Since the top of the year, 2018 has opened its door to an onslaught of album releases by the crème de la crème of the music world. Kendrick Lamar. J. Cole. Beyoncé and JAY-Z. Kanye West. What started off as a jam-packed wish list of albums earlier in the year, has since become a reality, making 2018, not just the year of the joint tour, but also the year where dreams come true. For many, that fact came into further fruition with the latest release of Drake’s double-disc album Scorpion.

As the king of the streaming era and bearer of a buzz big enough to sell a blank disc, Drake’s hotly anticipated behemoth of an album arrived at midnight, boasting 25 tracks and a cargo of headline-worthy moments. Of course, it serves as a full-length follow-up to his closing line on More Life‘s “Do Not Disturb,” as well as a fitting checkpoint in his 2018 marathon. Moreover, the album finds Drake at his most pensive, which, for some may not mean much since he is, after all, rap’s Charlie Brown. But his pensiveness on Scorpion stands out than previous albums, because throughout the two discs, he does his best to strike a balance between stress and vista, underdog and unstoppable, and a boy and a man. Divided between “A Side” and “B Side,” both discs find its author exhausting a panoply of emotions that, in the end, altogether flesh out his persona. Topics of depression, fame, death, and fatherhood are scattered all throughout, as well as celebratory braggadocio — because, of course. With so many specific moments to pinpoint, here are a few quick notes.

The backstory

As he raps on last year’s “Sacrifices,” Drake’s 2018 has been a “marathon, not a sprint.” On the road to Scorpion, delivered five guest verses (Migos’ “Walk It Talk It,” Blocboy JB’s “Look Alive,” and Lil Baby’s “Yes Indeed” to name a few), dropped two No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 (“God’s Plan,” “Nice For What”), reunited with his “Degrassi” cast to live out his high school reunion, dreams with his “Degrassi” cast, shattered a series of streaming records, and contributed to Kanye West’ ye album (contributing to “Yikes”).

But all of the accolades got casted to the side when Pusha-T came around in May, resurrecting Drizzy’s ghostwriting scandal on “Infrared,” the closing track on Daytona. Following the record, Drake responded with “Duppy Freestyle.” Push then volleyed back another with “The Story of Adidon,” which accused the “God’s Plan” rapper of fathering a secret child. The song was also accompanied by a photo in which Drake is seen wearing blackface makeup. He would later explain the intent behind the 2007 photo, writing, “This picture is from 2007, a time in my life where I was an actor and I was working on a project that was about young black actors struggling to get roles, being stereotyped and type cast. The photos represented how African Americans were once wrongfully portrayed in entertainment.”

In June, as the rap world awaited on a response to Push’s eviscerating record, Drake’s mentor J. Prince said that he told the rapper to refrain from entertaining the rap feud. “We can’t get into the pigpen with pigs,” he shared. So with his back against the wall, and the world anticipating a response to any of the points made by Pusha on “Adidon,” here we are.

Confirms fatherhood

Addressing the allegations, on Scorpion Drake confirms that he is a father to a baby boy, but denies ever hiding him. On the song “Emotionless” he raps, “I wasn’t hiding my child from the world / I was hiding the world from my child.” He continues in the verse stating, “Until you starin’ at your seed you can never relate / Breaking news in my life I don’t run to the blogs / The only ones I wanna tell are the ones I can call / They always ask, ‘Why let it run if it’s false’/You know a wise man once said nothing at all.” Elsewhere on the album, like on the song “8 Out of 10,” he raps, “Kiss my son on the forehead, then kiss your ass goodbye.” On “Final Fantasy,” he samples a talk show in which a man questions, “Who’d they say that baby look like?” and a woman then responds, “Drake.” But it’s on “March 14,” the album’s final track, where he directly unpacks his new journey into fatherhood.

