Not typical for Drake, his fifth studio LP was preceded by a hot, but quickly fizzling “beef” with G.O.O.D. Music’s Pusha T. Seemingly going against the grain, Scorpion (Cash Money/Republic Records) is an hour and a half double disc (are they called discs anymore in this streaming era?) at at time when many artists have been releasing short projects (The Carters, A Boogie Wit da Hoodie, Black Thought, Nas). “Volume 1” is primarily Drake getting his emcee on, while “Volume 2” leans more on his singing/crooning side. But double albums often leave a lot of room for mistakes. Unfortunately, Scorpion isn’t any different.
Drake rarely disappoints on his intros and “Survival” continues this tradition. Produced by 40 and No I.D. Drake touches on the latest confrontations without getting too in-depth: “I was ‘bout to … Man I thought about it / It’s unsettling to talk about it.” Even addressing his father’s suit selection, “Daddy got suits like Bernie Mac / He dresses himself.” “Survival” is a subtle beginning to Scorpion in true Drake fashion. “Nonstop” is catchy and “Elevate” is just your average Drizzy song, but “Emotionless” with its Mariah Carey sample is Drake at his best, introspective and honest. When Drake sounds like he’s having a conversation with his conscience on his records — that is when he truly shines.
“Volume 1” shows a lot of promise, with standout production from Boi-1da (“8 Out Of 10”) and DJ Premier (“Sandra’s Rose”). Lyrically Drake gives a little bit of everything with a few subliminal shots mixed in with braggadocio for those on the edge of their seats anticipating a Pusha/Kanye response. Still, some of the production sounds like it’s missing something. “Talk Up” featuring Jay-Z is a disappointing collaboration given their history. The DJ Paul produced song has both Drake and Jay-Z sounding uninterested and feels like it was a last-minute addition just for the sake of it. “I’m Upset” just sounds lazy.
Drake knows what his fans are used to from him and he doesn’t waver from it.
The first half of Scorpion is sprinkled with some high points, a couple throwaways and a few average-to-decent songs. But all in all, it feels a little bit safe. Drake knows what his fans are used to from him and he doesn’t waver from it.
“Peak” is the first track on “Volume 2” and sets the tone for the rest of the album. It seems to flow more fluidly and has less of a playlist sound compared to “Volume 1.” “In his feelings” Drake is the main theme here and is a partial answer to fans who have always wanted him to just do an entire R&B album. Some of the more sombre production fits better with his singing compared to the production on “Volume 1” that he rapped over. “Finesse” and “Jaded” are perfect examples of this, with the production backdrop allowing the listener to let the music and vocals lead them on a journey. “Don’t Matter To Me” features vocals from a 1983 Michael Jackson recording session and although the pairing of Drake and the late King of Pop may seem odd, 40, Nineteen85 and Drake do well to keep the essence of Michael Jackson alive and well.
By no means is “Volume 2” flawless — it partly has the same issue as “Volume 1” with Drake not really stepping too far out of his comfort zone — but there are fewer complaints to be found. Mind you, if you are someone that only subscribes to Drake the rapper, you may find yourself skipping more than a couple tracks. “Blue Tint” and “Nice For What” will keep the rap fans at bay, but sonically “After Dark,” “Final Fantasy” and “Ratchet Happy Birthday” are all highlights. It’s hard not to run them back with their undeniable production.
Just as he kicked things off strong with “Survival”, Drake closes out the album with “March 14”. On the vulnerable and brutally honest account of Drake coming to terms with fatherhood, he says: “I had to come to terms with the fact that it’s not a maybe / That shit is in stone, sealed and signed / She not my lover like Billie Jean, but the kid is mine.” Touching on how he came from a broken home and never wanted to go through the same thing with his own child, to talking directly to his son, Drake seems ready to step into the role of father, despite the tough road ahead as a co-parent.
Scorpion is ambitious, offering an hour and a half worth of music. If the filler and average songs were cut out, the album would rank higher to most listeners. Although nothing extraordinarily ground-breaking here, it’s far from his worst. Drake’s Scorpion has more than enough to keep his fans happy.