by Ellis Garamszegi
The release of Drake’s latest album, Scorpion, broke all sorts of records – hardly surprising considering the excitement a Drake album release generates these days. In terms of streaming records, it was the first album ever to reach one billion streams in a week. Yet, I certainly can’t recall a Drake album dividing opinion as Scorpion has. I for one found it refreshing that at 90 minutes it was closer to a feature-length film. That said, in a 25-song album (22 of which we’d never heard before) there are bound to be some pretty average or even ‘Peak’ tracks. This double-sided album I see as trying to give fans what they wanted and, of course, people like Drake for different reasons. The album consists of side A rapping Drake and side B R&B/singing Drake, although the two are not completely mutually exclusive. Side A, draws parallels with If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late (my favourite Drake Album). Side B I’d say is like a weak Take Care, it was definitely the worse of the two sides for me although I like the songs ‘In My Feelings’, ‘Final Fantasy’ and ‘March 14’.
‘Survival’ serves as a strong intro, continuing the custom of Drake albums opening well. The infectious track ‘Nonstop’ is produced by one of the new faces on the album Tay Keith (who also worked on BlocBoy’s ‘Look Alive’ which features Drake) is also good. The first song on side A which I really like is the stunning ‘Emotionless’, coasting on top of an instantly recognizable Mariah Carey sample we get the first disclosure of Drake’s rumoured child with the lyrics “I wasn’t hidin’ my kid from the world, I was hidin’ the world from my kid.” This revelation was first mentioned by Pusha T in his savage diss track ‘The Story of Adidon’.
‘8/10’ is another sample-centric cut – which is as close as we get to a Pusha T response. Drizzy also takes further shots at Kanye West from the first bar to the last, yet this song is still an unmistakable bop. ‘Too rich for who? Y’all just got rich again, Who grips the mic and likes to kill they friends?’ I, like many, watched eagerly when the Pusha/Drake beef erupted; with it appearing like Pusha landed the fatal blow when Drake decided not to put out another track after Duppy Freestyle, apparently under the guidance of J.Prince. This album, however, seems at times like Drake is just trying to explain himself, something that prompts many to speculate a lot of it had to be rewritten in the final couple of weeks because of lines like ‘You are hiding a child/Let that boy come home/Deadbeat muthaf**cka playing border control/Adonis is your son and he deserves more than an Adidas press run’ from Pusha T.
‘Mob Ties’ which sounds like it should probably feature Migos has Drake spitting real fast but I’m personally not a fan, whack bars like “I’m not with the rah-rah/ I am a dada” don’t help. ‘Can’t Take a Joke’ is pretty good, yet ‘Sandra’s Rose’ is the next track I really enjoy – ‘Every title doin’ numbers like I’m miss Adele, Sandra knows I pulled us out of a living hell/ I’m the chosen one, flowers never picked themselves’. The DJ Premier collaboration on the beat, alongside some of Drake’s most virtuoso lyricism, makes this track pure comfort food.
When the tracklist was first released ‘Talk Up’ (feat. Jay-Z) was a song I was highly anticipating, for obvious reasons, sadly it was the biggest letdown. The only talking point coming from Hova’s line ‘Y’all killed X and let Zimmerman live Streets live/ Streets is done’. The two rap titans just didn’t really fit together on this beat for me, it also sticks out like a sore thumb on this album. ‘Is There More’ is the final track on side A and serves as a nice transition into side B. It is a more introspective song, what ‘Weston Road Flows’ was to Views; ‘Is There More’ is to Scorpion.
In my opinion, Side B lets the project down. ‘Peak’, ‘Summer Games’, ‘Finesse’ and ‘Blue Tint’ (which features an uncredited Future) aren’t my cup of tea, they aren’t even 3-AM in your feelings Drake. I’m not sure what the purposes of these particular tracks are and it just feels like unnecessary filler, which considering the length of the album, probably shouldn’t have made the cut. ‘Jaded’ is an interesting track with some suspecting it’s about Jorja Smith after the two collaborated on ‘More Life’ and it certainly makes for engaging listening from that perspective. It’s not all bad though, ‘In My Feelings’, which even if you haven’t heard the album you would have had to be under a rock to have missed, “Kiki, do you love me?”, is one of those super catchy songs which will get stuck in your head.
Then there’s ‘Don’t Matter to Me’ which isolates a Michael Jackson sample (from an unreleased vocal cleared by Jackson’s estate) over gentle synthesisers, emphasising the overlooked eeriness of his voice. When I saw the King of Pop featured I was intrigued as to what the outcome would be. I must admit, although it isn’t badly done, it feels self-indulgent from Drake; a clear-cut power move, rather than artistic posthumous collaboration. After all, who else would have had the funds to do that?
One thing Drake definitely delivers on is the awesome variation of samples he utilises and which many you will have instantly recognised. For example, a live version of Nicki Minaj’s ‘Boss Ass Bitch’ makes up the chorus on ‘That’s How You Feel’. Then there’s Lil Wayne’s 2008 classic ‘Lollipop’ mixed up on ‘In My Feelings’, whilst Lauryn Hill’s ‘Ex-Factor’ features on ‘Nice for What’. He also made use of some more niche samples – on ‘Final Fantasy’ we hear a clip from the American tabloid talk show ‘Maury’ in which a woman asks ‘who that baby look like? Draaakee’. This really cleverly leads into the final track ‘March 14’ which is all about Drake’s child. A Boys II Men interlude from 1994 closes out the final song and feels a fitting way to end this interesting album that had potential to be his best, yet at times feels monotonous, bloated and, although indisputably, the most successful album of the year so far leaves us wondering “Is There More?”