Drake released More Life — we’re told it’s a “playlist,” even though we don’t really know what that means; it’s just an album, dude — on Saturday. We spent the rest of the weekend diving in. Here, Ringer staffers run through the highs and lows, ask, “What does ‘blem’ mean?” and try to sum up who Drake is in March 2017.
1. What is your tweet-length review of ‘More Life’?
Hannah Giorgis: More Life feels like an overdue apology from your favorite triflin’ ex. Sure, he ruined your life a bit with Views, but at least you know he still cares.
Justin Charity: It’s good. I’m supposed to have a violently sentimental opinion about this, aren’t I?
Andrew Gruttadaro: Fifteen minutes in: Oh, OK! Forty-five minutes in: I think I forgive Drake for Views. One hour, 15 minutes in: Is More Life longer than Das Boot?
Sean Yoo: More Life, dare I say, gives me more life. As cheesy as that joke is, the album itself fully delivers, unlike Views. More Life is very Gouda!
Daniel Varghese: More Life is great, but it has the same problem as all of Drake’s recent projects: It’s too damn long.
Amanda Dobbins: This is a pleasant collection of songs, and it was nice of Drake to show up for some of them!
Sam Schube: Drake’s major releases all feel extra wintry in production, lyrics, and mood. More Life is so, so humid. It’s an overdue and extremely successful shift.
Donnie Kwak: End-to-end burner. © Company Flow
2. What is your favorite song?
Danny Chau: If More Life is more of Drake working off successful templates of his past, then “Get It Together” follows the “Take Care” model: leeching off the vibes of a preexisting song and building a superstructure on top of it. Rihanna filled in for Gil Scott-Heron over an immaculate Jamie xx remix then; Jorja Smith fills in for South African singer Bucie over Black Coffee’s lush 2010 house hit “Superman” now. The model works.
Justin Sayles: The Sampha song aside, “Can’t Have Everything.”
Yoo: “Can’t Have Everything,” “Glow,” “Ice Melts.”
Schube: “Blem” is a [Zane Lowe–interviewing-Drake-in–Jimmy Iovine’s–airplane-hangar-in-front-of-a-private-jet-with-the-OVO-owl-on-the-tail voice] MASSIVE CHUNE.
Charity: “Return of the Mack.”
(OK, fine, “4422.”)
Zoladz: “Madiba Riddim.”
Gruttadaro: “Sacrifices.” Shouts to Tity Boi.
Giorgis: There are much stronger tracks on the project, but the song I want to hear every night that’s above 50 degrees is “Blem.” It’s Drake at his strongest: petty, a little immature, cocky, both danceable and Instagram-caption-ready. There’s no song that makes me feel more ready for summer.
Varghese: “Jorja Interlude”
Dobbins: “Free Smoke” — I like it when Drake raps. Runner-up: “Portland” — I like it when Drake uses fake pan flutes.
Kwak: “Can’t Have Everything” is Drake at his brutally cold best, wearing his “ol’ triple-double Russ face” while dismissively slinging barbed ’liminals on some My enemies don’t deserve these bars but they’re gonna get them anyway. I’m sure this resulted in quite the tense conference call at MMG HQ.
3. What is your least-favorite song?
Yoo: “KMT,” because I’m not the biggest fan of grime and the line at the end — “Batman, da-na-na-da-na” — is cringeworthy.
Zoladz: “Nothings Into Somethings”
Varghese: “Can’t Have Everything”
Gruttadaro: “Fake Love.” Drake is evil for including a horrendous, grating, 2016 single on a 22-track album in 2017.
Dobbins: All the ones on the back half that I don’t remember.
4. What is the best yearbook-quote lyric?
Zoladz: “Like a kiss from a rose, I could be the one to seal your whole fate.”
Yoo: “When others go low, we go high” — Sandi Graham (the first lady of OVO).
Sayles: “I don’t take naps.” (Sadly.)
Varghese: “I make too much these days to ever say ‘Poor Me.’”
Chau: Retroactively changed my own high school yearbook quote to “I wanna move to Dubai so I don’t never have to kick it with none of you guys.”
Gruttadaro: “Michael Phelps with the swim moves / Michael Jordan with the tennis shoes.”
Kwak: I’m giving this one to Skepta: “You don’t know me, you better get to know me.” Perfect way to christen his one shining moment.
Schube: “I drunk-text J.Lo.”
