After releasing the hugely popular but artistically underwhelming Views in 2016, Drake went back to the mixtape approach for his next release, 2017's More Life. Over the course of 22 songs and almost an hour and a half of music, Drake shows again why he's one of the most frustrating rappers in the world. The main problem is that he's a better hip-hop-inspired R&B singer than he is an R&B-inspired rapper, but he refuses to acknowledge it. Listening to track after track of molasses-slow trap featuring Drake going on about how once he was on the bottom and now is firmly cemented at the top is tiresome at best, painful at worst. He only really comes to life on the songs where he drops the hard façade and lets some of his emotion show through, like the lovely island-inflected groover "Get It Together," which features Jorja Smith killing it in the role often occupied by Rihanna, or the dark-night-of-the-soul ballad "Nothings into Somethings," which balances his intimate crooning with introspective rapping. The bubbling "Passionfruit" is Drake at his smooth, melancholy best, showing off his skill at creating surprising melodies and entrancing atmosphere. These moments are too few and far between and most of the record sits right in the center of the rut Drake has dug for himself over the years. There are some tracks that break free of the boredom and show some kind of pulse -- usually the tracks where guests drop by and add their skills to the mix. Young Thug, in particular. His dramatic rapping and outsized persona put Drake to shame on "Ice Melts." He's Technicolor, while Drake is various shades of gray. That track and Sampha's feature ("4422"), where the singer gets deeper emotionally than Drake ever has, don't do Drake any favors. They only serve to showcase his flaws and make it clear that More Life is another overly serious, musically uninteresting effort. The few choice tracks, high-profile guests, and occasional stylistic shifts aren't enough to keep More Life from being another disappointing release. That it proved immensely popular upon its release will only serve to reinforce his misguided belief that he's the best rapper around.
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