Vibrations to send: Drake

Drake says that this isn’t an album. Neither is it a mixtape. Instead, he calls it a playlist. And this makes perfect sense.

When Views first came out, the reaction to it was pretty typical. Day 1: everyone was in awe because this is a Drake album and we don’t get very many of those, and Rihanna featured twice. After a while though, we all took off our rose tinted glasses. Views isn’t a bad album, not in the slightest. It just didn’t live up to the expectations we had for it. “Too good”, “Feel no ways” and “Child’s play” shall forever remain classics but for a 20 song tracklist there wasn’t much to it.

And this was the case because, plainly speaking, Drake was trying too hard. Nothing was the same was utterly brilliant, and coming off of that must have been difficult. He had two options. He could redo the same thing and get a good old Jhene feature or completely reinvent his sound at the risk of not appealing to the masses. He did both and this indecision is what did him in. Part of Drake’s charisma is how well he can flit from one genre to another. Have us gyrating to “Control”, crying to “Feel no ways” and trap to “Grammys”. But when you try and do this in one album, it doesn’t come off, well, “Too good.”

Drake wrote this accompaniment to More Life:

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This is Drake’s philosophy throughout the playlistViews was about proving his versatility More Life is proving his fluidity. Here, it isn’t about sick flows or hard bars. That isn’t the goal. We don’t have a lot of time on this wretched planet so we need to squeeze the life out of every moment. Collaborate with everyone. Fake a South London accent. Sample a damn recorder! More Life is a good time. I feel like Drake called all his friends and put a performance for us. It feels like Drake left all his regrets and worries behind and just had fun.

The songs themselves are no holds barred. Not like sick freestyles or massive beats. Just laid back music someone wrote on a Sunday afternoon. We have “Free Smoke” which samples the ethereal Hiatus Kaiyote and throws more subliminal shots at Kid Cudi. There’s “Passionfruit” which takes tropical house, flips it on its head, and reminds you that “Shape of you” isn’t the end of the genre. “Get it together” brings long-deserved attention to the South African legend that is Black Coffee. All the Giggs features are sewage grimy and I still can’t believe that he sampled a recorder on “Portland”.

“Madiba Riddim” would have to be my favourite. I feel like its the antithesis to “Controlla”. On a dance floor, “Controlla” is bodies gyrating, sweat flowing and sin pumping. “Madiba Riddim” is drunken laughter, bodies close but not touching, happiness pure and untainted. Like I said, this album is a genuine good time. Being a Drake album, the trap obviously has to come through. On “Sacrifices” we have a coherent Young Thug, “Kmt” has Drake on his xxxtentation flow, “Gyalchester” is What a time to be alive nostalgia.

More Life isn’t perfect. It’s too long; some of the features feel more gratuitous that necessary; the Kanye feature isn’t all that. But this isn’t an album and, thus, shouldn’t be analysed as one. It’s a playlist. Playlists tend to be too long, have songs you definitely won’t like but still find a way to accommodate for everyone.

Life is too short to not do the things you would like to do. And, should someone come collecting, at least we can say that Drake lived the life he wanted.

Rating: 3.7 / 5

 

The Burning Sun: Sampha

Process doesn’t feel like an album that was just waiting to happen. It feels inspired. Motivated. Forced, you could even say. Like a journal entry of an event so cataclysmic you absolutely had to write about it. And thankfully, Sampha did.

If you think this is the first time you’ve heard of Sampha, I can absolutely assure you that you have heard of him before. He’s collaborated with Solange on ‘Don’t touch my hair’, with Kanye on ‘Saint Pablo’, Frank Ocean on Endless and Drake on Nothing was the Same. In fact, he achieved vine stardom (when this was still a thing) because of ‘Too much’ off Drake’s Nothing was the same. This isn’t to say that Sampha is some sort of puppet master, ghost writing at the strings of major artist. Sampha’s voice is just honest. Plain and simple. When the rapper is trying to make you understand his struggle, Sampha’s voice is there to highlight everything in bold. Look at Kanye’s second verse from ‘Saint Pablo’:

Cause if I’m up way too much, I’m out of touch
I’m prayin’ a out-of-body experience will happen
So the people can see my light, now it’s not just rappin’
God, I have humbled myself before the court
Drop my ego and confidence was my last resort

Wow. This is Kanye actually being humble. Not to say that he’s the egomaniac he presents himself as, but in one of the few times that he isn’t being a total jackass, he has Sampha holding it down with this:

