It has been especially hard to get out of bed this winter, with the increasing borders and oppression we’re facing. Usually around this time, a track is released that reminds us of summer and gives us a few reasons to look forward to staying alive, but the past few months have been abnormally scarce of that kind of unfettered happiness on the dance floor—save for the merciful October drop of Drake’s “Fake Love.” Last week, in our darkest hour, Drake returned with More Life and his most effective skill: reminding us that life is literally meant to be lived at its happiest, at its pettiest and as indulgently as you can manifest it.
More Life, which today marks Drake’s seventh Billboard No. 1 and broke his own streaming record, is the very antithesis of the political mood of the past year, but there is a magic to Drake’s insistence that we be realest, happiest selves. If Drake has not found a way to make you take off your shirt in the club yet, then y’all really don’t fuck with each other. But for the rest of us, and to the glory of the nightlife industry, Aubrey is the King of not just #summertimevibes but also #knowyourself, and he can easily reign over three seasons of radio when he’s in his pocket.
More Life may be just a “playlist” as Drake defines it, but the overall theme is cohesive and concise. Drake is back to remembering that there’s really no reason to be mad at being alive and more importantly, being himself is quite rewarding. It’s an apt description for the project. Playlists put us in the mood and set off the pre-vibes. Playlists are made for those moments when you need to be excited about doing things before you do them—even if those things are cooking or going to sleep. They set the tone for an activity or experience, and Drake is a human experience shower. From the tuff man talk to the simp man cries and the charming whispers of love, he’s very happy to take us on a ride through his many moods, and remind us that he’s fit a couple lifetimes of activities into his successful career thus far.
On this project, he’s back to being the man on road with no time for friends or lovers—who then returns as the jealous ex, crying even though he was the one who ruined it all. Back to subbing his foes, rather than wasting money to pretend he’s gonna fight. Life is too good to fight, especially when you’ve reached Teflon Don status. He gets right to business with it on the opening track “Free Smoke”: “How you let the kid fighting ghostwriter rumors turn you into a ghost?”—a jab that’s still making Meek Mill’s teeth click. This is The Boy we know: cheeky and off the cuff with the barbs; a Scorpio man who never, ever forgets. It’s his definitive niche and even the sheer number of hits on 25-track project feels so very, very Drake. He takes it all and spins it into gold.
The voicemail from his mother at the end of “Can’t Have Everything” may strike as an old gimmick, but listening her to quote Michelle Obama and chastising him for his confrontational tone feels familiar. How many times have we told Aubrey to cut the negative shit and count his blessings? To remember that he doesn’t need street fights because he’s already pop? He is way beyond the reach of haters. This is the man who can become an international meme and genuinely take it with a smile. More Life puts him back in the driver’s seat of his own fantasy, completely self-aware.
What made his 2016 album Views so disappointing—a point the internet will never let him forget—is that he indulged in all the wrong ways. Got way too far into his own head and forgot the mission which was to constantly move forward. It’s a topic of constant debate, but the songs that became timeless off that poorly sequenced diary reading were the dance tracks. The songs that reminded us that you leave the house to interact and although there’s only a 50/50 on the return of that investment, if you don’t participate you’ll die inside your own head. That letting loose is the only way to breathe. The trick is to not let the world make you forget you. Drake is well aware of all our criticisms and it would seem he chose to hammer them on the head throughout this project.
You think he’s sweating the London scene? Great, here are TWO features from London rapper Giggs—including literal grime attempt “KMT,” an interlude by scene don Skepta, some more Sampha and a grinding wind jam called “Blem” to make everyone roll their eyes but still lift their cups and smoke high in the air, screaming at the top of their lungs with North London aplomb. You say he’s not really island, not really African, not really Black? More chunezz for ya headtops and more awkward patois for your ears—but you won’t be complaining when you catch something pon di furnace to “Madiba Riddim.” Aubrey glides effortlessly through a Black Coffee (Johannesburg) flip on “Get It Together” and a Moodymann (Detroit) sample on “Passionfruit” (definitively the project’s two biggest “every club”—hookah lounge, bottle service meccas, and warehouses alike—summer bangers) like he heard our snipes about his wave riding and wants to teach us how to swag surf on the board. He is so brilliantly himself that it’s no wonder the criticisms—that he has never matured, appropriates sounds and fakes cultures—sound like a broken record from 2009. The haters can spin themselves out of control while he rides his own corny wave, as confident as he’s ever been.
Drake isn’t just good at mining out what’s cool. He’s great at making friends and referencing the best. The music exists and thrives without him, but everyone seems happy to have the ambassador of radio play invite them to play at his house and it should be of no surprise; how often does corporate America show up at your door as a Black Man who actually knows your work?
The conversation around his cultural appropriation, which mostly focuses on his use of global black sounds like afrobeat, dancehall, grime and his use of many “fake” accents (London, Jamaica, Toronto, and Houston) has valid points on both sides—but for once Aubrey has made the “diaspora wars” a black-only topic. This is a black artist digging into all the styles he loves. A millennial man of the internet, he does not feel the need to be confined by his city, upbringing or ethnic roots. He’s using his position as a top artist to taste all the flavors and remind us that life is only enriched by traveling outside of what you know and exploring what makes you tick. The only true diversity is to immerse yourself across borders and boundaries. That we can spend time policing what we learn about each other or we can ask for forgiveness after exploring each other’s worlds.
The conversation, for once, is now speaking to the intersectionality within black culture. It’s not just music for one region, nor music that can be dominated by one story—outside of Drake’s factual life. It’s global and ever-expanding the discussion of what our music can be, and already is! The only master of the narrative is Drake and he only controls that by making sure the lyrics are truthful to one person only: himself. More importantly, he sounds like his music makes him happy again.
It is the moral imperative of the time: When faced with the real and unending possibility of death, More Life is not just the need to be happy or self-care but to run headfirst into whatever makes you happy. To ask for forgiveness rather than permission. To be true to every part of yourself and find the positivity and endurance in your place in the greater scheme. It requires exploration, fearlessness and the space to unapologetically move at your own pace. Your faults are yours to manage but your life is also only yours to live. At your best, you must know yourself—and be just as happy finding a life in that.
Judnick Mayard is a New York native living in Denver. She writes better than she skis.