Review Summary: coasting
You don't need a history lesson on Drake. He's more popular than your favorite artist, his career is well chronicled. The accepted canon is love for Take Care
, and IYRTITL
, along with general acknowledgement he's fallen off with overstuffed projects since then in an attempt to take advantage of the streaming industry. Scorpion
doesn't change much for the better. In an attempt to recapture the emotional depth of his early work, he doubles down on everything he's failed on lately.
"My mouth is going off, I don't know patience."
The best example is the tracklist itself, a double album with the first side more devoted to rapping and the second side to singing. Theoretically the first is hip-hop and the second is r&b, but there isn't really a difference for Drake. This can be an advantage at times, and it has in the past, but it isn’t here, at least not when he cuts genre lines off as different semi-arbitrarily. It's hard not to be cynical about these 25 tracks just being an elaborate attempt to win a new streaming record, especially considering the unprecedented level at which Spotify is promoting the album. Regardless of the reasoning behind this decision, it was a poor one. Scorpion
is full of filler. About half of the tracks could probably be taken out with no real consequence. "Survival"'s unconvincingly sad melody, "I'm Upset"'s disappointingly generic trap beat, and "Finesse"'s overall meandering pointlessness; these tracks are at best notable for their lyrics and not for actually being enjoyable. That isn't to say that this is some return to form for Aubrey as an actual emcee, because it's not. His flow here is as unappealingly lazy as it has been for the past five years, if not more. The only reason people are going to care about what he has to say here is because of the Pusha debacle. In the meantime, he's still talking about the same things as he's always been, but sounds like he means it less than ever.
"As luck would have it, I've settled into my role as the good guy."
Settling is the worst thing an artist can do, and the whole "good guy" shtick is getting old at this point - he's obviously as misogynistic as anyone else. "Nice For What" is supposedly a feminist anthem centered on an unnamed woman, and is ultimately a step forward coming from the guy who used to never shut up about the differences between good girls and bad girls and why he deserved to have control of both, but it's still a song about how she should be confident for him, a song about how he understands her better than she does, a song about a man giving permission to a woman to be herself. At the same time, he finally (due to pressure from public opinion) admits that he birthed a son with Sophia Brusseax, but still complains about having to face those consequences, as if this is her doing something wrong to him - "you got options, but I been chosen to deal with you the way you like." This kind of attitude has always been here, but it's a lot more obvious and noxious when it's not covered up by good production.
"If I touch studio then we got one."
For the first time in his career, Drake has made a solo album with weak beats. Very few tracks on here really shine, and none of them envelop the same way that they used to. The reason "Marvin's Room" stood out as the
go-to bitter r&b song of the 2010s wasn't because of the lyrics, although they played a part. It was because of the way it felt like you were floating underwater - it actually felt faded in an era when a lot of songs just said so. This cloudy production has been the biggest trick up Drake's sleeve from "Houstatlantavegas" to "Started From The Bottom" to "No Tellin'" to "Hotline Bling" to "Passionfruit." And now, for a huge section of this album, it's gone. The same drums are there, but the magic is gone without the atmosphere. Minimalism doesn't suit Drake because he's never been what stood out about his music. As a result, outside of "God's Plan," the songs on Scorpion
that really pop are almost entirely on the more feelings-focused B-side. Even then, nothing on here hits his previous highs. The best beats are just samples of better ones - "Emotions" is better than "Emotionless," "Ex-Factor" is better than "Nice For What." These minimal chipmunk-pitch sample-focused beats are ironically Daytona
-esque, while feature verses from MJ and Jay are better not because these are great verses persay but simply because they're not Drake, which is an unfortunate reminder that someone more talented on the mic would have been a better pick for just about every highlight on here. Occasionally, he comes through with a solid performance ("Blue Tint" in particular) which, along with some overly long interludes and a decent variety of styles, saves this album from being a bore.
"I'm changing from a boy to a man."
Despite everything I've mentioned, Scorpion
isn't terrible. It's not the worst rap album of the year, or even the biggest letdown. Hidden under layers of filler and braggadocio is a half-decent concept album about the trials of fame and a sad lesson learned about refocus on family, but it's just not there the way he set it up. I don't think it's worth a listen, even for Drake fans, but in the end, it doesn't matter what I think. Scorpion
will still make millions of dollars off of the billions of streams these tracks will get, and other music more deserving of the world's attention will get ignored. In a rare emotional highlight, the final track, "March 14," serves a Boyz 2 Men verse clearly aimed at himself and his son, perhaps signaling a refocus from here on out. That isn't what his fans want, and that clearly isn't what he wants. But based on everything I'm hearing, I think it might be time for him to try to grow.