I HATE WHEN DRAKE RAPS
DRAKE SINGS TOO MUCH
DRAKE IS A POP ARTIST
DRAKE DOESN’T EVEN WRITE HIS OWN SONGS
DRAKE TOOK AN L
DRAKE DIDN’T EVEN START FROM THE BOTTOM
DRAKE IS FINISHED
I LIKE DRAKE’S OLDER STUFF
DRAKE MAKES MUSIC FOR GIRLS
DRAKE THINKS HE’S JAMAICAN
DRAKE IS AN ACTOR
ANYBODY ELSE > DRAKE…
In Apple Music, this all-caps note sits at the top of the Scorpion track list. Before you hit play on Drake’s 25-song, 2-sided monster of a new album, these declarations from Drake’s detractors are the first thing you see. Scorpion is not exactly a response to Pusha T’s scathing diss track "The Story of Adidon" but it does feel like a general response to everything bad anyone has ever said about Drake. It’s his version of the end of Taylor Swift’s embarrassingly bad "Look What You Made Me Do" music video, where she’s confronting all the Taylors the media and/or her haters created. To me, that just proved that Taylor Swift is obsessed with her own press and how the world perceives her.
Drake’s Scorpion is not embarrassing but it similarly reveals that Drake is obsessed with his image and how the world perceives him. Throughout his career, Drake has revealed himself as a Good Guy, an emotional, romantic man unlike stereotypical rappers of the past. The reason why Pusha T’s "The Story of Adidon" was so devastating is because it came for that image. It dismantled the idea of Drake as a stand-up man who loves with his whole heart – the guy you want to bring home to meet your parents and most importantly, the guy who would make a great parent himself.
If, like Pusha suggested, Drake is a deadbeat Dad who wanted to use his son to sell sneakers, that is antithetical to the brand Drake has built. If one of Drake’s biggest criticisms was that he “makes music for girls” (like this is a bad thing, f-ck the patriarchy), Pusha’s "The Story of Adidon" put Drake at risk of losing that female fan base. Who wants to listen to "Nice For What" knowing the dude singing it doesn’t even respect the mother of his child?
When I wrote about “The Story of Addidon,” I decided that Drake’s only play could be to put out an album of chart-topping hits and forget about hitting back at Pusha in the same way. Drake might put this take under his ‘haters gonna hate’ manifesto but he did take an L. A big L. And still, Drake released Scorpion after coming off a high. Drake showed his work and masterfully changed the conversation with the nostalgic video for "I’m Upset". It was brilliant and exactly what he needed to do.
Now, on Scorpion, Drake has done enough to appease his fans and change the narrative again but I don’t think we can count this as big of a Win as the "I’m Upset" video. He needed to, as Lainey put it, lean into the “emo-confessional with a pinch of sheepishness” that we all know is Drake’s strength. For his credibility as an MC, Drake also needed to drop the best album of his career.
He did one of these two things. Lainey is handling Drake’s son and what he says about him on Scorpion but I’ll just say this: Drake did the bare minimum but it will be received like he did a lot more. Drake confirmed he does have a son which is addressed throughout the album and he says some pseudo sweet things about what he wants for his son’s future. All of that is supposed to make us forget that Drake was about to announce he had a son in an Adidas commercial and has barely been there so far in his kid’s life.
The only deadbeats are the beats I been rapping to
OK Aubrey, let’s talk about these beats. That line is from "8 out of 10", one of the strongest tracks on the album and one of four really good songs on Scorpion’s A-Side. Scorpion is not Drake’s best work mainly because it needs some serious editing. It’s like he’s so self-conscious of what’s been said about him, he’s trying to explain his way out. Exhaustively. This album could have easily been 10 to 12 tracks. Keep "Emotionless" (I LOVE this Mariah sample), "8 out of 10" and previous released singles "God’s Plan" and "I’m Upset". Scrap the rest. Keep most of the B-Side. Drake was working through some sh-t on this album and that’s clear. It’s not a bad thing that some of the songs are slow and introspective. But you can do slow and introspective without making an HOUR AND 30 MINUTE album.
As luck would have it, I’ve settled into my role as the good guy
I guess luck is on your side
As much as Drake has been tagged with the label of the Good Guy, he’s also known for his petty. The petty comes out on "Talk Up" featuring Jay-Z. Jay’s presence on the song can be interpreted as drawing a clear line in the sand. Jay is on Team Drake, which may be surprising given their tumultuous history. By all accounts, Kanye West and Pusha T are on the other side. Jay and Kanye’s relationship is complicated but while Jay may be done with Kanye like the rest of us, he’s always spoken to how much he thinks of Kanye as his little brother. Jay has also worked with Pusha in the past and as far as I know, they’ve always been cool. Jay must know how this looks though and he doesn’t care. Drake knows exactly how this looks and I think he cares very much. Drake and Kanye were supposedly working on an album together. Drake used to tell funny anecdotes about how Kanye would show up at his house unannounced. They were friends. Then, Kanye produced Pusha’s album and Drake was so mad at that allegiance, his reportedly scrapped response to "The Story of Adidon" would have destroyed Kanye’s family. He had nothing on Pusha so he was going to come for Kanye. Drake seems like a great friend. I’ll come back to that.
Here’s what Drake says on the album about why he didn’t release his response to Pusha T:
I’ve seen this movie a hundred times, I know where it’s headed
Realize someone gotta die when no one will dead it
N---as gambling with their life for some content
That’s the type of lottery that could get your top picked
So, Drake thinks that his response would have been so savage, it would have resulted in violence. Unfortunately, we know that this has been a reality for past rap beefs. I don’t want to make light of that. But I’m also having a hard time believing that Drake is sitting on a diss track so heinous, his life would be on the line. Drake must think very little of his former friend Kanye West if he really believes that would be the outcome. Drake is now trying to position himself as the bigger man who saved everyone’s lives. He’s the hero. Sure.
Is Drake a good guy? It’s the question I kept coming back to on this album, especially when it came to the lyrics about love and heartbreak. "Sandra’s Rose" is allegedly about Bella Hadid. It’s not hard to come to that conclusion since Drake isn’t subtle:
My house is full of supermodels just like Mohammed Hadid
Wait, there’s more:
I want my baby to have your eyes, I’m going against my own advice
Should I do New York? I can’t decide
Fashion week is more your thing than mine
You stay on my mind
You and your sister too hot to handle
It was so nice of Drake not to leave Gigi out of his love song to her sister. As you know, Bella Hadid has been on and off again with The Weeknd for years. Aubrey and Abel used to be close. The Weeknd kicked off his career doing features on Drake songs. The question about whether Drake is a good guy is still up for debate but I really don’t think Drake is a good friend. Remember when he slept with his mentor Lil Wayne’s girlfriend while he was in prison? Drake is that dude. He will literally steal your girl.
A recurring theme on Scorpion is Drake’s paranoia. On "Jaded", he doesn’t trust an ex who is just in it for the fame. On "Is There More", there’s a ‘me against the world’ mentality. Drake is working through who he can trust on Scorpion but maybe it’s Drake who can’t be trusted?
I’m going to need to listen to Scorpion about 10 more times before I can officially say where it stands in Drake’s catalogue but after a couple listens, my takeaway is that it’s enough. There’s enough good music here to put him at #1, a place he knows so well, and there are enough revelations and gossip (and a MICHAEL JACKSON feature) to shift the narrative slightly away from Pusha T’s lyrical blows – even though most of these revelations are Pusha’s doing in the first place. The expectations for this album were HIGH. ‘Good enough’ from a questionable Good Guy was not the expectation. Did Drake do enough to silence any of the critiques he called out in his opening note?