Drake – Scorpion Album Review
by Jay Fingers
A little more than a month ago, hip-hop’s golden boy Drake found himself embroiled in yet another chapter of his ongoing beef with frequent nemesis Pusha T. However, seemingly for the first time in his career, Drizzy took an actual L when Pusha alleged that the Toronto native secretly fathered a child out of wedlock.
Well, apparently, the rumor’s true: Drake is indeed a baby daddy now, something he repeatedly confirms on Scorpion, his fifth studio album. (Previous releases such as More Life and If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late are categorized as mixtapes.) But that’s something we’ll come back to.
At 89 minutes, Scorpion is a mammoth project. It’s Drake’s double album, a move that’s de rigueur for an artist of his fame and stature, and it’s ostensibly divided into two halves — one hip-hop, the other R&B. (There’s a meme floating around online that labels Side A “Durag Drake” and, hilariously, Side B as “Bonnet Drake.”) Overall, it’s a strong collection of songs, perhaps Drake’s best “official” offering since Nothing Was the Same and certainly his most sonically adventurous album since Take Care. And while one’s tolerance for Drake will no doubt affect how one approaches Scorpion, the album, much like his previous project More Life (which clocked in at just over 81 minutes), isn’t a slog to get through.
The “harder” Side A is supremely enjoyable, and although he doesn’t drop a proper response track to Pusha T‘s scathing “The Story of Adidon,” Drake does address some of that diss song’s accusations and insults at various points. On the introspective album opener, “Survival,” Drake explains why he didn’t continue to beef with King Push: “Seen this movie a hundred times, I know where it’s headed/Realize someone gotta die when no one’ll dead it/Niggas gamblin’ with they life for some content/That’s the type of lottery that could get your top picked.” He also responds to the Clipse rapper’s comparison of his father, Dennis, to Steve Harvey, saying, “Daddy got suits like Bernie Mac/He dresses himself.”
On “Emotionless,” which prominently employs a stirring Mariah Carey sample, the OVO honcho reveals why he had been previously coy about his son. “I wasn’t hiding my kid from the world/I was hiding the world from my kid,” he explains. “From empty souls who just wake up and look to debate/Until you staring at your seed, you could never relate.”
But thankfully, Scorpion it isn’t solely about Drake’s son or his beef with Pusha. There are the requisite songs about money, success, and sexual conquests that only Drizzy can pull off. He proclaims that his success was divinely preordained over a buoyant gospel organ on “God’s Plan”; and on the cleverly titled “Sandra’s Rose,” he brags about “selling numbers like […] Miss Adele” over soulful production from DJ Premier.
Drake also continues to acknowledge and pay homage to his influences. In the past that’s included Jamaican dancehall and London roadman culture; here, it’s the unrefined thump of ’90s-era underground Memphis rap. He utilizes a trap flow on “Nonstop,” which features a distorted, rumbling bassline and an obscure vocal sample from Memphis rapper Mack Daddy Ju and local pioneer DJ Squeeky. On the albums sole rap feature, Jay-Z shows up on “Talk Up,” whose macabre bounce is provided by none other than Three 6 Mafia‘s DJ Paul. The Roc Nation boss surprisingly steals the track with rather timely lyrics that chastise the new generation of rap (“Dope boys/Off-White/Lookin’ like soft white on ’em/You know what I’m sayin’?”) and makes reference to the recent murder of Florida rapper XXXTentacion.
Scorpion is a satisfying listen, one that finds Drake maturing, not only musically, but personally as well.
And then there’s Side B, which finds Drake speaking directly to the ladies. That’s why, even though it’s supposedly the R&B side, his frenetic hit single “Nice For What” fits in alongside slow-burn jams such as “Peak” and “Finesse.”
Another standout is “After Dark,” featuring Ty Dolla $ign and the late Static Major. It’s a funky joint that calls to mind the lascivious attitude of Diary of a Mad Band-era Jodeci, and Ty’s passionate vocals are the perfect complement to Drake’s rather restrained performance. And you have to give it up to the futuristic disco groove of “Don’t Matter to Me,” which makes great use of some heretofore unreleased Michael Jackson vocals that elevate it from mere bop to bona fide jam. The King of Pop would be proud.
The final track on Scorpion is “March 14,” and it’s a letter from Drake to his son, essentially bringing everything full circle. Here, Drake talks about how he felt upon learning he was a father (“This the first positive DNA we ever celebrated”), alludes to friction with his son’s mother (“Hopefully by the time you hear this, your mother and I will have come around/Instead of always cutting each other down/God willing”), and how he fell into the same cycle as his own parents (“I used to challenge my parents on every album/Now I’m embarrassed to tell ’em I ended up as a co-parent/Always promised the family unit/I wanted it to be different because I’ve been through it”). Drake’s stock in trade has always been an emotional vulnerability, but by shifting the focus from romantic love to fatherhood, “March 14” truly sounds fresh and authentic.
Scorpion is by no means a perfect album. Yes, it’s overlong and could stand to lose some songs — I mean, I wouldn’t be upset at the loss of filler such as the ’80s synth-pop of “Summer Games” or the completely weird “Ratchet Happy Birthday,” although I suspect the latter will be popular at born day celebrations. But on the whole, Scorpion is a satisfying listen, one that finds Drake maturing, not only musically, but personally as well.
“Nice For What”
“Don’t Matter to Me”
Stream the full album below: