Long-awaited, hyped, uncertain, important, defining. At this point in his career, Drake’s releases always seem to exist beneath the umbrella of grandiose adjectives, but Scorpion has no doubt been met with a new tier of expectation and curiosity. The skepticism isn’t merely that Drake is on the heels of controversy, as many would have you believe. Of course, the arguments with Pusha-T that have in light drawn accusations both brutal and scathing have led to much of the album’s buildup, but what has done so in even greater definition is that Drake — the longstanding king of stylistically transcendental popular music — must meet the ear of the world’s audience for the first time since More Life which, even though released just last year, was released in a very different epoch of popular hip-hop history.
Music is changing and continues to change at paces before unseen, and Drake needs to somehow appeal to his incredibly wide-ranging audience, answer to the recent drama — the likes of which, the fight of which, he has never faced, and somehow put out something innovative and trend-setting all with a single project.
The expectations are impossibly high and the bar, in light of an absolute barrage of this year’s keystone and innovative releases across the breadth of hip-hop’s massive stylistic reach, is even higher.
Taking into account the challenges currently levied against the global star and attempting to unearth a sense of parody amongst reviewers so quick to love or hate his polarizing persona and music, an approach worth taking is an honest and brief song-by-song review which, particularly with such a lengthy project, should allow for comparisons when weighed against his prior work, the current scene, and the expectations born of recent public scandal.
With the scene set, lets dive in.
Survival: A vibrantly produced and violently written opener setting the tone that Drake is here to answer the questions surrounding him personally and creatively. A great setup for an A-side disc that begs for the same energy.
My Mount Rushmore is me with four different expressions //
Whose giving out this much return on investments?
Nonstop: Drake has trouble matching the energy of the beat and his attempt to come across effortlessly seems arduous in its opposite outcome. It seems a little bit stylistically forced and that’s really where it loses any sense of head-bobbing oomph expected from such a hypnotic production.
Elevate: An interesting change of pace to a slower, more sung performance. Something about it feels melancholy, nearly apologetic, but still manages to carry with it a grand sense of power and buildup towards its keynote acapella breakdown.
Emotionless: Visions of retro Drake are impossible to miss throughout the track. From the emotional, gospel-driven production to the heartfelt, honestly-delivered storytelling, fans of classic Drake are sure to find favoritism in the texture of this approach.
Look at the way we live //
I wasn’t hiding my kid from the world, I was hiding the world from my kid.
God’s Plan: It’s always nice to see how a hit single will fit into placement in a greater project, and the power and uplifting force behind God’s Planfinds itself at home after the emotionally capable and tell-all confession on Emotionless. Plus, the auditory aesthetic of the track gets the disc’s energy back on track.
I’m Upset: pretty heavy, widespread criticism met this one upon its single release, and although the track itself still feels like a halfhearted, weak response to the Pusha-T beef, it’s placement in the album grants it a new identity. Still, the expression “I’m upset” just doesn’t cut it.
8/10: The audacity of the old school approach really works well for Drake. It’s easy to forget the classic Kanye cadence and feisty attitude that defined Drake’s early rap, but memories of 2009 come flooding a true fan’s mind from the first touch of the equally classic production to the last line.
Never a matter of could I or should I //
Kiss my mom on the forehead then kiss your ass goodbye.
As luck would have it, I’ve settled into my role as the good guy //
I guess luck is on your side. I guess luck is on your side
All 6’s, no 7’s. Rest easy. Get some shut eye.
Mob Ties: Another switch up in cadence brings us to an approach more consistent with what we’ve known of Drake in recent years. Nothing particularly special about the track, and questionable if it deserves a place in the project at all.
Can’t Take A Joke: Crazy, but expected production lay the framework for an explosion of quick penmanship throughout the track’s duration. Definitely an impressive showing of Drake’s rap ability that boasts a sound we haven’t really heard from him before.
Sandra’s Rose: One of the most listenable jams on the project on terms of pure repeatability. The mellow production and laid-back delivery combine to do nothing but favors to the sonic texture of the entire production.
Back stabbed so many times I started walking backwards //
Like Charlamage I see the light and see the darkest patches.
Hurt me and I’ll be born again //
I walk in godly form amongst immortal men.
Talk Up: Surprisingly convincing high-energy banger with the help of Jay-Z, Talk Up shows us the dark side that we’re all expecting. It’s not that more of this is needed, but it definitely plays its role in the project and adds another level to the already diverse makeup of theScorpion construct.
Is There More: A floaty beat builds up feelings of PARTYNEXTDOOR until Drake comes in with what sounds like again, a very retro Drake delivery. In fact, the subtle mess of the production really sets this up as an exhibition of Drake’s ability and he delivers one of the best tracks on the album.
Peak: Another clear and present PARTYNEXTDOOR influence introduces the B-side of the disc as Drake croons his way to downtempo, high-fi electronic R&B glory. Just as with the first disc, Drake brings a big gun to this side’s introduction and draws in all of our intrigue towards what’s to come.
Summer Games: The synthwave production is on point and brings to light an attempted mellow pop sort of production form the B-side framework. The experimentation is nice, but it pales in comparison with the styles from which it borrows, though it is refreshing to see such a big name give a nod to the scene. Long story short, if you like this song, there is a lot more for you to discover in the current bedroom pop circuit or UK Synth Pop of the 80’s.
Jaded: More of what we expect from the soft-toned, emotional spectrum of Drake’s canon. The track screams for a Weeknd feature or a spot among Take Care’s R&B vibes and gives Scorpionyet another level of intricacy.
Nice For What: Again, it’s nice to see a single find its way into the framework of a greater project, and Nice For What, with its bubbly, high-energy vibes, feels somewhat out of place in the second disc. But, if there’s one thing to take away from Scorpion, it’s that the smorgasbord of Drake’s stylistic approaches are blended together well, but are so wide-ranging that at times it feels inconsistent.
Finesse: Drake finds his way back to his classic R&B delivery and again draws up desire for a Weeknd appearance that disappointedly never finds its way into the album. Nevertheless, fans of Drake’s more emotionally capable, downtempo vibes have plenty to find favor with throughout the project, and Finesse is a particular bright spot in that arena.
Ratchet Happy Birthday: A slight change of pace brings us to a warmer, bubbly, Kanye West autotuned inspired slow jam that discusses exactly what the title would have you think. Comedic relief has long been an important part of Drake’s canon and there’s plenty of it to ba had on Ratchet Happy Birthday, though the track seems like it could have been left out of the greater construct with no harm done.
That’s How You Feel: From the bridge of Ratchet Happy Birthday, Drake makes a wise decision to continue the energetic rise and does so with a quicker cadence and violent delivery. It really plays more of a role piece in the album than it does as a single track.
Blue Tint: This track will probably become a successful radio hit, and deservedly so. From the production and the cadence to the delivery and lyricism, Blue Tint is a track applicable across a wide spectrum of scenarios and has that classic vibe that all Drake bangers have.
In My Feelings: The bounce and repetitive nature of this track will make it a good club anthem and fits nicely into Drake’s non-rap hip-hop construct. The experimentation is refreshing and gives 40 yet another place to really flex his production talents, making it more his track than Drake’s.
Don’t Matter To Me: The Michael Jackson sampling has thus far been met with a lot of criticism, but honestly, it works its way smoothly into the track and makes Don’t Matterone of the highlights of the entire project. Drake has been helping to form the 80’s Pop / synthwave inspired modern styles for years, and this track, along with others like Hold On We’re Going Home, is of his best yet.
After Dark: The production, the features, and the entire vibe of After Dark make it a frontrunner for most impressive track in Scorpion. Static Major, who died after the recording of Lollipopin 2008 finds his sampling shining through while Ty Dolla Sign, who has been on an absolute tear of late, expectedly delivers his verse as well. It all comes together as a hyper-romantic, smoothly-sexualized baby-maker the likes of which we haven’t heard in years.
Final Fantasy: The romance continues with the aptly titled Final Fantasy. Drake gets personal on his preferences for women and the romantic nights shared with them, and it works out surprisingly well. Bubbling over with a variety of stylistic deliveries, it results a textbook two-part track that, with Drake’s range, feels like two different tracks by two different, capable artists.
March 14: An interesting choice for the conclusion of a 26-song A-side / B-side LP, Drake courageously embraces the criticisms against his estranged son. With blunt honesty, acceptance of his faults, and a bright outlook on the future, he unpacks his emotions on the matter and takes full responsibility for the problems at hand. It’s not only emotional and bold, but beautifully written and produced to the point of being a hit track. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised by the man who has been Grammy-nominated for diss-tracks in the past.
It’s breakin’ my spirit
Single father, I hate when I hear it
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 //
But this is the harsh truth now
And fairy tales are saved for the bedtime stories I tell you now
I don’t want you worry ‘bout whose house you live at
Or who loves you more or who’s not there
Who did what to who ‘fore you got here
Nah, look, I’m too proud
To let that come between me and you now
Realize I gotta think for two now //
I gotta make it, I better make it
I promise if I’m not dead then I’m dedicated
This the first positive DNA we ever celebrated.
It would be hard to listen to the entirety of Scorpion and not in some sense or another come to the conclusion that it is a great project. Its length — certainly a risk amongst the recent movement to release shorter and shorter hip-hop projects — allows Drake to explore the wide range of his entire career and do so seamlessly. At times, the vast differences between his collection of approaches leaves the album lacking a certain congruency, but honestly, that’s the biggest fault to find with the album. He responds to Pusha-T and all of the widespread criticism, taking it much further than necessary, and using it to get personal about his son for the mistakes that he’s made while also looking forward to the future.
It innovatively embodies the blossoming A-side / B-side trend as its most successful utilization in the modern spectrum.
It successfully explores the far corners of hip-hop’s current reach in ways that only Drake could accomplish.
Scorpion is, at the end of the day, an addicting, listenable, enjoyable album that transcends all of the territory filling Drake’s deep pocket and grants his audience the world over with a massive collection of stylistically differentiating jams. Defining to say the least.
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