Review: ‘Scorpion’

Drake’s rough 2018 continues with an album that is more mundane than venomous.

Every iconic rapper has put out a double album, from Tupac, Jay-Z and The Notorious B.I.G. down to Nas and OutKast. It is like a mandatory requirement on the hip hop checklist. Only at a certain point in a career does it become viable, so for all of Drake’s achievements there is no better time. With an ‘A Side’ dubbed as the rap disc and a ‘B Side’ dubbed as the R&B disc, fans are expecting the veracity of “5AM in Toronto” Drake and the wounded Drake from the Take Care era. Hopping off 2017’s 22-track More Life, Drake must tread the line carefully between quality and quantity if he wishes to solidify his admirable discography and be in the conversation of rappers with classic albums.

As expected, Drake is unable to justify the breadth of the album, forging his tamest album to date. Scorpion is Drake’s armour against his insecurities, and yet another attempt to prove himself to the doubters rather than saying something new (“Give me some respect, give me some respect,” he demands on “Nonstop”).

When separating the highlights, Drake’s introspection can only carry him so far for 90 minutes. His raps rely on shrivelled memories and reactionary wordplay, the latter of which evokes second-hand embarrassment (“Like Left Eye, I’m creepin'” / “The only deadbeats is whatever beats I been rappin’ to” / “From the block like you Jenny.”) For the length that Scorpion is, the introspection quickly becomes tedious, lacking any spark to maintain listeners’ interest.

The ‘A Side’ of Scorpion is a mix of trap flexecutions and glitzy monologues that get lost in similarity. Known for his signature intros that set the tone for the rest of the album, “Survival” lacks the punch Drake’s intros often pack, but wastes no time to address past rap beefs and cloaked responses to Pusha T’s “The Story of Adidon”, among quotable Drake-isms (“My Mount Rushmore is me with four different expressions.”) The 808s of “Mob Ties”, “Can’t Take a Joke” and “Nonstop” are involuntarily grabbing, though each remaining song sounds like an outro (“Emotionless”, “Sandra’s Rose”). The best track in this vein is the glamorous “8 Out of 10”, though even this song is let down by its tiresome portrayal of superiority that has been heard a million times already (“Drizzy ’bout to drop, the game is in disarray” / “Your sister is pressin’ play, your trainer is pressin’ play, your wifey, your wifey.”)

The concept of a rap disc and an R&B disc had the potential to succeed, however the execution misses basic cohesion. The ‘B Side’ awkwardly jumps from 40’s mellow production to trap rattlings, such as on “Blue Tint” and “That’s How You Feel”, tracks that should have been on the ‘A Side’ if Drake wanted to stay true to the concept.

It’s also a surprise Drake has left his ‘throwaway’ songs off albums throughout his entire career, when in hindsight become his best songs ever released (“5AM in Toronto, “Girls Love Beyoncé”, “Days in the East”). The Scary Hours track “Diplomatic Immunity” tops any rap song from the album’s ‘A Side’, proving that “God’s Plan” is only on the album because it was the better-streamed song out the two.

Deep inside the ‘B Side’ are gems such as “Finesse”, a track that accurately captures the tone of Take Care. It is what “Fire & Desire” is to VIEWS, and the standout cut from the second half of Scorpion. “In My Feelings” also provides what’s promised from Scorpion; the mellow aesthetic is absent, but there is a sense of enthusiasm to the track that can be likened to “Nice for What”. The posthumous vocals by Michael Jackson on “Don’t Matter to Me” continue the zeal, though carries strong resemblances to the work of Majid Jordan.

Consistency is broken for the final two tracks, “Final Fantasy” and “March 14”, where Drake diverts back to rapping. The latter track finally introduces intriguing subject matter surrounding the conception of his son, but Drake somehow manages to appear disconnected from his own son, as if the track is there only because he was demanded answers from Pusha T and the public. It rounds off a confusing, inconsistent listen for an album that isn’t sure of its own identity.

Scorpion is one big response to public critiques and rumours. In likelihood, the dual-disc, rap–R&B concept is an illusion that solely benefits the requirements of streaming. If Drake felt compelled to give cryptic answers, it didn’t stem from a place of confidence but rather a place of insecurity. Just like Drake says on the opener, “Seen this movie a hundred times, I know where it’s headed.” Thank you for the timid summary.

Rating: 5 / 10

Favourite tracks:  “Nice for What”, “Finesse”, “In My Feelings”

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