“If I only knew
I'd never take for granted
The times I took for granted
If I only knew
I'd cherish it forever
'Cause you're what always mattered to me”
Snoh Aalegra, “Time”
A decade later, the Drake ethos continues to thrive from a vulnerability that’s as poignant and pretentious as he desires, granting him the flexibility to foolishly lash out against the actors in his life and enough intuitiveness to bring himself back down to reevaluate who he’s been - and who he’ll become - before he loses control. As the public continues to prod for an insidious nature to his empathy, Drake continues to tow that line on More Life: a testament to his profession of knowing everything we’re feeling about him, ourselves, and others.
“Do Not Disturb,” the final track of More Life’s 81 sprawling minutes, is a favorable volume in Drake’s lineage of signature confessional outros. Boi-1da’s subdued brightening of Snoh Aalegra’s “Time” suggest this moment’s one of the brightest last words we’ve heard from Aubrey in years, considering the paranoia in his narrative mounting as rapidly as his commercial ascension into an untouchable cornerstone of global pop. The raw sentimentality of “Time” - released concurrently with More Life - showcases Aalegra’s reflectiveness in the wake of losing her father. It’s a striking parallel to the gravity of Drake’s continuing struggle to maintain control of his public and private realities:
“Last verse that I gotta do is always like surgery
Always tryna let go of anything that’ll burden me
That’s the reason you can feel the tension and the urgency
Last chance I get to make sure that you take it personally”
Drake, “Do Not Disturb”
Historically, Drake’s outros are spaces for him to reflect, respond, and reconcile with his life. Arrange them chronologically, and we have a bonafide roadmap to his career trajectory: from So Far Gone to now, we’ve witnessed the optimism of Wayne’s starry-eyed prodigy spoil upon his turn to skeptical professional. With every last word to the audience, the walls of his rap fantasies cave in quicker than he can handle: the checks increase, the real turn fake, and he’ll always have something to prove when everyone wants his head. Every victory’s received with a guarded grace; thus, every succeeding outro finds Drake looking back upon previous versions of himself with a longing envy for his innocence and gentle vitriol for the naïveté accompanying it.
While his competitive drive remains unmatched, his defensiveness scales up in grand measures; the perpetual underdog becomes ready and willing to behead any subjects who dare threaten his empire, but the survival mode fueling that killer instinct is threatening to end him all along as he can no longer recognize who he’s becoming. The “30 for 30 Freestyle” and “Views” preceding this were flanked by ghostwriting rumors, tabloid fodder and a randomized (and quickly neutralized) Meek Mill feud, along with the personal issues Drake only clues us into. He acknowledged his transitioning into a new space, presumably of self-preservation despite reaching his wildest dreams only to see them threatened like never before.
But “Do Not Disturb” is a humanizing exhale and the intervention Drake needed: he can surely put 40,000 people in the Rogers Centre, but what good is it if he’s maddened by the rest of the spectacle that put him there? It’s a refreshing negotiation of his transparency that recenters the unstoppable force by offering a concession rather than another declaration of war:
“Ducked a lot of spiteful moves
I was an angry yute when I was writin' Views
Saw a side of myself that I just never knew
I'll probably self-destruct if I ever lose, but I never do”
Even within his confessional space, he remains Drake: wagering his inability to fail or falter in the attempts on this throne, though surely he understands the nature of the beast. He’ll tell us he’s invincible, but even he knows it’s far from the truth. While he’ll do anything and end anyone to protect his legacy, he can’t escape the real world and thrive in survival. Truthfully, we’re hearing from the same Drake that switched his Rolls for a Range while his father barely scraped change for cigarettes on “The Calm” seven years prior to now. And while the Heartbreak Drake on “Thank Me Now” pondered whether the good girls from his city spoke his name “over double-pump lattes and low-fat muffins,” the Drake of now spends his spare moments remembering the fake Chanel wallet he bought for Sealey, the same way he spoke to Paris about her newborn with his head in the clouds.
On the potential of self-destruction: in his life “centered ‘round competition and currency,” is More Life’s farewell a concession of Drake admitting he’s got plenty to fix or a workaholic caving into the necessity of a reprieve? The final bars of “Do Not Disturb” - paired with Sandy Graham’s voicemail of motherly concern at the end of “Can’t Have Everything” - suggest a bit of both:
“Takin’ summer off cuz they tell me I need recovery
Maybe gettin’ back to my regular life will humble me
I’ll be back in 2018 to give you the summary
The 11-month turnaround from album to playlist exemplifies the eager urge to do what Drake does best: reflect, respond, and reconcile with every crisis he’s evaded and every criticism we’ve thrown. More Life is an extensive double-down on his aesthetic and sonic direction - no matter how the characters fly in response - but it’s also a self-fulfilling prophecy with “Do Not Disturb” as the calling card for his anxieties. For anyone who’s casually brushed with mainstream pop in the past decade, it’s impossible to imagine a smidgen of time without Drake in our lives. But it may present an opportunity for his personhood to act against his own advice and slow the locomotive before someone fires the killshot or he hands himself a loss he cannot bounce back from. Can he reconcile the spoils of his fame with the spoiling of his privacy? Will he work harder to keep the family closer? Will he ever be satisfied or tired enough to bow out gracefully with nothing left to prove? When he returns, the footnotes will tell the tale on what perspective he gained from his hiatus.
Whether it comes from awareness or his arrogance, Aubrey always has the last word.
Michael Penn II (aka CRASHprez) is a rapper and a former VMP staff writer. He's known for his Twitter fingers.
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