Dobbins: “MIRAVAL TO THE FACE, THOUGH.” — Amanda Dobbins, Class of 2017
5. Which big-name artist had the best feature?
Chau: 2 Chainz, who is sprinkling lines from his Great American Memoir in every feature he jumps on.
Sayles: If 2 Chainz is on an album, the answer will always be 2 Chainz.
Dobbins: Jennifer Lopez, both appearances.
Yoo: Sampha’s feature is in a tier all by itself.
Gruttadaro: Lots of people are very proud of Thugger and his much-improved elocution, but the real winner here is Skepta.
Schube: Young Thug on “Ice Melts.” It’s basically a discarded B-side from Jeffery. (That’s a compliment.)
Wright: Young Thug on “Sacrifices.” I’m Young Thug stan and this is the first time I could fully understand what he was saying on first listen, so shout-out to Drake for that.
Giorgis: Sampha’s voice coming through on “4422” is the first moment I really took More Life seriously. Of course other artists make incredible additions and help buoy the playlist, but Sampha stops me in my tracks — without even being listed as a feature.
Kwak: Young Thug on “Sacrifices.” After spreading his mumble-rap seeds all over the Billboard Hot 100, you know Thugger had to go left and start to actually enunciate. He’s great, and your favorite mumble rapper is decidedly not.
Varghese: It’s definitely not Kanye West …
6. Which lesser-known artist (or producer) is primed for a career boost post–‘More Life’?
Kwak: Jazzfeezy and Steve Samson are two Canadian producers whose biggest placement before “Can’t Have Everything” was a late-period T.I. album cut. I won’t rest until five or more rappers freestyle-murder this instrumental. Pusha T, looking at you.
Gruttadaro: Kanye West.
Sayles: Probably Jorja, who anchors what’s likely to be the biggest song off of More Life (“Get It Together”). But personally, I was happy to see the production credits included Stwo, who’s been a big part of the SoundCloud future bass community that’s informed OVO’s sonics for years.
Varghese: Jorja Smith, I hope. Her interlude is awesome, and “Get it Together” would be perfect if the chorus wasn’t so corny.
Yoo: Murda Beatz has been on a hot streak, following up two standout tracks on Bird in the Trap Sing McKnight with two more quality beats on More Life.
Wright: Murda Beatz. In the past few months alone, he’s had tracks on this, Migos’ Culture, and Gucci’s Return of East Atlanta Santa. If he had a catchy producer tag like Metro Boomin does, he’d be more well known. The “Portland” beat might just put him over the top.
Schube: Is it cheating to say Thugger? “Ice Melts” is a good reminder that you dorks all shoulda had Jeffery on your year-end lists.
Chau: The kids who stan for Drake but weren’t sentient for Jennifer Lopez’s run of jams from the late ’90s (shouts out to Darkchild) into the early aughts are about to power a revival, which is great for J.Lo karaoke enthusiasts like myself.
Zoladz: Does Skepta count as lesser known? If so, Skepta.
7. Is “Passionfruit” good?
Varghese: No. It’s great.
Dobbins: Yes, instantly. What’s wrong with you?
Gruttadaro: “Passionfruit” sounds like it should be the song that plays over the PS4 home screen, but I also know it will be on every summer playlist I make this year.
Giorgis: “Passionfruit” is the perfect crystallization of my personal favorite Drake: the sentient piña colada. It feels tailor-made for bottomless-mimosa brunch playlists.
Yoo: “Passionfruit” is good for now, until it has the same radio play as “Fake Love.” Which will make it an unbearable song to listen to.
Sayles: I mean …
But yes, “Passionfruit” is the type of breezy, sultry Drake jam that makes sitting through all the grime and the missives directed toward waitresses worth it.
Kwak: It’s good for what it is; my issue here is with the album sequencing. I like Jameson. I like Yoo-hoo. Never would I drink a glass of Yoo-hoo after a glass of Jameson, which is what “Passionfruit” feels like after “No Long Talk.” At some point, Drake should pull a Nelly and partition his musical persona into two totally separate pieces, a la Sweat and Suit. Call it Turtle/Neck.
Charity: It sounds like a De La Soul Is Dead skit clowning other, post–“One Dance,” cabana-rama Drake singles — but yes.
Chau: Yes, but it’s a weird fruit! Its exterior looks like a cratered Christmas ornament after a tree fire, its pulp like a cluster of orange-juice-stained tarantula eyes. The flavor of a ripe passion fruit is almost comically artificial — sunny and bright and overwhelming in its tropicality — which is probably why artificial passion fruit syrups can come so damn close to the real thing. Real is fake, fake is real. It’s great.