In the song, he relives his life-changing moment, rhyming:

Yesterday morning was crazy, I had to come to terms with the fact that it’s not a maybe / That shit is in stone, sealed and signed / She not my lover like Billie Jean, but the kid is mine / Sandy used to tell me all it takes is one time, and all it took was one time / Shit, we only met two times, two times! And both times were nothing like the new times / Now it’s rough times, I’m out here on frontlines, trying to make sure that I see him sometimes / It’s breaking my spirit / Single father, I hate when I hear it / I used to challenge my parents on every album / Now I’m embarrassed to tell ’em I ended up as a co-parent / Always promised the family unit I wanted it to be different because I been through it, but this is the harsh truth now…

Producers and guests

JAY-Z appears on the DJ Paul-produced “Talk Up,” and honestly delivers one of the most realest lines of the year. “Y’all killed X and let Zimmerman live / Streets is done,” he raps, while referencing the recent death of XXXTentacion. It’s a subtle line, weighed by so much truth. Jay’s appearance marks his first proper collab with Drake since 2013’s “Pound Cake.” Elsewhere, Future pops up with ad-libs on “Blue Tint;” rising South Florida rap duo (and Quality Control’s own) City Girls feature on “In My Feelings;” the song “After Dark” features vocals from the late Static Major and Ty Dolla $ign; James Fauntleroy appears on both “Finesse” and “March 14;” Stefflon Don is credited on “Peak;” singer Nai Palm interpolates an Aaliyah classic on “Is There More;” Drake’s go-to guitarist Adrian “X” Eccleston is scattered all over, including the songs “Peak,” “After Dark,” and “Final Fantasy,” while Big Freedia and 5thward Weebie make a prominent appearance on “Nice for What.”

That unearthed Michael Jackson appearance

The King of Pop, Michael Jackson makes a posthumous appearance on “Don’t Matter To Me,” a song that TMZ reported was a previously unreleased record by Jackson. Fellow Canadian musician Paul Anka, who teased a collab with Drizzy earlier this year, is listed as co-writer on the song. Anka and MJ worked together in the past, including for the songs “This Is It” and “Love Never Felt So Good.”

Samples Nicki Minaj, “Atlanta,” Plies, Mariah Carey, Aaliyah, N.W.A.

On “That’s How You Feel,” Drake samples Nicki Minaj’s 2014 Powerhouse performance of her remix to PTAF’s “Boss Ass Bitch” and on “Emotionless,” he pulls from Mariah Carey’s iconic single “Emotions.” Elsewhere, Maxwell’s “The Suite Theme” is sampled on “After Dark;” Boyz II Men’s “Khalil (Interlude)” on “March 14;” Aaliyah’s “More Than A Woman” on “Is There More;” N.W.A.’s “Dopeman” on “Talk Up;” Dorothy Ashby’s “The Windmills of Your Mind” on “Final Fantasy” and Magnolia Shorty’s “Smoking Gun” on “In My Feelings.” In the end of “In My Feelings,” the OVO team features a sample from the episode of Atlanta that is dedicated to Drake (“I don’t even care, I need a photo with Drake because my Instagram is weak as fuck.”). The winning sample in our book, though, appears on “8 Out of 10,” which pulls a sound bite from the master of social media ceremonies himself, Plies .

Last album with current label

Back in 2009, Drake inked his deal with Young Money/Cash Money via Republic Records. On the last song on the A side of Scorpion, titled “Is There More,” the OVO captain appears to signal the end of his contractual road. “Soon as this album drop I’m out of the deal,” he raps, before adding, “In the house playin’ D’Angelo, “How Does It Feel?” The verse added some clarity into the conundrum that has been of his contract situation. Prior to the release of 2017’s More Life, there were rumors that the album would close out his deal with Cash Money. However, that came and went. Late last year, he appeared alongside Lil Wayne on a freestyle over JAY-Z’s “Family Feud” instrumental and spoke out about Weezy’s sticky label limbo, rapping, “I’m thinking of paying Wayne what Universal owes… He should own half of the label, shit out of control.” Since then, Wayne received his long-awaited settlement, as well as a possible release date in mind for Tha Carter V. But with Drake’s revelation on “Is There More,” his historic run on the label is coming to a close.

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