Canadian rapper Drake is undoubtedly one of the biggest names in music at the moment, setting all kinds of records with his singles thanks to the rapid uptake of streaming services. With his various albums and mixtapes, Drake has built a reputation for the technical aspects of his rapping, melodic choices, and his blending of the emotional with machismo in his lyrics. Considering his apparent Midas’ touch, it’s probably not that surprising to find that his latest effort, Scorpion, is spread over two-discs and sprawls out to nearly ninety-minutes.
Double albums are almost always audacious affairs, regardless of whether or not they are commercially or critically successful. When they work they are astounding pieces of art, proving that the hubris of their creation was justified. When they fail they are captivating trainwrecks, burning all the more spectacularly thanks to the ego that fuelled them. But Scorpion refuses to fit neatly into either of these categories. Dragging on and on interminably it clearly doesn’t succeed as an album. But it’s also too bland to have failed spectacularly, leaving the listener with no frisson of excitement in the face of its lack of success.
Despite a few decent beats, as on Nonstop, the first half of Scorpion’s first disc is an unengaging slog. 8 Out of 10 ups the energy at that disc’s halfway point, but good beats and samples (Mob Ties) and a guest appearance from Jay-Z (Talk Up) aren’t enough to lift the fortunes of the album’s first half, which makes Drake’s choice to compare himself Charlemagne and resurrected holy-men on Sandra’s Rose all the more cringe-worthy. Scorpion’s second disc at least raises its game musically, consistently serving up more interesting musical fare that reaches its peak with Ratchet Happy Birthday, yet the lyrics remain just as underwhelming as the first disc (come on, a reference to Princess Di is easily two-decades too late) and Drake’s Madonna-whore infused lyrics raise uncomfortable questions in today’s political climate.
Scorpion may receive praise from the dyed in the wool Drake fans, but those with a more critical bent are likely to walk away shaking their heads after sitting through the album, assuming they can make it all the way through in the first place.