In one of the most anticipated albums of 2018, Drake released his fifth studio album, Scorpion, last month in the midst of controversy, success and a scathing diss track from Pusha T that revealed Drake was hiding a child. The beef between Pusha T and Drake provided the ultimate prologue to what would become one of the central themes in Scorpion that had gossip blogs, newsfeed trolls and the entire hip-hop community buzzing.
On Pusha T’s, “The Story of Adidon,” the veteran emcee ripped Drake by claiming the OVO boss hid the existence of his son to make him the cornerstone of a marketing campaign for Drake’s new Addidas clothing line. The out-of-left-field allegation not only affected Drake’s credibility as an emcee (a diss track that hardly any rapper can come back from), but also Drake’s charming image, business accruement and the public persona - as simply - one of the “good guys” in a genre still filled with lust, glamour and violence.
Despite the backlash on his early fatherhood, Drake’s 25-track opus is a prolific account of the Toronto emcee’s/singer’s egotistical vulnerability, brutal honesty, unapologetic protection with success and the moral and psychological makeup of bad decisions with women. On top of these general Drizzy themes is an album that’s backed by one hell of a production helmed by Noah “40” Shebib, Boi-1-Da and other young production greats that helped give Scorpion its opulent and engaging sound.
The records gorgeous texture, and musical depth, is masterful woven with 40’s moody and euphoric compositions, smooth Afrobeat and a soulful kick reminiscent of Drake’s earlier works such as in Take Care and Nothing Was The Same. The doubled sided album displays two of Drake’s primary musical palettes - hip-hop and R&B – that he helped pioneer as a single genre: one where the synthesis of rapping/singing are the benchmark to his keys of success.
On side A, Drake’s riveting lyricism, signature metaphors and melodic approach expresses the emcees consistent style and mic-gripping execution that’s rich with an anxious charm, savvy punch-lines and provocative hooks.
On the album’s intro, “Survival,” Drake makes an impression entrance with blistering wordplay and ice-cold bars to display his frustrations from an already gruesome month. “Who’s giving out this much return on investment?” he flaunts with prolific conviction. On “Nonstop” and “Elevate,” however, is where that 40 and Drizzy connection works perfectly with club pounding beats, raw & distinctive flows and clean-cut melodies perfect for those summer night vibes. “They been trying me, but I’m resilient, for real” Drake raps with authority on “Nonstop.” “I can’t go in public like civilian, for real.”
Drake stunningly admits to having a son on the album’s 4th stint, “Emotionless,” over a refreshingly soulful sample of Mariah Carey’s MTV Unplugged performance of “Emotions.” “I wasn’t hidin’ my kid from the world,” he boasts. “I was hiding the world from my kid.” Drake further acknowledges his son’s existence with a brief semi-response for Pusha T on the audaciously smooth and soulfully addictive, “8 out of 10,” taunting, “Kiss my son on the forehead then kiss your ass goodbye. As luck would have it, I’ve settled into my role as the good guy.”
In addition to the chart-topping and philanthropic visuals of “God’s Plan,” Drake’s DJ Premier collaboration in, “Sandra’s Rose,” is another soul-sampled and mic-personified beauty that’s icing on the cake for an already eye-opening record. Here Drake’s expertise as a lyrical technician blossoms with Premier’s vivid production and classic sound.
Yet, on Scorpion’s side B is were Drake’s singing and soulful influences come into play with a more haunting and moody feel to the 90-minute record. Drake’s harmonious approach to the album’s second half is juicy, sensually smooth and painfully romantic – deeply influenced from his taste in classic soul and vocalists such as Sade and Phyllis Hyman.
On the sudden slow-jam, “Peak,” Drake brings the tempo down to a hazy candle-lit forum with massaging beats and seductive harmonies. His song’s “Jaded” and “Finesse” are other pulsating tracks that Drake delivers with feelings of late-night cognac, passionate despair and steamy bedroom vibes.
The Toronto emcee also brings out a little puppy love with “Summer Games.” A song about a short-lived summer romance that’s fueled with razor edged synths perfect for dusks at the boardwalk. Another interesting track on Side B is the posthumous feature of Michael Jackson on, “Don’t Matter To Me,” which has a mid-tempo rhythm and euphoric vibe that’s fits masterfully around Michael’s soulful and feathery vocals.
The club centric tracks “Nice For What” and “In My Feelings,” added a contrasting touch to the latter half of the album that revels in New Orleans bounce and tropical vibes. “Nice For What” has already seen a significant chart-topping success as the record’s second single and “In My Feelings” wouldn’t fall far from the tree. With a decadent hook, craving melodies and bars to knock to – “In My Feelings” is side B’s leading track for Scorpion.
Drake ends this odyssean 25-track album with “March 14” that touches upon his fatherhood and experiences of being raised with parents from a failed marriage. The song also dives into his current grappling with his son’s mother, adult film actress Sophie Brussaux, as well as his self-analysis of becoming a better parent.
Throughout all its toxicity, Drake winds back the clock on Scorpion by giving his fans a rubric of what made his career so compelling and universal in the first place: the bad-boy loving punch lines, lyrically precise mind and expressively glowing melodies that reverts back to the aesthetics of his freshman and sophomore albums.
Drake illustrates emotion and raw vulnerability on Scorpion. This time around, as more than its predecessors, Drake's new album relies on a self-examining honest approach that revels in shortcoming tones and bustling fragility. This delicacy of Drake's lyricism and musical style illustrate his own admission of the truth and his definitive role as a young father. It’s one of the many reasons why Scorpion is such an intriguing record in which Drake challenges himself like he's never done before.