playlist’ came a fresh lexicon of new lingo from Drizzy, which left some fans baffled and others bemused.
In reality, despite sounding far removed from the chat Drake would use as “Wheelchair Jimmy” in Degrassi, much of the more unusual lyrics also ring out in the dialogue of his hometown, Toronto. More Life contains colloquialisms from Jamaica, the Philippines and India amongst many others, which make up for the rich diaspora of backgrounds the “Six” consists of.
On More Life, Drake is projecting Toronto — and its mix of culture — to the rest of the world. But with the expected inundation of Caribbean patois and anglophilia also comes odes to Nelson Mandela via South African house. Drizzy is experimenting in a way he we haven’t seen before on previous projects.
Whilst More Life is riddled with slang, samples and soundscapes he’s picked up on his travels across the globe, Drake fundamentally keeps his core U.S. audience happy with his usual blend of relationship reflections and slick subliminal-dissing. The project that launched a thousand memes also contains a breadth of international talent unlike any other hip-hop artist’s musical endeavors in recent memory.
He’s done what he said he would in “Providing a soundtrack for your lives,” and has accommodated remarkably this mantra to his following, which is now arguably the single largest audience in world music. The playlist is forged from a huge variety of backgrounds that he’s weaved together sporadically, yet very effectively. It’s without doubt one of Drake’s most imaginative and most universal projects to date.
The first news we got brought about the album was that it wasn’t being released by the Six God. The cover art for the project read “More Life: A Playlist by October Firm,” which brought a few things into question. First, the title “More Life” — which actually derives from Drizzy’s favorite artist, Vybz Kartel, who popularized the saying. It also represents the first of many references to Jamaican patois that run throughout the project.
The use of “October Firm” instead of OVO relates to Drake’s ongoing obsession with UK Roadman culture, with “firm” deriving from UK
soccer football culture (each team has a “firm” group of supporters who back their club to the hilt, often with hooliganism).
Stone Island is a brand that’s become synonymous with British football terrace-wear, and Drizzy’s $100k Stone Island chain quite literally, and ridiculously, solidified his love of British subculture. You’ll have to watch for your “head top” if you wear that on Premier League terraces though, mate.
By labelling the project a “Playlist,” Drake was enabled to really beef up sounds, language and samples that he may not have been able to if he was making a more individual, personal album like he has done previously. Breaking free from those shackles inspired a host of memes that were spawned out of More Life‘s focus on funny new words Drizzy picked up while hanging out in Jamaica and at Section Boyz gigs, with many highlighting how he seems to jump between a variety of different cultural personas with relative ease.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not personal to his own upbringing. Toronto’s diaspora is similar to that of London’s, with both containing large amounts of unique cultural diversity. Drake jumps into the album with “No Long Talk” — more Jamaican patois (keeping shit succinct) — and this immediately launches us into the first crossover of lingo from UK rap culture.
Giggs — the UK rap Landlord who arguably administers the coldest bars in Grime — lends his iconic scything tones on lines like “Man gets duppied.” The Jamaican patois term for “ghost,” Drake himself sounds translucent and “duppied” alongside Giggs, who completely dominates the track.
From starting the project with two trap-heavy beats, Drizzy then draws for the tropical, evocative “Passionfruit” beat using a similarly successful formula to the “tropical house-via-dancehall” beats like “Controlla” and “One Dance” provided to him on Views. This track also notably contains a sample from an unexpected source — Moodymann.
Moodymann is renowned not only for his legendary master of ceremonies duties, but also getting the audience tipsy during his iconic DJ performances, often found passing around Hennessy bottles at his sets for his audience to drink. Moodymann has become one of the most sampled artists in house and techno today, both for his own production and slick vocals, which have now become considerably bait within each scene.
Taken from a night the Detroit don played back in
GyalManchester in 2010, the sample is taken right after one of his records began skipping — with Kenny Dixon Jr. silkily smooth on the mic as always despite the mishap.
Drake then channels the relatively obscure genre of gqom — a variation of house that emerged in 2012 — through South African house producer Black Coffee, who he links up with on “Get It Together,” alongside rising UK R&B songstress Jorja Smith. Bizarrely, Drake was pictured in UK supermarket chain Co-Op when he recently went to buy boiled sweets with the R&B songstress in her hometown of Wallsall while in Birmingham on his “Boy Meets World” Tour. It’s personal touches like this union that strengthen his relationships with the array of artists he works with, and form the backbone of his international domination.
Following on from Jorja’s surprising feature comes “Madiba Riddim,” which again infuses lingo from two different regions alongside each other. Shouting out South African anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela by his clan name Madiba, he shows his respect and affection to a man globally renowned for breaking down race barriers — a timely message of unity for his universal audience.
