The biggest summer sequel didn’t involve Thanos, heists, or dinosaurs. We never even got to see a trailer, or a teaser trailer, or a commercial for the teaser trailer. The previously scheduled program was a film we’re familiar with, and one that’s always welcome—the Drake album rollout. Champagne kicked the year off on an especially fun “Y’all Had Me Fucked Up” tour of reminding everyone how effortless he can make this shit seem when he tries. He put out two dynamic singles, a slew of electric guest verses, and a music video dedicated to women, featuring your favorite women, and directed by a woman—one who shaped his fledgling (but sometimes dicey) taste in visuals into an actual aesthetic. The announcement of a new album to start the summer off was made to seem inevitable in the most well-orchestrated way.
Then, well, Pusha-T happened. Suddenly Drake’s feel-good blockbuster became a Michael Bay-style broad-day shootout. And the man who three years ago boasted about going “back to back like the cover of Lethal Weapon” found himself starring in a beef sequel—a follow-up to the 2015 drama co-starring Meek Mill. And like the best sequels, it was bigger, louder, and more explosive. Three years ago, it was a landslide victory. This time, it was war. Until it wasn’t.
“8 out of 10” would be a very good Drake song...if its very existence wasn’t one of the biggest cop-outs in rap history—responding doesn’t matter because, well, he’s still Drake, and you’ll still be listening. As a concept, it is, as even the biggest Drizzy hater would begrudgingly admit, genius. It speaks to how, and why, Drake, inevitably and surprisingly, won the summer: “We both know end of the day/Your niggas is pressin' play, your nanny is pressin' play/Your wifey.” There’s never been a concession speech as sneering as this. “Sure, you won. So what?”
"8 out of 10" would be a very good drake song...if its very existence wasn't one of the biggest cop-outs in rap history.
Drake letting himself get played by Kanye’s camp was a trusting L of Robb Stark Red Wedding proportions. That said, I haven’t seen such a blatant thumbing of the rules, a dismissal of the way things are supposed to work, since Ned Stark tried to check Cersei with a royal decree and she simply tore it up. Pusha-T, unlike Ned Stark, still has not only his head, but a highly favored bid for Album of the Year, a new marriage, and a Ferrari. I’d place DAYTONA at No. 2, right behind The GOAT and Mrs. GOAT’s joint album Everything Is Love, which defied uncertain expectations to give us nine fire treatises on black love and black excellence, with JAY-Z flowing better than some expected him to and Beyoncé rapping as well as she does everything else. But, aside from delivering the video of the year, EIL reads as a product to support their tour rather than an essential entry in either artist’s discography. The Carters are enjoying a lit, working summer vacation, lampin on yachts while Blue soaks up more culture than some of us will ever experience and they rake in a nine-figure haul. They’re winning at life, sure. But the summer? That belongs to the Canadian.
Across Scorpion, several songs contain snide concessions, halfhearted explanations, and expressions of wounded betrayal. Through it all, though, the unifying theme is that Drake is too big, both as a man and a brand, to stoop to his opponents’ level. (That, or maybe his $100K solicitation for equally salacious dirt just came up empty.)
That tone was set before the album even dropped, after days of radio silence, while bloodthirsty fans awaited a response to Pusha’s devastating diss. Remember, this is a song that smirked at his friend’s illness, poked at his parents’ failed marriage, and shamed Drake for the way he quietly became a father. Instead of responding, Drake opted to drop a music video for the Entertainment Weekly crowd that reunited him with his Degrassi castmates.
And from there, The Boy went full-on Don Draper, shocking us all by how he moved as if nothing happened. Astronomical album numbers were already written in stone, with the huge streaming figures of “Nice for What,” and “God’s Plan” counting toward project sales. As for “In My Feelings,” it’s easy to say the song owes everything to Shiggy, but when you throw 20-odd darts at the wall from a perch already at the top of the charts, one is bound to stick. The conversation turned from blackface and babies to how everyone was doing the Shiggy challenge: your niggas, your nanny, Kevin Hart, Will Smith, your parents, the cops, your congresswoman, your wifey. In a summer for the history books, where even good records came and went simply because a new A-list release came out the following week, Scorpion coasted off virality and ubiquity to remain a fixture on the charts.
In a summer for the history books, where even good records came and went, Scorpion coasted off virality and ubiquity to remain a fixture on the charts.
“8 out of 10” is how Drake opens his Aubrey & The Three Migos tour set, a lively, albeit by-the-numbers show where he runs through the bulk of his new album and his marquee hits. (Aside: Drake is due for his own B-sides show à la Hov, where the hipsters and hood niggas can go bar for bar on “Ransom” without him having to appease parents and fairweather fans.) The confessional “March 14” is, tellingly, not touched, his son not shouted out, and a tacked-on home video shows nothing surrounding news of the kid’s birth. Drake’s commitment to a change in narrative is resolute.
You’ve likely seen footage of Drizzy’s setup, a stage square in the middle of the floor with a pit for dedicated fans to rage themselves into dehydration, as is the wave these days (Pablo’s influence). But for Drake’s initial walk-on, the stage is shuttered with a netted cage. Projections are broadcast—Drake suspended, dark clouds, thunder and lightning—all while he is hazily discernible center stage. The implication is plain: the rapper in the eye of a public shitstorm. While we strain for a look, the beleaguered 6ix God is on Mount Olympus, made to live out his private turmoil in public like the richest zoo animal. But lest things get too melodramatic, his voice pierces out a cappella: “If shit was at a eight we like to...” The veil lifts. There is Drake in Real Life, and you’re rapping along. All of a sudden, the tragedy of “Duppy Freestyle,” the savagery of “Adidon,” and even the bemusing J. Prince mediation recede into the background. Even cruel summers are good to The Boy.