It is clear that Drake has been the most popular and commercially successful rap artist over much of the last decade, and he has broken multiple streaming records in the past couple of years to further cement his place in this new era of streams and digital sales. Drake has done so by using each album since Nothing was the Same to market a signature cultural sound to various distinct demographics of people to whom it would resonate with most (i.e. U.K., Caribbean, Southern/Trap, etc.). As a result, Drake’s popularity has reached an incredibly vast number of diverse individuals, some of which are not even casual rap fans. However, the popularity and commercial success of these projects has not been equivalent or correlated to the quality of these recent projects.

Critically, Drake’s last few albums have garnered less and less acclaim, and it would seem to the more aware fans of his catalogue that while he is growing increasingly as an entity, his music is suffering in the process. While artists such as Kendrick Lamar and J Cole are offering projects of more meaning and substance and seeing the fruits of that labor (Pulitzer Prize for Kendrick and multiple Grammys & J Cole rebranding himself and revitalizing his music with a more grass-roots sound and creating debatably classic albums such as 2014 Forrest Hills Drive), Drake has acknowledged he is perfectly fine sitting back and letting the sheer stats of album streams and popularity tell the story for him and his supporters. Let the record show that this is not an all-out assault on Drake as an artist, but merely a more critical glare into an objective lens as we look over this most recent album Scorpion.

 

SIDE A: Rapper Drake

 

 Album Rating: 5.5/10

Track List &

Song by Song Grading Scale

1 (weak), 2 (decent/good), 3 (great)

 

1.      Survival - 2

2.     Nonstop - 1

3.     Elevate - 2

4.     Emotionless - 3

5.     God’s Plan - 2

6.     Upset - 1

7.     8 out of 10 - 3

8.     Mob Ties - 1

9.     Can’t Take a Joke - 1

10.   Sandra’s Rose - 3

11.    Talk Up - 2

12.   Is there More? - 2          

 

          This side of the album is Drake’s more aggressive effort of the double album and is where he attempts to clarify a lot of the rumors and rumblings that have been making their way to the public recently. Throughout this side, on songs like Survival for example, Drake attempts to offer a synopsis of the current landscape of the power struggle for dominance in the game as well as his place in it all. He quotes that “the crown is broken in pieces, but there is more in my possession” eluding to the fact that while he does have successful and great contemporaries, he is still in first place although they may no longer be a clear-cut king of rap. He boastfully states his Mount Rushmore is him with “four different expressions” showing the dichotomy in what he respects as popular opinion with the broken crown reference, and what he truly believes is fact with the Mount Rushmore line. These two separate references are very important in how the album is received and critiqued by those looking to assess his musical career at this point, the quality of the music, and whether not or not it validates his sentiments.

            While Survival did attempt to provide a glimpse of what the album could intel, its not nearly as dense or as long as some of his better intros (i.e. Tuscan Leather) and it leaves you with a feeling of unfulfillment and sets the tone for an album that possibly may not be poised to silence his doubters and offer an undeniably good project in what would seem like the prime of his career. This side of the double album has songs that are good (Talk Up, Elevate, Survival) and even a couple great ones (Sandra’s Rose, Emotionless, 8 out of 10), but as a whole project these songs include some cringy double standards, contradictions, and one-liners that almost make you wonder who was he hiring for help on Mob Ties and what purpose did they serve, because it couldn’t have been a serviceable writing team. The songs that were throwaways at best such as Nonstop, Mob Ties, Upset, and even Can’t Take a Joke (though better than the other 3) bring this album back from the clouds and to a point where you must be real with yourself and really ask “Is this album good, or is it just Drake that we love and are making excuses for?”

          This side is not without its shining moments and songs where you wish that Drake could maintain that pace and potentially put together a classic body of work and realistically be the rapper and hip-hop artist that many fans praise him of being. He does make efforts to clear up the Kanye/Pusha T debacle, but ultimately it falls flat because of songs like Mob Ties in which you have to question his integrity lyrically and 8 out of 10 while still a great song, you watch him completely sidestep Pusha T to again attack Kanye West after the backlash and social media response to “The Story of Adidon” from Pusha that led to J Prince having to step in to squash the beef himself. The lack of creativity is also another area of this album that hurts Drake as it has for a few of his recent projects. While he as a “signature” style that him, his team and others have cultivated, it seems Drake is fixated on attaching himself to whatever is catchy or trendy at the time he is creating his albums and running with them. The more trap-centric beats such as Nonstop, Can’t Take a Joke, and Mob Ties are very lukewarm if not freezing cold in execution because after the run in with Push, it is quite hard to believe or stand behind the braggadocio the he exudes on these songs proclaiming to be ready for any rapper if presented with conflict, the threats that he makes, or his own declarations of his standing within hip-hop. This all comes to a head on the final song of Side A Is There More, when he seemingly acknowledges all the material items and ideals of his success are what he is doing this for. He asks is there more and questions if he should be looking to correct some of his internal issues and maybe becoming a better person, only to place that below the money, commercial success, females, and fancy trips that he can take as a beautiful substitution for his inner peace and artistic integrity. Some of these things wouldn’t be an issue if Drake wasn’t an elite artist within hip-hop or constantly proclaiming to be the number 1 rapper in this era and demanding the respect of his peers and fan alike.

 

 

SIDE B: Singer Drake

 Album Rating: 5.75/10

Track List &

Song by Song Grading Scale

1 (weak), 2 (decent/good), 3 (great)

 

1.       Peak – 1

2.       Summer Games – 1

3.       Jaded – 3

4.       Nice for What – 2

5.       Finesse – 2

6.       Ratchet Happy Birthday – 1

7.       That’s How You Feel – 1.5

8.       Blue Tint – 2

9.       In My Feelings – 1.5

10.   Don’t Matter to Me – 1.5

11.   After Dark – 3

12.   Final Fantasy – 1.5

13.   March 14th – 2

 

This part will be brief….

        This R&B side of the album has less highs and less lows and finds itself in a rather bland in-between space without much to really discuss or praise sonically or lyrically outside of a few songs. Songs like Jaded and After Dark are songs that show Drake has the potential to actually make a dual album and have great complete bodies of work, if the proper time and effort was put forth to ensure the quality was up to par. However, there are songs such as Peak, Summer Games, and Ratchet Happy Birthday that much like the above listed songs on SIDE A have no place on this album and should have never left the OVO flash drive to be made available to the world for an artist of this stature. Some of the other songs serve as decent background music (Final Fantasy, Finesse) or could be played in the clubs (Nice for What, In My Feelings, Blue Tint). In totality, there a very few select songs on this album that are beyond good or even surface level mood music that ultimately come together to deliver another lackluster effort on an overall mediocre double album from OVO’s lead artist and one of the most popular music artists in the world currently.

*** Side-note: The song March 14 has no power or resonance after the Pusha T response, because now it seems like damage control... even if it was already created, it is not nearly deep or powerful enough to make me think or feel other than that the song is just "ok", especially after all that has taken place with this subject. 

        Drake is a great artist, and when he is in element, knows how to make songs that can ignite a generation of people and dig deep enough to touch a bunch of different emotions. This, however, is not Drake at his best, or even 70% of it. It is time to accept the fact, that even Drake himself has eluded to—if the checks are clearing, and he is the most talked about and streamed artist of the genre, he is just fine with giving these types of efforts to his fans while clinging to the singles to overshadow the true quality of the projects themselves.   

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