Scorpion (released June 29, 2017)
It was all good just a month ago.
You have to wonder what the rollout of Scorpion, Drake’s fifth solo album, would have looked like if not for … well you know.
Think about it – he had all the buzz in the world after literally throwing around free money to fans after the video release of “God’s Plan” and he was ready to have the summer on smash after “Nice for What.”
But then he foolishly took Pusha T’s rap battle bait and subsequently got eaten alive like a velociraptor on a honey baked ham. We quickly learned two things:
- Despite that catfight with Meek Mill a few years back, and no matter now much your 14-year-old niece gasses him up, Aubrey is NO battle rapper
- And, yeah, ahem, YOU ARE HIDING A CHILD.
Unfortunately, the revelation of secret baby Aubrey is what looms largest over Scorpion, a 25-track, 90-minute behemoth of an album from an artist who has spent the last few years dropping needlessly long releases.
When is this guy gonna learn that less is more?
Anyway let’s go ahead and address the elephant in the room – or the baby in the bassinet – YES, Drake admits several times over the course of Scorpion that he does indeed have a child, which was already pretty obvious to us with common sense since he never denied Pusha’s claims.
I mean if someone falsely called YOU a deadbeat dad who had a secret baby with a retired porn lady wouldn’t you be like, “um, nah, I’d like the tax credit but that ain’t me?”
Of course, he breaks the news in the most Drake way possible on “Emotionless”:
“I wasn’t hidin’ my kid from the world, I was hidin’ the world from my kid.”
Playa, are you sure you weren’t hiding your kid from your celebrity? Cuz that’s what it looks like over here. At least say “I kept the baby on the low until I figured out life,” which is much more authentic than that Twitter psychobabble.
Ladies, when your man hits you with “Yo, ma, I wasn’t hiding that other woman from you, I was hiding YOU from HER,” you know who to blame.
Drake is much more sympathetic on the album closer “March 14,” detailing how he received the news, his struggles with his new babymother and the sudden realization that, yeah, it’s time I finally grow up. For real.
Moments like that are VERY few and far between on Scorpion, a dual disc album split into a rap side (Side A) and an R&B side (Side B) that attempts to straddle his talents. Instead, it winds up watering them down, drowning the listener in a ton of mediocrity.
Side A likely will garner the most love from Drake’s faithful fans but he’s really going through the motions. He directly mentions his wars with other artists on “Survival,” including the aforementioned battle with Meek Mill and a scuffle with Puffy, but don’t expect a full response to Pusha, just lightweight subliminals sprinkled throughout the LP. “8 out of 10” is probably the closest fans will get to an official clapback, and honestly, it’s the most energetic track on Side A. Drake raps with intention instead of obligation, which makes this one immediately stand out.
“Talk Up” gets close to repeating that success, but Jay Z completely steals the show, chiding the streets for allowing the death of (horribly problematic) rapper XXXtentacion while racist gunman George Zimmerman still breathes fresh air.
The rest of the Rap Side is completely lifeless. Without music videos to showcase people getting surprise checks or a DeGrassi TV show reunion, “God’s Plan” and “I’m Upset” are completely forgettable on their own. “Sandra’s Rose” SHOULD have worked considering that the legendary DJ Premier was behind the boards, but the beat is surprisingly tedious, as is the flat Mariah Carey sample on “Emotionless.” And between Drake Shang Tsung’ing Migos’ flow on “Mob Ties” and dropping some of the worst bars of his career on “Nonstop” (“Yeah I’m light-skinned, but I’m still a dark n****”), the first half of Scorpion is some of Drake’s weakest work ever.
R&B Drake tries pretty hard to right the ship on Side B, though things start out ROUGH. “Peak” and “Finesse” are more of that “mood music” that Drake and his ilk have “pioneered” – monotone vocals slogging through boring beats. It’s like the selfie-taking, fake woke stepchild of early ’00s neo-soul. It’s nowhere near as deep and edgy as it pretends to be.
“Summer Games” is another track that almost works, with a bunch of hyperactive synths and tribal drums giving some MUCH NEEDED energy to this dreary project. But the stuttering vocals get a bit too out of hand. As goofy as a track like “Hotline Bling” was, it was at least fun. Even “Ratchet Happy Birthday,” which is just DYING to be an entertaining trainwreck, just comes off like an anemic Ty Dolla Sign song, with tacky lyrics like “you hotter than Anita Bakin’.”
Notwithstanding “Nice for What,” whose Lauryn Hill sample and New Orleans bounce makes it one of the best tracks of 2018, it’s the second half of the second half that finally, finally gives us something to work with. “Blue Tint” is mildly addictive and grows on you with each listen. And lord knows Drake loves working with ghosts, so it’s no surprise that “After Dark,” his collabo with gone-but-never-forgotten hitmaker Static Major is a pretty strong 90s slow jam, despite Ty Dolla ruining the mood per usual. Dude really is on a quest to be the anti-Nate Dogg of his generation.
Aubrey again runs to greats for hits on “Don’t Matter to Me” featuring unreleased vocals from … um … Michael Jackson? I think? I mean it’s SUPPOSED to be Michael, I guess. But it sounds like someone programmed Siri to sound like MJ.
Don’t let me find out The Weeknd or someone is out here cosplaying on wax. Drake really stops at nothing to eat off the plate of R&B zombies.
As with anything Drake touches, his rabid fan base likely will consider Scorpion THE GREATEST RECORDING IN THE HISTORY OF MUSIC IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM. And yeah, there are a couple of choice morsels here, but put it like this – no one eats three fries and takes one nibble of their hot dog and says THAT WAS A CLASSIC MEAL. Instead, you eat a couple of things and throw the rest way.
And there’s a whole lot to throw away here.
This album needed way less tracks. But instead it gets way more side eye.
Best tracks: “Nice for What,” “After Dark,” “8 out of 10”
2.5 stars out of 5