And yet we’re still featuring like 90% less Drake than your local charts…
Anthony Easton: Five stories about this song: 1) At the Atlanta airport, hearing this as a ringtone a few days after the album was released. 2) Arguing with Toronto media critics around Polaris about how Canadian this was. Convinced that this Toronto scene, made up with second generation West Indian, Desi, Somalian and Trinidadian kids, in neighbourhoods that non-Torontonians have never heard of–the inner suburbs near Scarborough, the ’70s tower blocks of Jamestown. Talking to academics at a conference at about the same time, explaining the weird integration of immigration and city politics that seems uniquely Canadian. I get frustrated that we don’t hear the people that Drake is cribbing from as much as we hear about Drake himself. But this was from a Manchester house joint, and Manchester had similar problems with second-generation cribbing of first-generation sources. Plus, the sample says “everybody in the street,” and nothing is more interior than a Drake track. 3) The people I see arguing about this on Facebook keep being unsure about the album, but are pretty sure that the single is gold. I am fascinated by this labile tech. What is a song? What is a mixtape? What is an album? Arguing about music is arguing about tech is arguing about delivery systems is arguing about digital culture is arguing about music. An ouroboros of form. 4) In Charleston, I am hot and tired. I have argued with Dad for most of the day. A silver Audi slides slowly through a traffic light. It is playing this. 5) On Sapelo Island — no wifi, no cell reception, except on a tiny little front porch in the library — I am walking back to the cabin we are renting. This kid from Virginia is blaring early Drake. We talk about this single and how much he adores it, he drives me back to the library in a tiny little deer hunting-themed golf cart, and I think I understand Drake a little better. This is the song I have heard the most this summer. This is the song that seems most conflicted. This is the song that does a shitty job of mentioning who is working with him (Zoe Kravitz, Moodyman). This is a song that is beautiful.
Thomas Inskeep: Drake is at his best when he’s a) singing rather than rapping, b) introducing new music to a wider audience, c) both of the above. UK producer Nana Rogues, who got his start in grime, has put together a lush-sounding early-’10s-sounding house track for Aubrey to sing over. Zoë Kravitz drops in with a line. And the groove on this is gorgeous and woozy and so spring-into-summer it’s ridiculous. Summer ’16’s “One Dance” wasn’t much fun; summer ’17’s “Passionfruit” definitely is.
Alfred Soto: He’s demonstrating an ear for quiet house samples whose ruminative virtues are supposed to foil his egoism and clownishness. I’d say he needs to work on the last two if his fans didn’t like Aubrey the way he is.
Maxwell Cavaseno: Drakk has a penchant for a certain thread of simple yet tasteful house, as proven by his love of JOHNNY X, SBTRKT and Maya Jane Coles. More Life, when not allowing Roadman Drakk to get his poor man’s J Hus on, features more of babby Vikter Duplaix Drakk, this time over Black Coffee and, here, a Moodymann sample. I have never been a huge fan of Kenny Dixon’s tracks (more his persona), so it might not be Aubrey himself boring me as much as his sample choice of the day. Nonetheless, I feel like Drakk has been more focused in his usual inanities elsewhere, and here he has all the non-obtrusive qualities of a Listerine strip.
Will Adams: The forlorn house isn’t quite as nuanced as what Jamie xx (and Gil Scott-Heron) offered, but “Passionfruit” allows Drake’s still-questionable singing a soft, plush bedding to land on. As is customary, the music — a looping organ arpeggio, distorted string swoops, and subtle keys — speaks volumes more than Drake.
Will Rivitz: Like every other Drake song, the best parts of “Passionfruit” are the parts Drake doesn’t touch — namely, the sublime lounge instrumental, especially the way it slowly shrivels into nothingness near the end. Also like every other Drake song, the rapper’s utter lack of presence sucks all the depth out of the beat, trampling over its pristine landscape with the care and subtlety of an irate toddler.
William John: Drake’s romantic pursuits seem to be eternally quagmired in self-imposed dysfunction; he’s always got an eyebrow raised and his head in his hands, ready to gaslight, softly quarrel, or deliver a monologue about his various insecurities. “Passionfruit” is another episode in his “I’ve got issues – you’ve got them too” canon, but any disguised aggression of the sort displayed in “Too Good” is replaced here by something more affably laconic. Though his alliterative, sexually suggestive wordplay in the chorus is clever, Drake lets the plush beat do most of the work, conveying the sense that he and his lover (voiced briefly by an uncredited Zoë Kravitz) have mutually determined to forgo any ongoing obligations and are content to instead shuffle, whisky-soaked, out of any tumult together.
Joshua Copperman: What I enjoyed about More Life is that it felt more finished and fleshed-out than even the good songs on Views. This is the best example, far more energetic and enjoyable than “One Dance” was even as Drake does his usual emo-crooning and “way/things you say” rhymes. The beat has these interesting atmospheric tones that sound vaguely nostalgic to me — I even have at least one obscure reference point of my own. -1 for the false intro, which takes away from the breeziness.
Leonel Manzanares: More Life furthered the debate over whether Drake was a mere culture-vulture who capitalized on marginalized global scenes, or whether his success signified a necessary consolidation of the black diaspora’s sonic diversity in the mainstream. You can take any side in this argument, but what’s impossible to deny is Aubrey’s ability to create inescapable melodies that carry the catchiest beats known to man. At this point everybody knows what a Drake song sounds like — late-night vibes, understated-yet-solid melodic motifs, adorable douchebag lyrics — and “Passionfruit” sits with the best of them. This is playing in clubs everywhere because we love sad bangers, and we love sad bangers partly because of him in the first place.