Count this writer among the people who’ve often looked for a reason to doubt Drake and his accomplishments.
On the Friday release of his latest album, Scorpion, billed as (only) his fifth proper album (some of the others were considered mixtapes, playlists, curations, etc.), the urge to be a doubter – not a hater, a doubter…there’s a difference – returned once more.
For me, it hasn’t been the urge to “put a knife in his ribs,” as the OVO rapper might put it, just a desire to put those ribs in check, by pointing out all the asterisks that should go with his many accomplishments on the charts and with his music in general.
But just as Drake has done with his many haters and his beefs with other rappers over the years, Scorpion shows, once more, that the Canadian rapper will always wind up on top, and that maybe I should change my approach to covering Drake.
Whether he’s squashing a beef with another rapper (Pusha-T on this album’s “8 out of 10”), addressing rumors of ghost writers and illegitimate children (he acknowledges the latter on a couple of Scorpion tracks, including “March 14,” presumably the date he got the DNA-test results confirming his parenthood), Drake has a Trumpian knack for turning his dramas into triumphs.
Whether it’s the goofy cornball Drake who throws out coherent one-liners with the ease that today’s youth brigade mumble-raps (Drake should be commended for his articulation btw), trap-rap-wannabe Drake, or the takes-himself-too-seriously Drake, he has elevated himself to something of an enigma – one we cannot stop analyzing, dissecting, criticizing and – most importantly to him – consuming.
When we complain that he is omnipresent and that we’re sick of him, instead of following the current trend of artists like Kanye West, The Carters – Bey and Jay, and Nas by releasing an album with tracks numbering in the single digits, Drake throws himself in our face and releases a “double-sided” album with 25(!) tracks.
(Truthfully, Drake did all the above artists a solid by not releasing his album earlier in June.)
When his haters complain that he sing-raps – or just flat-out sings – too much, not only does Drake tongue-in-cheek address the issue on his Apple Music editor’s note that is tagged to the album, but he devotes a whole side of Scorpion to just that – singing.
And just like that, Scorpion becomes a Side-A Drake vs. Side-B Drake.
It’s singing Drake vs. rapping Drake.
Anymore, it’s not whether or how many of his songs will chart, but which Drake single will début the highest on next week’s charts when all the numbers are tallied (my bets are on “Nonstop” or the MJ-sampled “Don’t Matter To Me” – though neither is the album’s best track).
It’s now asking, when Drake’s songs début on next week’s Hot 100, will he eclipse his own record of having 24 simultaneously charting songs on one chart? (hint: there’s a reason Scorpion has 25 tracks…)
And it’s no longer which artist will Drake topple from the ranks of the most charted artists in Hot 100 history, it’s how far will he extend his own record? (the only act ahead of him is the Glee Club Cast, and that group is heavily footnoted based on weekly releases of multiple songs tied to new episodes of the TV show at its peak in the 2000s)
When Drake went five months without having a song on the charts (August 2017 – January 2018), his absence made news (after more than eight straight years of continuous presence on the Hot 100 – that’s a record, btw). Folks blamed the absence on More Life being whack and lacking any staying power (folks, it simply wasn’t being promoted to mine a lot of singles).
When people joked that Drake might never hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 as a lead artist after his only stints at the top had been as a featured artist on two Rihanna singles (“What’s My Name” and “Work”), especially after his previous best bet “Hotline Bling” was usurped by Adele in 2015, he turns around and releases the three biggest singles of his career in “One Dance,” “God’s Plan” and “Nice For What.” All three reached the top and spent a combined total of 28 weeks at No. 1, catapulting Drake to second-place among all men for most weeks at No. 1 in Hot 100 history (one ahead of Michael Jackson and nine behind Usher).
Oh, and speaking of Jackson, who else could’ve pulled music’s greatest coup of the decade and get a previously unheard, 1983-era MJ sample – as Drake has done on Scorpion Side-B track, “Don’t Matter To Me” – from what is likely the most protected vault of unreleased tracks in existence. It’s also not lost on this writer that Drake’s first single, “Best I Ever Had,” first topped Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart the week that the King of Pop died (June 25, 2009). That‘s about as symbolic a passing of the torch as you’ll see, given Drake’s achievements since.
Now, I’m not a complete Drake convert, not by any means. I still think most of his accomplishments are the result of several millennial chart factors that simply didn’t exist when people like MJ were charting. Chart rules today allow every track on an album to chart whether or not the track is commercially released or marketed to radio as a single. Streaming makes it likely that all of those songs – or a majority of them – will chart.
But even that’s not a guarantee (just ask the Carters – Bey and Jay – after Everything Is Love flopped last week).
But there’s no hate, it’s all love. Jay-Z even contributed to Scorpion on “Talk Up,” a collabo that could hardly be any fresher (in it, Jay references the murder of XXXTentacion that took place only 11 days before the album’s release, and clearly after his own album with wifey had already dropped).
Oh, and speaking of Jay-Z, he’s the only rapper ahead of Drake with 14 Number One albums under his belt. Drake will have nine when Scorpion debuts at No. 1 next week. Jay-Z started releasing albums in 1996, Drake in 2009. Hova is 48, Drizzy is 31.
Doing the math, in 2035 when Drake is Jay-Z’s current age, Jay will be 65. Presuming Drake is still recording then, think Jay’s record won’t be toppled?
Uh yeah, I did say 2035(!). Let that set in for a moment. Maybe by then we will have long since decided to give Drake’s accomplishments some validity.
And we now know that Drizzy likes math – as he spits on Scorpion’s Side-A final track, “Is There More”: “my peers are a talented group, but even if you take all they statistics and carried a two, even if you rounded up the numbers and rounded the troops, there’s still nothing they could really do.”
That’s because there’s really only one person Drake is competing with today…