Yeah Yeah We Know
Yeah Yeah We Know
Yeah Yeah We Know
“Magnum opus” is a noun defined as “a large and important work of art, music, or literature, especially one regarded as the most important work of an artist or writer.” For awhile, people discussed either Take Care or Nothing Was The Same as Drake’s magnum opi, or “should-be” magnum opi. I personally was part of the Take Care camp, as it felt like his most complete and vulnerable project. It perfectly blended and displayed his Rap and R&B abilities over a lengthy project where very few tracks could be called “throwaways” or “fillers,” as people love saying nowadays. However, Scorpion dropped around midnight on Thursday, June 28th as we transitioned to Friday, and really gave me something to think about.
There was a lot riding on this fifth studio album from the 31-year-old Toronto artist. You felt it in the different way he approached it. The Pusha T beef, the fast-rising critiques after "Infrared" and “The Story of Adidon,” the June releases by Kanye West, Kid CuDi, Nas, King Push, JAY-Z and Beyonce. Everyone was waiting on answers and his redemption when it came to this Scorpion release. The double-disc format brought even more critique his way, as people haven’t exactly loved the length of his recent albums -- they’ve been seen as plans to manipulate streaming, or just simply ill-advised artistry that will hinder him from ever getting the credit of producing a “true classic album” (whatever that means today).
He released the tracklist Thursday afternoon, and fans were excited as we saw the four artists he tapped to join him. Upon first listen, I was blown away. I know it was partly the excitement of finally getting the album after waiting for months and expecting something groundbreaking. However, once A Side (Rap Side) finished, I was sold that this was some of his most complete work, in terms of lyrics, content and production. He did all the rapping on his own, with the exception of the DJ Paul-produced banger “Talk Up” featuring JAY-Z. It was nice to see them work together after the odd beef the two have had over the last few years. It’s never gotten far, but they have thrown shots at one another for quite some time. Noah “40” Shebib, No ID, Boi-1da, and various others really put together some of the best beats Drake has ever flowed over.
The intro, “Survival,” started out like usual -- Drake opening up talking about himself and his status in rap.
“The crown is broken in pieces but there’s more in my possession / There’s a whole lot in my possession / Who do you really love? Well that’s sure to be in question / My Mount Rushmore is me with 4 different expressions / Who’s giving out this much return on investment? / After my run, man, how is that even a question?”
He addresses the haters and naysayers in what was truly a standard Drake intro -- just no hook. But “Nonstop” picks the energy up very quickly, and then we jump to “Emotionless.” Drake talks about those we know who use social media to boost their egos and make their lives look a certain way, but then we also get some intel on the alleged love child Adonis. “I wasn’t hiding my kid from the world, I was hiding the world from my kid / From empty souls who just wake up and look to debate / Until you staring at your seed you could never relate [...] You know a wise man once said nothing at all.” There’s definitely an annoyed and almost-defeated tone to his lyrics, and rightfully so, as Drake’s ascension to the top of the rap game has seemingly lead to more hate and allegations being thrown his way. Why add a kid with a stripper to the mix? But, it still does come off as if he felt there was something to hide. Pusha T exposing this was the first piece of information to significantly hurt Drake’s reputation, and I’m surprised the intro track wasn’t laced with responses to all that was said about him, rather than four tracks in. Then again, he did say in “Survival” that “This the intro, let me not get ahead of myself,” so perhaps it was all part of the plan.
“God’s Plan” and “I’m Upset” actually fit very well in the arrangement of A Side, especially now with rumors of Adonis’ middle name being “Mahbed” and the popular line from “ God’s Plan” stating “I only love my bed (Mahbed) and my momma, I’m sorry” gaining a bit more clarity. It’s all speculation, but if it is actually true, then following up the first song he references Adonis in (“Emotionless”) with this was very calculated. The two smash singles even sounded better to me in the middle of this 12 track first disc, as opposed to when I’ve listened individually. “Mob Ties” is another banger with hit potential, and I’d say it takes the throne for the “f*ck you” track that Drake always has at least one of in his albums. He employs the half sing/half rap over arguably the hardest track on the album in terms of aggression, which nods to his versatility and ability to create catchy anthems. (I won’t forgive him for the “I ain’t with the rah rah, I am a dada” line though.)
The aforementioned “Talk Up” precedes A Side’s ending track, and it shows Drake’s ability to match the cool and calculated flow of Hov. I talked about how “Diplomatic Immunity” back in January felt like Drake’s entrance into the “Rap OG” camp, and “Talk Up” certainly furthered that. “He’s at the top, then he’s at the top, but nobody’s staying,” Drake raps before Hov comes in and does what he does best: talk that real talk. He spits nothing but facts about his career, his come up, and the current state of the country. “I got your president Tweetin’, I won’t even meet with him / Y’all killed X, let Zimmerman live, streets is done.” For context - JAY-Z had a popular interview with CNN’s Van Jones, which Trump responded to and Hov seems to be referencing here. Along with, of course, the recent news of controversial up-and-coming rap sensation XXXTentacion, who shot and killed in his home state of Florida.