And you’re lookin’ at the church in the night sky
Wonderin’ whether God’s gonna say hi
Oh, you’re lookin’ at the church in the night sky
And you wonder where is God in your nightlife

In 2014, Sampha lost his mum to cancer. His reaction to it fills the brim of Process and it is utterly heartbreaking. From start to finish, he bares his soul. On ‘Plastic 100c’, through the veil of outer space, he talks about how life can be when everything is changing unbearably fast:

I love those mornings, when the sun’s up
Smoking in the lobby, waiting for my name to pop up, yeah, pop up
Usually I’d run home, and tuck the issue under
Oh, sleeping with my worries, yeah, I didn’t really know what that lump was, my luck

This event hit him hard and still, right up until the end, he never gave up. On ‘Kora Sings’, he says:

A pillow on your face soaking up those tears
Who’s anyone to say you should have no fear?
A mouth full of smoke really made things clear
You’ve been with me since the cradle
You’ve been with me, you’re my angel
Please don’t you disappear

On ‘(No-one knows me) Like the Piano’, he brings the hammer down on everything he’s been feeling in three short verses. It’s a ballad, but not in the conventional sense. Not a husband to a wife or a lover to another, but a boy appreciating what his mother has done for him. From raising him to simply bringing a piano into their home.

There’s a running theme in this album: The burning sun. Sampha’s trying to escape everything that has happened to him. Running like they smell the “blood on me”. But like the burning sun, he can only run so fast, so far. This doesn’t mean he’ll stop running.

Rated: 4.1 / 5

Image: Rolling Stone

Lyrics: Genius

Music heard and music felt

You’ve definitely heard ‘Too Good’ by Drake and Rihanna. It’s a nice song isn’t it? Happy and upbeat. Like ‘Take care‘ but more positive. Well, this is what I thought until I heard this cover by The xx. Under all the glam and tropical house have you realised how this sad this song is?  Here’s the first verse:

Look…I don’t know how to talk to you
I don’t know how to ask you if you’re okay

My friends always feel the need to tell me things
Seems like they’re just happier than us these days

Yeah, these days I don’t know how to talk to you
I don’t know how to be there when you need me
It feels like the only time you see me
Is when you turn your head to the side and look at me differently

I mean, how depressing is this:

Yeah, and last night I think I lost my patience
Last night, I got high as your expectations

If you aren’t too busy singing along, then you probably have realized how bleak it all is. We don’t really listen to music these days. We feel it. I’m no saint. I hadn’t really realized what this song meant and I can probably sing it word for word (can’t we all?).

There’s nothing wrong with feeling music. Lyrics convey meaning and music (instrumentals) conveys emotion. In most of the songs you listen to, the music and lyrics go hand in hand. Feel good music goes with feel good lyrics. But often enough, this isn’t the case. Another example would be The Weeknd’s “Can’t feel my face”. On the face of it, its a feel good song about love and happiness and glamour. It was nominated for a Kids choice award after all. Well, look at the lyrics more closely:

And I know she’ll be the death of me
At least we’ll both be numb
And she’ll always get the best of me
The worst is yet to come

But at least we’ll both be beautiful and stay forever young
This I know, yeah, this I know

And it goes on:

She told me, “don’t worry about it”
She told me, “don’t worry no more”
We both know we can’t go without it
She told me you’ll never be alone, oh, oh, woo

If you weren’t aware already, he’s singing about snorting copious amounts of cocaine. That’s sort of messed up isn’t it? It isn’t a bad song, but the fact that not many people actually realized what it meant is testament to how we listen to music. If a song is catchy we tend to sing along without really understanding what the music means. He talks about this on ‘Reminder’ of his latest album Starboy when he says:

I just won a new award for a kids show
Talking ’bout a face numbing off a bag of blow
I’m like, goddamn bitch I am not a Teen Choice
Goddamn, bitch, I am not a bleach boy

This isn’t often the case. Most music goes beautifully with its lyrics. ‘No Heart’ by 21 Savage and Metro Boomin’ is a dark song with top notch production value, desolate and menacing beats and ghastly lyrics, as all 21 Savage lyrics tend to be. In this instance, the music is partly the reason why the lyrics hit so hard. Murder and debauchery meets broody and gloomy.

That’s why I feel instrumental music doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Without trivializing the entire genre, it’s largely meaningless. It’s all about the feeling conveyed. Trance makes you mellow, classical makes you contemplative, ambient hangs in the background and house makes you jump. But in the realm of pop, the lines blur.

Feel music, but listen to it too.

Image: Howls and Echoes

Lyrics: Genius