More Life: Why Drake’s “Playlist Project” Could Change Hip-Hop
The proliferation of streaming has brought about the biggest change to the music industry since the advent of the ringtone. The rules of charting and RIAA certification have changed, how songs are able to appear on Billboard has changed, and most importantly, the way people consume music has changed. All of this is because of streaming. Statistics show more people are listening to human-curated playlists and singles than they are full-length albums.
A perfect example of all of these changes rolled up into one project is VIEWS. The biggest album of 2016 is also an immensely successful playlist. Songs like “Hotline Bling,” “One Dance,” “Controlla,” “Pop Style,” and “Too Good” have been massive hits, but their dominance is best seen from an online perspective. In an age moving toward playlists, there’s a reason why Drake is the most successful.
OVO Sound Radio is another product of the streaming era, and one of the most popular Beats 1 programs on Apple Music, yet another example of how Drake is moving with the current of change. On episode 32, Drake announced that he would be releasing More Life, a new project, in December. He was very specific in calling the forthcoming music a “playlist project.” Not an album, not an EP, not a mixtape, but a playlist project. He didn’t give any other details but released “Fake Love,” “Sneakin’” and “Two Birds, One Stone,” all songs that are slated to appear on More Life. “Two Birds, One Stone” might’ve inspired the biggest online reaction, but the song is currently missing from all streaming services, while “Fake Love” and “Sneakin'” are already topping iTunes charts and appearing on various playlists.
Drake calling his next project a playlist makes me believe that it will be a strictly digital release. It wouldn’t make any sense to release a playlist as a physical product. His partnership with Apple will give him the perfect platform to host the release—another Apple exclusive that will bring new subscribers to the growing streaming service. If the release is strictly digital, then Drake is in the position to make More Life into a living, breathing, changing work of art. It would be a project in the same class as The Life of Pablo. Kanye was completely chaotic in his execution, causing his album rollout to be more disaster than genius, but his idea for TLOP was forward thinking. An inventive album that could only exist in the digital era, but it wasn’t done perfectly.
I suspect More Life will be more than just a standard collection of songs, but a project where Drake is able to add, remove and update songs. A better example for what I believe Drake is planning is Chance The Rapper’s The Social Experiment playlist on SoundCloud. Before the release of Surf, Chance was constantly adding, updating and removing songs whenever he pleased. More Life will likely be some variation of what Chance was doing a few years ago. Chance needed a platform to release new music that wasn’t complete, and SoundCloud gave him a medium. If Drake is able to pull off a similar idea, on an even bigger platform, he could spark the next era of music releases: The Playlist Project Era.
Calling the project a playlist also leads me to believe the music will be more of an OVO compilation than another solo Drake album. He’s built up the OVO roster, but he has yet to showcase the entire camp under one umbrella. An OVO compilation playlist with a heavy Drake presence could very well end 2016 and begin 2017 completely dominated by October’s Very Own. Drake hasn’t slowed down since the release of If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, and at the height of his popularity, he isn’t ready to give the game a moment to miss him. He’s oversaturating the market, but the results have been favorable. By putting out two new singles, he’s already taken over the internet over the last 24 hours. Depending on how More Life is structured, we really could be looking at a change in music releases. The kind of change that rappers will follow if done successfully.
Playlists seem to be the next logical incarnation of the standard album. It is the next big change to come as a result of streaming. The project as a playlist would be using the streaming services to their full potential, in a way that other artists have yet to tap into. It's been a long time coming, and with the rapid rise of streaming, a big change was bound to happen. You can already see the small changes; the fact Drizzy released two singles instead of one shows that he isn't chasing radio, but rather playlists. “Fake Love” and “Sneakin'” are two very different songs, able to fit in various categories. There's a method to his madness. While everyone is struggling to find a way to fit into the new era, Drake has his hands on the very pulse of streaming and is in a position to directly change instead of being resistant to the times.
Mainstream music is on the cusp of entering a new time—a new era—and Drake is leading the way.
By Yoh, aka Playlist Yoh, aka @Yoh31.
Art Credit: Edgar Puente