His dispersion of soundscapes on the record is also reflected in the juxtaposition between the beats like the atmospheric reverie on Sampha’s “4422” slowly fading out into the hard trap beat on “Gyalchester.” A similar theme is heard when he uses a vocal skit from burgeoning South London rapper Dave to mark the transition from the feeling-inducing “Teenage Fever” into the hardest track on the album, “KMT,” with Giggs.
Perhaps arranged this way to mask his own vulnerabilities, it’s actually a really effective tool for making More Life‘s bangers bang all that harder whilst masking over Drake’s own fragility in having to hold a whole album up on his own, a problem that he’s audibly encountered on previous projects.
Upon release, “Gyalchester” immediately stood out in particular to Drake’s UK audience, who were in stitches over the track title that simultaneously left his Stateside stans utterly confused. “Gyalchester” has been said in the North of England for a minute, replacing “Man” with the female pronoun “Gyal” to indicate a place, party or motive filled with lots of ladies.
The word itself actually derives from the Jamaican town of “Manchester” which is commonly called “Gyalchester” by Jamaican locals — with the tongue-in-cheek title adding a dose of fun that wasn’t apparent on Views.
“KMT” has been flagged as the most recent example of Drake’s cultural appropriation, with several people online pointing out how similar his flow is to Bay-Area rapper XXXTENANCION’s now-viral track “Look At Me.” The acronym stands for “Kissing My Teeth” and is commonly used in the UK to express disappointment with someone. Despite these claims that Drake has bitten another artist’s style , the potentiality that Drake has used a rising Floridian rapper’s flow alongside a UK road rap icon is not something anyone else in music can be said to be doing at present.
“Blem” in patois means “to feel high,” but flash back 10 years and you would have seen it feature in many a Blackberry Messenger conversation in London. You could probably also still hear it in the English capital now if someone asks you for a draw on a joint or cigarette. Hilariously, Drizzy brings the phrase back from the dead, and uses it candidly as a mechanism to “say how (he) feels.”
The UK influence on More Life subsequently led to massive rise in exposure for the UK artists that featured on the “playlist.” Giggs’s music saw a 146 percent increase in streams according to The Fader, with Skepta’s music jumped up 21 percent and Jorja Smith gaining 12 percent in streams on the service — no mean feat — and perfectly illustrated the symbiotic nature of the album. Drizzy relies on the UK to hold the album up. Despite Giggs and Jorja Smith not relying on him for acclaim, the rewards through the exposure and streaming royalties that will come from their features are distinctly unprecedented.
Aside from all the international flavor, Drake mixes his vulnerable, minor-key Take Care-introspection alongside his What A Time To Be Alive guise as a trap-rapper flippantly — but it works. Latching onto current trends has always been Drake’s forté — from the flute instrumentation in one of the playlist’s best tracks, “Portland,” to giving the playlist a strong grime influence with Skepta and Giggs whilst the UK genre enjoys its moment on the world stage. Ultimately, it’s Drake exerting his curation skills more acutely than he has ever done.
Getting one of Atlanta’s finest, in Young Thug, to rap in a more coherent style on “Sacrifices” and “Ice Melts” is also one of the album’s highlights. Often written off by audiences — particularly in the UK — as a mumble rapper, Thugger is exceptional on More Life as he’s not having to implement his voice for melodic purposes, as he often does on his own tracks. Frank Ocean even took to his Tumblr to approve of his lyrical performance.
More Life also illustrates that Drake still has a hold over the U.S. rap game. Calling on kingpins like Travis Scott, 2 Chainz, Quavo, Partynextdoor and none other than Kanye West — in a mode we haven’t seen for him in years — Drake still keeps those XXL-approval ratings in mind.
He keeps it even closer to home with both the subliminal disses against Meek Mill, Tory Lanez (and perhaps even Jay Z) alongside introspective crooning about relationship drama (“I drunk text J.Lo / Old number, so it bounce back”). Despite saying he’s putting an end to beef and never going to perform “Back to Back” ever again, Drizzy comes in strong with the subliminal dissing on More Life, as Genius analyzes below.
Drake signs off his project with “Do Not Disturb,” where he unveils his plans to take an extended break from music. Leaving the game in this fashion is a good idea for Drake. He’s sampled throughout the playlist saying, “And more Chune for your head top, so watch how you speak on my name, you know.”
Drake has a point — with More Life, he’s the provided the soundtrack that will inevitably be getting blasted out of as many car stereos as it will carnival sound systems this summer. He’s not the master of the rap game, but on More Life, there is no doubt that he’s become the world’s best at curating chunes for the masses.
Heard enough of Drizzy now? Have a listen to Joey Bada$$ spit a murderous freestyle over Future’s “Mask Off” right here.