Audrey Drake Graham, AKA, Drake is the most successful modern rap artist in the genre by a mile. As such, he needs little introduction, but it may be worth the time to take a short look at his very long and impressive career.
Drake’s first release was So Far Gone in 2009, but he was already being heralded as an important up and comer in the community before this. Working directly under Lil Wayne, who was the most recent predecessor to Drake’s current throne, he continued the Wayne’s philosophy of hit-making and style over substance. In many ways, Drake was radio ready before he’d even released a single project.
In 2011, he released Take Care, an emotional record which mixed rap and R&B elements and solidified his softer, singing-heavy style as the standard in rap. From here, he kept up with the times, working his way through trap influences on What a Time To Be Alive, the only record in his discography which I thoroughly enjoyed, and tapped into the trend of overly long albums with 2016’s Views.
In the past few years, Drake has also had several highly publicized feuds, and has become something of a target for the bulk of the rap community, amid allegations of his using ghostwriters for most of his tracks. Most notably, he feuded with Meek Mill in 2015, with the pair trading a few diss tracks over the span of about a week, and Drake unanimously considered to have come out on top. Then, just about a month ago, he was the recipient of Pusha T’s absolutely brutal diss track, “The Story of Adidon,” for which Drake had no response. And this brings us to his latest release, Scorpion.
The album is divided into halves, the first of which focuses on Drake’s rapping and the latter carrying more R&B styles. The former of these is the far superior.
“Survival” is a solid opener, with Drake’s trademark, confident delivery and Wayne-esque wordplay highlighting the track. The instrumental is somewhat repetitive, but enjoyable.
Tracks like “Emotionless,” and “8 out of 10” are far more introspective than one may have expected on this project, with the latter being my favorite song on the entire album. Lyrically, Drake is far more honest on this album than much of his previous work, and it leads one to wonder if this may have been a more recent adjustment in light of the amount of dirty laundry which was aired by Pusha T.
The albums lead singles, “God’s Plan” and “I’m Upset,” come back to back and provide the highest point on the record as a whole. The latter of these, in particular, is one of the best tracks Drake has released in quite a long time.
The instrumentals are especially creative. Tracks like “Mob Ties” and “Can’t Take a Joke” lean heavily into the trap influences which pervade the modern rap scene, while “Elevate,” and “Sandra’s Rose,” are almost orchestral, and very reminiscent of Kanye’s recent work.
The rap portion of this album ends with “Is There More,” which attempts to explore big questions, mainly asking whether there may be more to life than what Drake has experienced thus far. The lyrics, however, come off as especially vapid and shallow. The opening half of this album, as a whole, is actually quite pleasing but this goes severely downhill in the second half.
Drake’s return to singing and the softer R&B sound which he came up on is thoroughly disappointing. His style of of bass heavy, simplistic beats faded into the background of his emotional vocals is, to put it bluntly, still stuck in the late 2000’s.
This may have been impressive and important when he was coming up, but since his transition to rap, R&B has gone through quite the renascence. Artists like Frank Ocean and serpentwithfeet have taken this genre to far more experimental and emotive lengths. Even a mainstream artist like The Weeknd makes Drake’s croons over these particularly forgettable beats sound woefully out of touch.
Tracks like “Nice for What,” and the odd Michael Jackson and Nicki Minaj features on “Don’t Matter To Me,” and “That’s how you feel,” respectively, are short lived bright spots, but they’re so choked by the meaningless repetitiveness around them that they can hardly shine.
“Ratchet Happy Birthday,” is perhaps the worst track on this project, in which Drake just genuinely doesn’t seem to care, and likely assumes that most listeners have shut the album off by this time.
Overall, Scorpion, like much of Drake’s work, is relatively inoffensive, but also unimportant, like a particularly bland wallpaper. The record is clearly made to create as many hits as possible, instead of crafting an album with actual focus and direction. As such, the pacing is terrible, leaving one constantly curious as to how much of it is left, and the decision to split the album is senseless. A much more compelling tracklist could’ve been made by simply mixing the two halves together, and giving listeners some variety along the unjustifiable 90 minute runtime.
Instead, Drake delivers an album which is fantastically competent and well-produced, but ultimately vapid and heartless.
HEAR THE ALBUM: https://open.spotify.com/album/2o9McLtDM7mbODV7yZF2mc