Just like that — it’s all eyes on Toronto again. And it’s funny how — paraphrasing Jay Z — one Instagram post can mess up the game.
With a single IG clip on March 11, Drake put to rest months of speculation regarding the release of his forthcoming project, More Life. The “playlist,” as he freshly dubs it, is set to drop on Saturday.
More Life, of course, is the follow-up to his 2016 album Views, the most successful project of his career and one of the most successful hip-hop albums in music history. It also bookends months of theories surrounding the project, which Drake himself kicked off in October 2016 with a trio of records — the chart-topping “Fake Love,” as well as “Sneakin’ ” with 21 Savage and “Two Birds, One Stone.” From there, a continuous string of implied, or rumored, release dates fueled the anticipation.
And now that there’s a real announcement? It seems all other debates and discussions in the world of hip-hop are forced to stand in line behind Mr. Aubrey Drake Graham. Here’s a crash course in what people were talking about before Drake’s announcement:
Remy vs. Nicki, Round 2
It’s the beef that nearly disappeared — until it didn’t. “shETHER” won Remy Ma an ocean of goodwill. “Another One,” released less than a week after its predecessor, nearly evaporated it. Nicki used Rem’s blunder to her advantage by releasing her #3Pack: “No Frauds” featuring Lil Wayne and Drake, “Changed It” featuring Lil Wayne and the solo “Regret In Your Tears.” And while “Regret In Your Tears” will likely have the longest shelf life, “No Frauds” was driving the conversation because in it, Nicki responds to Remy. To some, Nicki won round two (“Another One” vs. “No Frauds”). But Nicki’s track wasn’t the scathing response many others anticipated — even with the line Back to back, oh, you mean, back to wack? / ‘Back to Back’? Me and Drizzy laughed at that. Yes, Remy overplayed her hand. But “No Frauds” shouldn’t do to Remy’s career what “Back To Back” did to Meek Mill’s.
Frank Ocean’s batting 1.000 in 2017
Also over the weekend, on his newish Beats 1 radio show Blonded, Frank Ocean delivered “Chanel” (and a remix featuring A$AP Rocky). “Chanel” is a quintessential cut from the soulful recluse. Over a drifting, mysterious backdrop, he sings, Police think I’m of the underworld / 12 treat a n—a like he 12 / How you looking up to me and talking down? / Can you see I am the big man? / God level I am the I am. It’s cryptic and catchy. Last week, he shared a conversation he had with Jay Z. And last month, Ocean appeared on Calvin Harris’ “Slide” alongside Migos. If the song doesn’t become a hit by spring (which is eight days away), consider it a total shock.
2 Chainz’s winning streak
Flying under the radar over the weekend is “It’s A Vibe” featuring 2 Chainz, Ty Dolla $ign, Jhene Aiko and Trey Songz. The shoulder-bouncing, explicit number appears on the Nicki Minaj-curated “Pretty Girls Love Trap Music” Spotify playlist, and is a testament to his continued resurgence. His 2016 run remains a sight to behold with incredible guest verse after incredible guest verse complementing dope projects of his own. And two, Dos Necklaces should walk away with 2017’s award for best album title, which is Pretty Girls Like Trap Music.
Young Dolph’s forthcoming album
Which just so happens to be called 100 Shots, a direct reference to the 100 rounds of ammo shot into the bulletproof SUV he was sitting in two weeks ago in Charlotte, North Carolina, at the CIAA tournament. No one has been arrested for the shooting, and miraculously no one was injured. Young Dolph’s album is scheduled for an April 1 release. Over the weekend, the Memphis, Tennessee, rapper taunted his would-be assailants by revealing the artwork and tracklist with songs such as “But I’m Bulletproof,” “So F— Em,” as well as “That’s How I Feel” featuring Gucci Mane. Dangerous times. Times hip-hop has seen before, and would much rather avoid.
The return of Rick Ross
Maybach Music Group’s honcho returns on Friday with Rather You Than Me. It’s his first album since 2015’s back-to-back, but ultimately underwhelming Hood Billionaire and Black Market. Ross has been making the rounds, promoting an album — Martha Stewart’s waiting to cop, for sure — and provided a sneak peek by letting loose “Trap, Trap, Trap,” featuring Wale and Young Thug. Rather You Than Me drops on Friday. Which until March 11 seemed an ideal landing spot — no other big hip-hop names were slated to compete.
Then … Drake happened.
No artist has a better feel for the moment than Drake. When he drops music, the conversation shifts. He knows this. We all know this. And it’s why he’s releasing More Life on March 18, which just happens to be the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament — keep in mind, Views dropped during the NFL draft.
Drake doesn’t add to the cultural conversation. He is the cultural conversation. March Madness, in the universe of October’s Very Own, is just part of a Drake rollout. Especially since the overwhelming majority of athletes participating in the tournament will be blasting More Life through their headphones that same day. Here’s how this #MoreLife process will play out over the next weeks, in three simple steps:
- The social talk this week will largely center around More Life. We’ll hit fever pitch by Saturday morning, leading into Beats 1’s OVO Sound Radio, in which Drake will give a speech about the project, and about why he decided to call it More Life and …
- The project will be made available exclusively on iTunes. Reviews will immediately surface. Some will call it trash. Some will call it “decent.” Some will dub it an instant classic. As for the truth? We won’t really know that until months down the line when the project has had a chance to be experienced via cars, parties and quality home speakers — and away from computer speakers, and (most) headphones.
- Snapchat and Instagram stories soundtracked by random cuts from the project will overpopulate your timelines. As will the avalanche of Instagram quotations featuring new Drake lyrics.
That’s how these things work in 2017.
More Life is the pendulum project for Drake — he’s been the most popular rapper in the world for both of Barack Obama’s presidential terms and into the age of Donald Trump. Drake has commandeered a Midas touch since So Far Gone made him a household name eight years ago. He’s hip-hop’s greatest hitmaker. And there’s no doubt More Life will produce many more hits, as well as score several award nominations by year’s end, deservedly or not.
Aubrey Graham has proven time and again that he’s obsessively cognizant of what’s said about him — via media organizations, and via social — and how it impacts the locomotive that is Drake. He continues to hear the ghostwriter talk — a criticism he knows he’ll never truly escape. He acknowledged as much to famed BBC DJ Semtex last month that being labeled a “culture vulture” troubles him: “It’s crazy that people think that after all this time,” Drake said. “After all I’ve been through, that I’m type of person to go pree some song that’s on SoundCloud.”
He’s heard the talk of how Views — which spent 13 nonconsecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard charts, amassed 1.6 million traditional sales and 3 billion streams — didn’t move the creative needle. He has said himself that Views is “just another album” and “wasn’t the one to me.” He seems motivated, yet tormented.
And perhaps that’s because Drake, whether it’s Views or the forthcoming More Life, is graded — like LeBron James or Serena Williams or Usain Bolt — on a different scale. More is expected of them because they’re capable of so much, and they’ve so often surpassed unfair expectations.
When asked how it felt to be at the top of the game, his answer was a glimpse into what could be the themes of More Life: “It’s mixed feelings, you know? Sometimes there’s nights … I feel like the greatest emotions I’ve ever felt,” he said to Semtex. “Sometimes I feel like the most hated, sometimes I still feel like a huge underdog.” Being a once-in-a-generation talent requires reminding the masses who you are. It’s the penalty of greatness.