After months of teasing, Drake finally released his latest full-length project, More Life, on Saturday night. And once again, he’s challenging conventional ideas about how artists share new music in the streaming age. More Life isn’t a proper album like last year’s Views, nor is it a free mixtape, nor is it even a mixtape-album hybrid like 2015’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. Instead, Drake is calling it a playlist. “I want to give you a collection of songs that become the soundtrack to your life,” he said last fall when he announced the project. Here are the highlights from EW’s first listen of that collection, a 22-song set featuring guests like Kanye West, Young Thug, and 2 Chainz.
He gets real about J. Lo
Drake wastes no time getting into More Life‘s juiciest lyrics. On the playlist’s first song, “Free Smoke,” he references his 2015 feud with Meek Mill by asking: “How you let the kid fighting ghostwriting rumors turn you into a ghost?” He also gets candid on that same song about his relationship with Jennifer Lopez, rapping, “I drunk text J. Lo / Old number so it bounce back.”
And the drama doesn’t stop there. Last year, TMZ shared footage of Drake and Lopez dancing to a version of the More Life song “Get It Together” that appeared to feature her vocals. On the official release, however, she’s replaced by another vocalist entirely (British singer Jorja Smith). And later, on the song “Teenage Fever,” about a failed relationship, Drake tells a lady friend she’s “to blame for what could have been” before singing the hook from the J. Lo classic “If You Had My Love.” If it’s about Lopez, she’ll probably get the last laugh: Thanks to his use of her song, she gets a writing credit.
He covers multiple genres with ease
“I switch flow like I switch time zone,” Drake raps on “Gyalchester.” The same is true of his approach to sounds and genres: One moment he’s spitting out rhymes over icy trap beats, the next he’s getting in touch with his tropical side on the piña colada jam “Passionfruit” or exploring house music on “Get It Together.” Drake also repeatedly branches out into U.K. rap and grime music on More Life, collaborating with British emcees Giggs (who shows up on “No Long Talk” and “KMT”) and Skepta (who slides in for his own solo interlude around the halfway point).
He might want in on the latest meme
Last month, Drake’s What a Time to Be Alive partner Future released “Mask Off,” a song built around a hypnotizing flute sample from Tommy Butler’s 1976 song “Prison Song,” which then inspired the internet to mash up the track with clips of everything ranging from the Zelda series’ Link playing the ocarina to Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. Well, the guy who launched countless “Hotline Bling” memes isn’t about to let Future have all the fun: There’s a flute outro on “Skepta Interlude,” while “Portland” — a collaboration with Travis Scott and Migos’ Quavo — prominently features what sounds like a recorder. Who knew that instrument you played back in second grade would be so hip in 2017?
He lets his guests shine
Drake is more than happy to share the spotlight on More Life. Not only does he stack the playlist with appearances from Kanye West, 2 Chainz, Young Thug, and Lil Wayne (in an ultra-quick cameo), but Drake also lets some of his guests completely take over songs and make them their own. “Get It Together” isn’t so much a duet with Jorja Smith as it is a Jorja Smith song with a side of Drake. “4422” belongs entirely to British singer Sampha, whose haunting, vulnerable voice Drake first showcased on his 2013 track “Too Much.” On the songs where Drake is still a major player, he’s in an equally generous mood: He gladly lets 2 Chainz and Young Thug out-rap him on “Sacrifices,” and he even lets Kanye out-sing him on “Glow.”
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He samples Sonic the Hedgehog
That ominous string section amping up the drama on “KMT”? Yeah, that comes from a video game — Sonic the Hedgehog, in fact. (The track uses part of the series’ “His World” theme song.) But that’s not the only striking sample woven into More Life. The sprawling PARTYNEXTDOOR team-up “Since Way Back” borrows from R. Kelly’s “Clipped Wings”; the Kanye-assisted “Glow” uses Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Devotion”; “Blem” interpolates Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long”; and Drizzy even samples his own song on More Life‘s “Jorja Interlude” by playing around with the Stevie Wonder harmonica solo that first appeared on his 2011 track “Doing It Wrong.”
He’s still obsessed with the same old things
For most of More Life, Drake sticks to three of his favorite conversation topics: tsk-tsking girls he used to date, assessing where he falls in rap’s pecking order, and being deeply suspicious of the people who hang around him. There’s no rapper more concerned with how his exes are spending their time than Drake, and on More Life‘s “Nothings Into Something,” he gets annoyed that yet another woman has moved on with her life: “Did I just read that you got engaged on me? / I heard from your friend you couldn’t even tell me / or better yet wait on me … do I get an invitation or something? A statement or something?”
Elsewhere on “Gyalchester,” Drake reevaluates his legacy by declaring, “I know I said I’m top five, but I’m top two.” That’s a reference to the Views song “Grammys,” where he first boasted that he was “top five, no debating.” (As for who Drakes thinks snags the other top spot, it’s hard to say — Drake is vague about his judging criteria.)
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And then there’s “Fake Love,” More Life‘s lead single, which takes aim at the people who only want to be around for his fame. He’s been calling those people out for the better part of a decade at this point, but his tone comes across as a little more paranoid than when he first complained about the matter on 2010’s “Over.” “They smile in my face / Whole time they wanna take my place,” he raps on “Fake Love.” It’s one thing for people to be using you for your star power; it’s another for people to try and steal it from you.
He acknowledges that he’s a work in progress
That permanent chip on his shoulder made Views tough to sit through, but on More Life, Drake at least tries to shake off some of the bitterness plaguing him… with help from his mom and the former FLOTUS. “Can’t Have Everything” closes with what appears to be a voicemail pep talk from Drake’s mother that also quotes Michelle Obama’s memorable Democratic National Convention speech: “I’m a bit concerned about this negative tone that I’m hearing in your voice these days. I can appreciate where your uncertainty stems from, and you have reason…. [to be] skeptical about who you believe you can trust. But that attitude will just hold you back in this life, and you will continue to feel alienated…. I know you can reach your desired destination and accomplish your goals much more quickly without this confrontation I’m hearing in your tone these days. When others go low, we go high.”
He seems to take her advice to heart. On the closing track “Do Not Disturb,” he owns up to the anger that fueled much of Views: “[I] saw a side of myself that I never knew.”
More Life is now streaming.