Arguably the biggest artist on the planet, Drake, will be releasing his highly anticipated fifth studio album, entitled Scorpion, tomorrow, June 29.
And what a time it is! After kicking off 2018 with a streak of global domination and chart-topping hits, the last month has seen the Toronto superstar lose a high-profile beef with Pusha-T, the culmination of nearly a decade of bad blood and subliminal shots and a major blow to Drake's once-impenetrable golden public image. Allegations of hiding a secret child? Scary hours, indeed.
One year removed from his well-received "playlist," More Life, and two years removed from his not-as-well-received proper LP, Views, OVO's fearless leader faces a crossroads—will it be death or rebirth?
He doesn't owe us dad raps, but the world is watching, and in the first major crisis of Drake's career, many are wondering whether he will step up to speak on the very real issues that have lunged toward the forefront of conversation in the last few weeks, or call another Degrassi reunion audible.
Will "God's Plan," "Nice For What," and "I'm Upset" all make the final track listing? [Editor's Note: Yes, they will.] Will DJ Premier be handling any production? Will it be a double album? Will the true story of Adidon be revealed? Will someone please check on OB OBrien?
While we wait for the album's impending release later tonight, we've suited up in our Scorpion promo jackets [Editor's Note: We never received our Scorpion promo jackets. Oliver, if you're reading this, it's too late.] and reached out to a few of our industry friends to answer our most burning questions surrounding Drake and Scorpion.
Our panel: Paul Cantor, a writer whose work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Esquire, and New York Mag, among countless other outlets. Kai Miller, a digital architect building her empire off prose and punchlines. Aaron Williams, an LA-based culture writer with bylines on LA Weekly, the Drew League, and Uproxx, where he currently writes about hip-hop and rap.
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1. Should Drake diss Pusha-T on Scorpion?
I'm of two minds regarding Drake dissing Pusha-T on Scorpion. On the one hand, it's good to elevate yourself—they go low, you go high. And sometimes inaction sends a more striking message. Getting ignored, that's hurtful. But in truth, "The Story of Adidon" was vicious, and this is hip-hop, so not responding feels weird. Then, of course, there's the real-life consequences of these disses, and that has to be taken into consideration as well. So, I'd probably err on the side of Drake not dissing Pusha-T. The Canadian has more to lose. Some light jabs wouldn't hurt though. —Paul Cantor
Rap fans tend to exaggerate the importance of "beef" to the overall success of rap records and rappers' career health. In actuality, rap beef tends to end up being a footnote to their career narrative. For instance, Ja Rule, the most cited example, still had plentiful hits after his tiff with 50 Cent (whose accusations tended to amount to the pot calling the kettle black in most instances); the decline of Murder Inc. could be attributed to a variety of other circumstances, including a federal investigation into the label's supposed drug ties as well as an unfortunate distribution situation that caused ALL of Irv Gotti's artists to abandon ship, not just Ja. Drake is a hitmaker who should focus on making hits. Time tends to side with the combatant who outlasted his competition over the long run—coughcoughnaslostcoughcough. —Aaron Williams
In the words of Drizzy, himself: "Better late than never, but never late is better." While much of the discourse surrounding Drake and Pusha-T's beef has seemingly dialed down, it wouldn't hurt for a retort of some kind to be featured on the album. If there isn't, it really brings to question Drake's confidence in himself and if a response record ever existed at all. (Shout-out to J. Prince, though.)—Kai Miller
2. How important is this album for the rest of Drake's career?
I don't consider Scorpion to be vital for Drake to continue to thrive in his career. But, I certainly do think it is necessary considering his previous releases (Views and More Life) were relatively hit or miss. Also, the idea of the project being a double-disc offering is very ambitious. My concern, however, is in regards to Drizzy's approach on this album, particularly how he addresses women. Is it "Hotline Bling" or "Nice For What"? —Kai Miller
It's an important album, in as much as all of Drake's albums are important, but I don't know if it's more important for him than say, Thank Me Later. I mean, let's be real about it—Drake is almost a decade into his career and he's still making really big records that get played almost endlessly. But he'd have never gotten this far if it wasn't for So Far Gone, then having a great debut album, and following it with a number of strong projects. So, if Scorpion isn't as well-received as the other albums, I don't know that it'll affect him that much. Like, it's important, but it's not the album that'll make or break his career. Drake has 9,000 hit singles. Drake will be fine. —Paul Cantor
I wouldn't call it the most important album of his career. After all, he's already delivered that one (Thank Me Later). It's only really his detractors that need him to reinvent the wheel every time, and we all know they'll never truly be satisfied until Drake retires from rap, so they can move on to the next top dog in the business to unreasonably hate on. The vast majority of his fans and casual listeners will like it if he raps well—which he probably will—and creates some catchy jams for us to drunkenly belt along to late at night (preferably on our way to making bad, nostalgic decisions when we really should know better), which he pretty much already has with "God's Plan" and "I'm Upset." —Aaron Williams
3. Has Drake's popularity peaked?
Can I be the obnoxious one and point out that you're always peaking until you fall off? Drake hasn't fallen off. In fact, if anything he's still rising. He replaced himself at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, a feat no other rapper has really accomplished. I would go so far as to say he crossed that threshold where nothing he does from this point forward will ever have an effect on his overall popularity. Simply put, he's one of the most recognizable and ubiquitous figures in rap. Your mom, your boss, your grandma, and all your aunts know who Drake is. That kind of notoriety doesn't just go away. Provided he keeps releasing music—even if only sparingly, like JAY-Z—he'll be someone that people will always check for, even if "the kids" pretend not to like him. He's officially entered "You don't know nothin' about that, nephew!" territory, hallowed ground for any Black artist, but also a pedestal that's hard to get knocked down from. —Aaron Williams
Drake's longevity in the industry speaks for itself. His resume boasts over a decade's worth of accolades and he's currently reached a point in his career where people love to hate him. So, my short answer is no. I don't predict a foreseeable future where Drake is no longer topping the charts or the topic of discussion. —Kai Miller
I don't think Drake's popularity has peaked. In some ways, he's actually just getting started. I think he's, what, 31 years old? That's like not even being born yet. You hit another gear as you get older, the type of work you do changes, the way people talk about you changes, the perception of your popularity changes. Probably the best example of this is JAY-Z. The records Jay made earlier in his career were arguably more popular than the records he makes now. He was younger, the audience was right there with him. But the audience grew as Jay grew, Jay continued making records, and his other ventures sort of fed into the brand that he became. I mean, he's certainly much more of a pop culture hero now than he was 15 years ago, and we could have easily swapped out his name for Drake's and it's the same conversation. No matter what Scorpion does, I don't see Drake fading away. I think he's going to be even more popular moving forward. Like all things, it's on him. —Paul Cantor