The laid-back, lyrical approach these two take to this song provide yet another great installment in their collections of collaborations -- including “Light Up” and “Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2.” The beat knocks, but the words hit harder. And then we have “Is There More” -- which definitely has the Drake closing-track feel to it, despite there being another disc in store. He reflects on making it through all the drama and hate. It’s interesting to juxtapose the opening track being called “Survival,” and then the closer being “Is There More.” He knows he’s survived a lot that would have otherwise ruined other artists’ careers, but here he is, questioning what else life -- and music -- has to offer him.
This brings us to B Side -- the R&B Side of the album, which listeners quickly called the “better” disc. The opener, “Peak,” felt very much like it was missing PARTYNEXTDOOR, dvsn, or really anyone else on OVO. It wasn’t his strongest opener, but in comparison to his previous openers, which have been rap heavy, it could be I was just underwhelmed. I absolutely loved “Summer Games” off first listen. It had an upbeat, electric feel to it, almost like dvsn’s title track “Morning After” from October. It started off slow and kind of lulled you in before really picking up. No ID and 40 collaborated to really produce something beautiful there. “Jaded” stood out as the crooner we all expected. It was “Jungle,” “Fire & Desire,” and “Marvin’s Room” all in one. Not saying it’s his best R&B track ever, but it’s definitely up there, especially with background vocals from Ty Dolla $ign (who has been having an amazing 2018 feature-wise).
“Nice For What” was placed very well here, because I don’t think we could’ve handled “Finesse” right after “Jaded.” “Finesse” took “Jaded” a step further, with background vocals from the hypnotic James Fauntleroy. “Ratchet Happy Birthday” had a lot of people excited for a “Nice For What” type track, where booties could be thrown along with other ratchet activity happening. It didn’t exactly deliver on that, but it’s another type of track where he’s uplifting women to live their best lives and enjoy themselves while ignoring the pettiness. “Blue Tint” was a fun surprise, as Future dropped by to handle the chorus and gave it a heavy rap feel on the R&B Side of this double disc.
And then, we have the stretch from “In My Feelings” all the way to album closer “March 14th.” Drake brings the up and coming City Girls along for the party, and creates one of the clear standouts from the entire double disc with “In My Feelings.” It’s got the New Orleans bounce feel to it, though we all expected that to be the saddest song on the album based on the name alone. “Don’t Matter To Me” was the joining of living legend Drake and a legend we lost back in 2009, the King of Pop Michael Jackson. Nineteen85 and 40 handled the production on this tantalizing track. Maybe Mike Jack was really talking to Drake in his dreams, as he famously said on 2 Chainz’ 2016 hit “Big Amount,” because Drake made a call to Heaven and got MJ to drop some of his beloved vocals on this chorus. They complemented each other so well here, and created another standout from the double disc.
I’ll just stop using the term “standout” at this point, because “After Dark” was yet another one. Drake and Ty Dolla $ign’s chemistry, along with the late Static Major and background vocals by Al Wood over a Maxwell sample -- wow. Ty Dolla really shined here and kind of ran away with the track in his verse. This is a smooth, late-night-radio jam, which was confirmed with the sample of actual Buffalo radio station 93.7WBLK at the end. “Final Fantasy” was just...really good. The flow switch was a seamless transition as he spits about his sexual fantasies with a girl, before singing about how he was the one chosen for her out of all of her options.
And then, “March 14th.” The true closer. This had a “Do Not Disturb” feel to it, the closer from 2017’s More Life, only instead of talking to fans he’s talking to his son Adonis about when he heard the news about him, his reaction, his relationship with his mother, and his intentions on how he wants to raise him. It’s Drake at his most vulnerable, but it’s also a Drake that people forced him to be. The fact a grown man had to address his personal life to a bunch of strangers is ridiculous, whether he’s a celebrity or not. However, he handled it with grace and maintained his reputation by making it clear he does care for the child and will be involved in his life.
There were so many gems from this album, but this article is already super long. I listened to Scorpion once and was immediately sold that this was Drake’s best album. So I listened again and again, and my opinion remained unchanged. I even went a day without listening, came back to it, and felt the same. Some people may not like the length, and I respect that. To me, Drake isn’t the type of guy to drop off multiple 8-12 song projects a year and a ton of singles. He’s made his career off of composing full bodies of work, with a flavor for everyone. I think this album saw him return to form of rap Drizzy and R&B Drake. If we are allowing two magnum opi -- then it’s 2011’s Take Care and 2018’s Scorpion. Similarly, there was a chip on his shoulder when both released. The difference is he was still rising to the top in 2011, but now in 2018 he stands there firmly, while others try to drag him down.
I know my predictions and dream features were all wrong, although PND and Daniel Daley did have some backup vocals. I accept my L gracefully, as we still got a fire album. The fewer features really let Drake show what he could do and that this was a well thought out project. He could’ve really put anyone on this. But, he instead showed love to everyone who inspired him on his Instagram story, further proving Drake loves to put artists on, and is not the “wave rider” or “culture vulture” everyone calls him. He could’ve done songs with them, but rather promoted their music.
I may need more time to sit with this and confirm my opinion, but first impressions are everything. Instinct and intuition tell a better story than sometimes we can ever sit down, think about, and write out. It could’ve been Views, but Drake was too angry and paranoid. It could’ve been More Life, but Drake was all over the place. Scorpion is Drake reminding us of what he has been doing all of his career and can do at the drop of a hat. And for all the doubters, the trolls, and people using the same jokes from 2015 refer to the editor's notes….#YeahYeahWeKnow.