8. Drake’s grime obsession: interesting or shameless swag-jacking?
Giorgis: Drake’s crediting of grime artists seems far more thorough than his dubious shout-outs to dancehall/soca artists. I won’t go so far as to say he’s learned from the many call-outs, but the way he brings in grime artists on More Life allows the artists themselves to shine.
Varghese: Can’t it be both?
Gruttadaro: Drake’s appropriation of Caribbean culture is far more egregious — RIDDIMMMMMMM — but I guess I can’t be that mad at him on either front. When I came back from studying abroad in Ireland I definitely tried to make “good craic” happen for a couple of weeks. It’s a good thing no one was letting me make hip-hop albums then.
Schube: I’m into it. Why does Drake keep chasing this dragon despite mostly crummy results? I don’t care. I love it when famous and talented people pursue unpopular obsessions.
Zoladz: Drake is years beyond feeling shame about his swag-jacking.
Yoo: Drake continues to bite on trends while taking subtle ownership of their success.
Kwak: I react to musical appropriation like I do to plastic surgery: I’m not bothered by it as a matter of principle, so long as it turns out well. So to that end: Great work, Drizzy. It’s all very natural on you.
Charity: Neither. It’s embarrassing. Grime is bad, and at the very least Americans should refuse to take it seriously until grime artists and grime apologists drop the pretense that grime is totally unrelated, and not indebted, to hip-hop.
9. Use “Blem” in a sentence.
Yoo: I had a lot of built of phlegm yesterday: I was blem all day.
Kwak: I promise I will never Google, “What does blem mean?”
Zoladz: “Blem,” Aubrey typed into the Urban Dictionary search bar, before trying it out a few times softly to himself, just to see how it felt on his tongue: “Blem … blem … bl-em … blem? Blem.”
Varghese: You’ve gotta be blem to think that this album needed to be almost an hour and a half long.
Chau: Whenever I find myself growing blem about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off — then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.
10. Where does ‘More Life’ rank among Drake albums?
Sayles: Miles ahead of Views and its icy pettiness. Possibly no. 2, right behind Take Care.
Giorgis: It’s no stretch to say More Life is decidedly better than Views, but it might also be better than both So Far Gone and Thank Me Later. Take Care is by far his best project, and More Life feels like a (more bloated, meandering) derivative.
Schube: Way, way up there. Views was a bummer, but the strategy behind it — ditch the standard album for a behemoth built to dominate streaming services and swamp the Billboard charts — was undisputably brilliant. More Life borrows the same technique, except the songs are good.
Yoo: More Life is the third-best Drake album behind Take Care and Nothing Was the Same. I wanna give it a week before saying it’s better than NWTS, but the ceiling is high for this album.
Dobbins: (1) Take Care (2) Nothing Was the Same (3) Thank Me Later :) (4) So Far Gone (5) More Life (6) If You’re Reading This (7) Views.
Kwak: With Views and More Life, Drake did Blueprint and Blueprint 2, except in reverse order. I’m putting this one up near the top of his catalog.
Wright: (1) If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late (2) Nothing Was the Same (3) More Life (4) So Far Gone (5) Thank Me Later (6) Take Care (7) Views.
Chau: I think it’s better than anything he’s made before or after Take Care.
Gruttadaro: It’s not nearly as good as Take Care and not nearly as bad as Views. Where it falls in between those two poles depends on how adversely affected you are by Twitter enthusiasm.
Zoladz: (1) Take Care (2) If You’re Reading This … (3) NWTS (4) More Life (5) Views (6) So Far Gone (7) Thank Me Later
Varghese: Wherever you rank If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, it’s right after that.
11. Who is Drake in 2017?
Sayles: Who he was in 2009: a semi-self-aware cornball. Except now, instead of proudly pouting through his lovelorn narcissism, he’s a masterful interloper who’s blemmed on life.
Yoo: Drake in 2017 is the most successful mainstream rapper in the game. He’s not the best rapper alive, which is a title that goes to Kendrick, but he has mastered his brand and continues to push it to new heights.
Gruttadaro: Apparently Legion (the comic book character, not the TV character).
Kwak: He is the rightful holder of the throne.
Zoladz: Your moody friend who’s having way too many feelings at the beach.
Dobbins: A guy who makes playlists and shares them with people. (Help.)
Schube: Maybe the biggest and definitely the canniest pop star in the world.