From a biker gang doc to 'Sonic the Hedgehog,' an in-depth look at the Canadian rapper's sprawling playlist.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons. This post ran originally on THUMP Canada.
After Drake announced the follow-up to 2016's chart-topping Views wouldn't be an album, but rather a "playlist," there was plenty of speculation as to his reasoning behind the categorization. Was it a move to give the artists on his OVO label, or others in his global orbit, more attention? A calculated way of acknowledging the importance streaming services place on curation today? Perhaps by treating it as a loose collection of songs, the Canadian rapper could avoid some of the lukewarm criticism leveled against his fourth studio record?
When More Life dropped Saturday night, the answer seemed to be all of the above, with the project having something for everybody. At 22 tracks, the release still feels overstuffed, but the format's casualness encourages fans to pick and choose their favourites. While the production is handled largely by a cabal of OVO regulars, including Noah "40" Shebib, Boi-1da, Murda Beatz, and Frank Dukes, the strongest tracks here are rooted in global dance music.
The rapper's relationship with Caribbean dancehall and UK grime has been well-documented, but there's also forays into South African house ("Get It Together") and lite disco ("Passionfruit"). From Canadian YouTubers 4YallEntertainment to Tomoya Ohtani's Sonic the Hedgehog theme song, here's our guide to every sample on More Life.
4Yall Entertainment, "T-Dot Goon Scrap DVD"
Sampled On: "Madiba Riddlim"
While the nimble, spiritually themed "Madiba Riddim"—co-produced by the triumvirate of Frank Dukes, Nineteen85, and Charlie Handsome—hews more closely to Afrobeat than any other genre, the parody video by popular Brampton, Ontario YouTubers 4YallEntertainment which closes the song couldn't have come from anywhere but Toronto. The clip is a 416-centred spoof of street fight compilations and significantly funnier than the time Drake and pals dressed up as Shoppers Drug Mart employees.
Black Coffee feat. Bucie, "Superman"
Sampled On: "Get It Together"
On Monday, New York City hip-hop radio personality Ebro tweeted his thoughts on the playlist, saying "Fuck it...Drake brining [sic] House Music back!!" While this proclamation might seem a little out-of-touch, songs like "Take Care" and "Controlla" show that the rapper's biggest hits come when he has one eye on the dancefloor and just a hint of melancholy in his heart.
This rework of South Africa DJ and producer Black Coffee's 2008 piano-house anthem "Superman"—British jazz-R&B singer-songwriter Jorja Smith replaces Bucie on vocals—is a natural successor to both those songs and wouldn't be totally out of place on a Now That's What I Call Ibiza Music! compilation. Drake doesn't even show up until the 1:21 mark, and he stays mostly out of the way, letting the beat do the heavy lifting.
Drake, "Doing It Wrong"
Sampled On: "Jorja Interlude"
It's a real Inception move to sample yourself, and he's hardly the first rapper to do so, but the Take Care deep cut's saxophone section fits this interlude nicely.
Earth, Wind & Fire, "Devotion"
Sampled On: "Glow"
One of the more curious inclusions on More Life, "Glow" sees Drake and Kanye West rekindling their on-again, off-again friendship and trading aspirational toasts over a sparse, metronomic beat. While it isn't the first time the latter has borrowed from the Chicago pioneers' deep discography, using Maurice White and company's 1974 hit as the outro lends the collaboration some soulful heft.
Gabriel Garzón-Montano, "6 8"
Sampled On: "Glow"
Drake fans will remember the French-Colombian singer-songwriter's delicate croon as the backbone of If You're Reading This, It's Too Late highlight "Jungle."
Hiatus Kaiyote, "Building a Ladder"
Sampled On: "Free Smoke"
The first voice we hear on More Life belongs to Nai Palm, lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist of Australian neo-soul group Hiatus Kaiyote. Similar to "Over My Dead Body" from 2011's Take Care, which featured a Chantal Kreviazuk hook, "Free Smoke" starts out mellow before Drake's vaguely worded warning from the 2016 American Music Awards abruptly cuts her off. From there, the beat cools off several degrees to a more sinewy and ominous form, while the rapper puts interlopers in his crosshairs.
Jennifer Lopez, "If You Had My Love"
Sampled On: "Teenage Fever"
A friend of mine recently described Toronto producer Hagler's J Lo flip as "weaponized nostalgia," and I can't think of a better way to describe the slowed-down sample in the moody downtempo jam, which directly caters to whatever part of the brain makes you wistful for the late 90s.
Lionel Richie, "All Night Long (All Night)"
Sampled On: "Blem"
Sampling this treacly 1983 Motown mega-hit seems like such a no-brainer for Drake, I had to double-check to make sure he hadn't before. "Dad," indeed.
Moodymann Live at The Roadhouse in Manchester, UK, September 2010
Sampled On: "Passionfruit"
Though electronic music fans were decidedly divided in their reactions to the Detroit don's crowd address being used at the beginning of breezy highlight "Passionfruit," it's a testament to Drake and his production team's ability to take a left-field chop and spin it into pop-house gold (see also: Timmy Thomas' "Why Can't We Live Together" and "Hotline Bling"). Here's hoping we get a Moodymann set at next year's OVO Fest.
R. Kelly, "Wings Clipped"
Sampled On: "Way Back When"
Blink and you'll miss the subtle "Wings Clipped" sample at the end of this perfunctory PARTYNEXTDOOR feature, which is still better than Drake's corny "Remix (Ignition)" reference on "Lose You."
Satan's Choice (1966)
Sampled On: "Lose You"
As The FADER points out, "Lose You" opens with a snippet of dialogue from Satan's Choice, a 1966 CBC documentary about a Toronto motorcycle gang directed by Donald Shebib, the father of OVO Sound co-founder and producer Noah "40" Shebib. In the clip, the chapter's former president John "Tiny" Taylor offers up his thoughts on societal norms and personal mantra, saying:
"I don't care what society thinks. But they're nothing anyway. They're no better than me. Out there you just have to fit into a pattern that somebody's already laid out for you. Life we live, you have to set your own patterns, your own ideals. You have to handle the whole job yourself."
Remind you of anybody?
Skepta, "Shutdown" (Live)
Sampled On: "KMT"
A callback to the song that first marked the alliance between OVO and Skepta's BBK crew, the latter's voice can be briefly be heard at the beginning of Drake's collaboration with UK grime rapper Giggs, who steals the show and somehow manages to make a Game of Thrones reference sound tough.
Snoh Aalegra, "Time"
Sampled On: "Do Not Disturb"
The last tracks on Drake's releases are typically reserved for slow-burning, ruminative meditations on family and the future, and More Life is no different, with liquified vocals from Swedish singer Snoh Aalegra's "Time." In a recent Billboard interview, she said the original was inspired by her father's death in 2009, which makes it even more poignant.
Tony Yayo feat. Danny Brown, "Roll Up"
Sampled On: "Free Smoke"
Did you know that the G-Unit third-stringer and the Warp-signed rapper put out a mixtape called Hawaiian Snow in 2010? Me neither.
Tomoya Ohtani, "His World"
Sampled On: "KMT"
Hip-hop sampling video game soundtracks is nothing new, but New York producer Ness sampling a high-energy Sonic the Hedgehog theme makes perfect sense for Drake's rapid-fire, cross-Atlantic team-up with Giggs.
Max Mertens is on Twitter.