After living off ‘God’s Plan’ royalties for the past few months Drake has finally dropped an album to house it on. A double album no less, with the first side focussing on hip-hop and the second half on R&B. Double album gimmick aside though, it’s worth noting the build up to this album’s release has been particularly bumpy for the OVO camp.
After Pusha T sent a few stray shots on his album DAYTONA about Drake using ghostwriters – nothing we hadn’t heard before – Drake fired back the same day with ‘Duppy Freestyle’, a diss track that was surprisingly savage considering the offhand nature of the shots Pusha sent. It looked like we were in for another Drake beef home run, similar to his beef with Meek Mill back in 2015 which he won with ease, dropping two diss tracks before Meek even responded once. However, on his response ‘The Story of Adidon’ Pusha revealed to the world that Drake had a child with a pornstar and apparently wasn’t playing any part in the child’s life, drawing comparisons to how Drake’s own father left him at a young age. The bait and switch that Pusha pulled off would have been career ending to any other rapper, but Drake’s pop appeal and the magnitude of his brand allowed him to survive without even firing back, aside from a PR statement regarding the cover art which featured Drake in blackface. The question since then has been will Drake fire back on Scorpion? Will he reference Pusha or even his son at all?
As a massive fan of Drake’s most rap focussed project If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, I was particularly excited about the proposition of getting a return to the hungry and aggressive Drake we experienced then. The first half starts promisingly with ‘Survival’ serving as a decent intro before ‘Nonstop’. Usually when Drake flexes he sounds corny, but on ‘Nonstop’ he’s really owning it in a way he hasn’t done since IYRTITL. There’s moments of this hunger throughout Side A of the album, especially on ‘Talk Up’, which features JAY-Z, but unfortunately it’s not consistent. The next two tracks ‘Elevate’ and ‘Emotionless’ both have good beats but Drake himself doesn’t step up to the mark, delivering uninteresting and at times cringey bars.
After that comes ‘God’s Plan’, followed by ‘I’m Upset’ which was released as a single just after ‘Duppy Freestyle’. At the time it seemed like a poor choice considering Drake had been acting hard on ‘Duppy’ not hours before but it’s actually one of the better tracks on this side, with nice little ambient washes making the beat pop and some of Drake’s better rapping on the album. The final run of tracks for Side A, excluding the aforementioned ‘Talk Up’, are all pretty forgettable apart from final track ‘Tell Me More’ which features Drake questioning whether there’s more to life than luxury and money. It’s an interesting lyrical turn but seems utterly hypocritical after he’s just spent the last 11 tracks making boring clichéd flexes interspersed with the odd bar about shagging. One thing that can be said for Side A is that there is some amazing production, especially on ‘Nonstop’, ‘I’m Upset’ and ‘Talk Up’.
Side B starts strong with ‘Peak’ and ‘Summer Games’, which suggest an interesting new sound palette for Drake that still sounds totally consistent with his previous work but have much more prominent synths and some interesting textures. ‘Jaded’ continues the run of interesting productions, with some low key, drone-y crackles that sound great but once again Drake falls short lyrically. This interesting sound palette isn’t really revisited for the rest of the album which is a shame, but next track ‘Nice For What’ is easily the best song on Side B and it’s easy to see why it’s the only single from this side. The sample from ‘Ex Factor’ by Lauryn Hill is undeniably catchy and the way the groove on the drums switch up between the verse, chorus and bridge ensure it stays engaging. After this final peak, the album immediately nosedives in quality. There’s a run of just plain boring tracks, punctuated by the genuine utter shitshow that is ‘Ratchet Happy Birthday’.
It would be amiss not to mention that there is a track here called ‘Don’t Matter To Me (feat. Michael Jackson)’. Yea, (feat. Michael Jackson). It appears to be a sample of some unheard Jackson track, a tantalising prospect for any MJ stan. Unfortunately the execution is poor. The rest of the track is thoroughly uninteresting and even Jackson’s hook, the only thing about the song that pops in any way shape or form, has been processed in such a way that it just sounds like a slightly more interesting The Weeknd feature.
It’s hard to place Scorpion within Drake’s discography. It suffers from the same issue as Views in that it’s far too long, ostensibly to inflate streaming numbers and therefore revenue but at least it had the double album gimmick to at least half justify it. It definitely has more good tracks than Views, but these highs aren’t the career highs that Views had with tracks like ‘One Dance’ or ‘Hotline Bling’. It’s just kind of a messy, bloated… thing with a couple of absolute slappers on it. It seems odd that the biggest artist in the world is putting out something so bland and mushy. I’d predict that we’ve hit peak Drake and he’s on the way out but I said that 17 would probably end XXXTENTACION’s career and it made him bigger than ever, so I’ll shut up now.
Words by Jack Hollis