Like a flustered complaint about the weather and the resulting sunburn, a Spring/Summer Drake release has become the established annual norm. 2018 is no different; after garnering huge success with singles “God’s Plan” and “Nice for What”, as well as a well-publicised feud with rapper Pusha T, his latest double-sided LP Scorpion has been released. Much like his last few releases, Scorpion feeLs bloated and unnecessarily long, and this sagging nature of the album drags down some of the impressive highlights. Perhaps worst of all, this hints at an air of laziness and complacency that often comes with huge pop stardom, a sphere Drake now firmly inhabits.
Whilst Drake was rising through the hip-hop ranks, he worked tirelessly to shake off an air of privilege, due to somewhat middle-class origins, as well as balancing this with his characteristic vulnerable side. This combination was a winning formula; Drake was adept at appealing to more serious hip-hop fans as well as pop-focused ones. Unfortunately, the first half of Scorpion, arguably the weaker of the two, seems to pass a listener by without many of these standout moments earlier Drake fans have become used to. It is King-of-the-Hill Drake at his most ordinary, with the usual rapping about others trying to topple him from the throne. Noah ‘40’ Shebib’s production is as impressive and immersive as ever, but the flows from Drake seem recycled and, God forbid, a bit boring. Album-opener “Survival” marks the usual start to a Drake album, with him giving listeners the current state of play. It’s a classy, enjoyable listen but nothing Drake hasn’t done before. This is the exact issue with the entire album but particularly Side A.
Scorpion fees bloated and unnecessarily long, and this sagging nature of the album drags down some of the impressive highlights
In fairness to Drake, Side B does a fair job of picking up the slack left by the first half. It is more reflective and emotional in its tone, which is where Drake excels the most. “Peak” and “Summer Games”, the first two tracks, have more 808-style synths and drum machines which, when paired with Drake’s moody crooning, make for a satisfying pairing. However, Side B does also sag in the middle, an alarming trait of recent Drake records, but is revived by a strong ending. “That’s How You Feel” and “In My Feelings” are highlights of the entire project, with catchy hooks and smooth grooves underneath. The last few songs on the project will grab a fair share of headlines; Drake does acknowledge the existence of his son after Pusha T called him out for steering clear of the news, and posthumous features with Michael Jackson and Static Major are well-executed and respectful in their tone.
As a Drake fan, it is disheartening to report that listening to this album was a major slog, which has been the problem of many of Drake’s recent records. While he may enjoy pumping out huge volumes of tracks, and enjoy the streaming revenues from them, this unnecessary quantity means that high points are lost among swathes of lazy mediocrity. Scorpion suffers in this regard more than any of his previous works, especially in comparison to recent 7-track, focused releases from Pusha T and Kanye West. I’m struggling to figure out why Drake insists on this excessive quantity, since it would make the album a much more concise and enjoyable listen if it was cut to even 13 tracks. Whether it’s the aforementioned streaming revenue, or a desire to spread coverage of himself as far wide as possible, it’s a sting in the tail from what could’ve been a great project.