Saturday night the world seemed to stop for a minute as everybody tuned in to Beats 1 OVO Radio for the much anticipated drop of Drake’s More Life. There was a lot of buzz surrounding this project for several reasons. 2016’s release Views fell a little flat and for many More Life was looked at as an opportunity for redemption. More Life has been teased since October of 2016 and the release date changed constantly as Drake continued to put the project together. But through all of this, the most intriguing part of this project is that it was marketed and released as not an album or a mixtape, but as a playlist. As OVO Radio Episode 39 came to a close Saturday evening, we were again reminded that this playlist was brought to you by October Firm. The playlist then proceeded to drop on all major streaming services and the masses now had their latest Drake fix.
However you feel about Drake, it is undeniable that he is one of the most popular and influential artists out right now. For him to decide to create a project within a year of his last major album debut and then continue to differentiate it from an album or mixtape implies there is more to it than the surface. Drake has the power to influence the music industry in any major way that he wants. Could More Life be his eternal imprint on the music industry? The project itself isn’t outstanding. It is enjoyable, yet lengthy. It draws on a variety of influences and sounds. There is sentimental Drake, pop Drake, aggressive Drake, dancehall Drake and all the versions of Drake in between. There is an extremely heavy UK influence and interludes that Drake is completely excluded from. It has all the makings of an album, especially a Drake album, but it’s not and album. It’s a playlist. So why push this idea? What is Drake’s end game here?
As I tuned in Saturday I was really bent on capturing Drake’s vision. I listened to each song as it released and watched the world react via Twitter. I couldn’t tell if I was feeling the “playlist” vibe because Drake’s marketing had primed me to feel that way or if it was something I was truly resonating with. By the time the playlist had fully premiered, I was ready to run it all back. As I did, I still wasn’t quite getting it. Something was oddly familiar about the curation of it all, yet it didn’t really make perfect sense. The music didn’t necessarily flow in any certain way but it was grouped in a certain way. The songs seemed to be clustered together by similarities. All the Atlanta artists are featured back to back, songs about relationships are back to back, the aggressive songs are back to back, the dancehall songs are back to back. Then there are pieces that don’t really belong anywhere dotted between the groups. The sounds were all so different that it didn’t actually seem to be entirely cohesive. As I tried to put together what it meant to think of this collection of songs as a playlist, I eventually understood the familiarity I felt.
A few months ago, I was cleaning my closet out and I came across a box of mixed CD’s I had made as a teenager. Of course I had to revisit them and as I listened to these CD’s, the only thing they had in common was they were a diverse collection of the songs I was really in to at the time. While mostly hip-hop, they contained artists of all different subgenres and regions. I always had a few throwbacks tucked in there and then some miscellaneous songs that weren’t necessarily hip hop but what I wanted to listen to in my car. Each CD was a curation of what I was really feeling at the time, and even though I tried to make them have flow, the diversity was obvious. I would have a couple trap tracks, followed by some 90s throwbacks, then maybe a few top forty hits and then a couple more underground tracks all mushed together as organized as I could make it but really I know the only person it could possibly make sense to is me. Ultimately, a track made the cut if it was something I knew I wanted to listen to in the car. That was how I made my playlists. It was an organization of music that made sense to me and what I wanted to hear. It was personal.
Just as I spent hours putting the perfect playlist together before it became finalized onto a CD, Drake did this with More Life. This is about what Drake is into, in this moment. This is Drake at this point in his life. Instead of creating an album that has its own sound and influence, Drake took all his influences and created the playlist. It doesn’t have to make sense to us, because it makes sense to him. Drake created and assembled a playlist to share with his fans a piece of him.
But unlike my CD’s from 2007, we live in a world where an album doesn’t need to be important. We can create a million playlists a day if we would like. People at Spotify and Apple Music are paid to perfectly curate playlists for us for when we don’t have the time. The playlist is how we listen to music. I have playlists for every occasion, whether I am working, cleaning, pre-gaming, or driving. Playlists are an essential way for how we consume music in 2017. As an artist, Drake has a lot of potential to change how fans consume music. Drake is one of those artists that releases large quantities of music and so his fans are constantly being fed. It’s become a very common way for artists to release music. So by releasing his music as a playlist, he is feeding into exactly how his fans want to consume his product.
How can this change the music industry? Drake is opening the door to possibility. In 2016, we saw Kanye West disastrously release his anticipated album The Life of Pablo. The track list was changed right before fans eyes and months after the release Kanye even snuck an additional track onto the album. This was the first time fans really saw an album progress in real time. What is interesting is that nobody really seemed to understand how monumental that release could potentially be for music. Kanye West tweaked that album even after it was in the ears of consumers. Just like we as fans constantly reevaluate and change our favorite playlists as we discover or tire of songs, Kanye just changed his album as he felt necessary. What is stopping Drake from making this playlist a continuously working project? Drake has always been hell bent on perfection, but maybe an imperfect collection is what he could truly excel at. Drake has been on the cutting edge on how the internet has changed music consumption and this playlist has the potential to continue to evolve the industry. Drake at this moment has the potential to create the first constantly evolving collection of music by an artist. Playlists exist to give a us a collection of songs to listen to with all the choosing and skipping eliminated, but playlists are meant to be tweaked by our preferences. As our situations and tastes change, the playlist changes too. On OVO Radio Episode 40 Drake could update the playlist as a reflection of what he has been working on or what artists he affiliates with have been working on. It is very intimate, but intimacy is what fans want from artists. It doesn’t have to go on forever, but it would be an incredible concept to watch unfold.
Drake is the perfect artist to experiment with this type of music release method. He drops music consistently enough, constantly breaks streaming records, and has enough connections with other artists in the industry to keep the music interesting. Drake’s influence on hip-hop and pop music make him relevant enough to so many people that he could potentially influence a trend we could see other artists engage in. The mixtape had been such a powerful tool in hip hop and the playlist concept is just an extension of that. The music released is true to the artist and on the artists own terms. Fans feel more connected to the artist because it is more personal because of the curated aspect. So while Drake may not musically have created a classic project, Drake has the potential to change the industry through the power of the playlist. While this is all my own little conspiracy theory and a little bit of wishful thinking, I think that both Kanye and Drake have already given us the tools to shift how music is given to fans. Even if More Life doesn’t end up becoming an evolving musical collection, it has set the groundwork to allow it to happen in our future.