No rapper has built their identity on an inability to settle down quite like Drake. For nearly a decade, he’s been the patron saint of the perpetually single whose romantic modes veer between heartbreak and apathy. So what happens when the peak millennial bachelor is suddenly catapulted into fatherhood? On Scorpion, Drake aims to find out, working through what sounds like an identity crisis on record.
The way the world found out about Drake’s new role as a father didn’t help. Whispers of a baby existed only as TMZ fodder and blog speculation until this spring, when Drake found himself on the losing side of a rap feud. Pusha-T’s infamously scorching diss track “The Story of Adidon” accused him of secretly fathering a child with a French woman – and, allegedly, refusing to acknowledge said child’s existence until he could line it up with an Adidas marketing campaign.
It was an aggressive blow to a celebrity whose public persona had been defined by his inexplicable ability to stay winning. Drake spent the early part of his career fighting inauthenticity claims, endless memes and a teen soap opera past to become one of the biggest hitmakers in the rap game, a genre previously obsessed with authenticity. He did what seemed unthinkable to both fans and peers by honing in on his pop star charm and making every Internet joke a part of his brand.
While Pusha’s reveal changed fan’s perspectives, it didn’t kick Drake off the top. “Nice for What” was knocked down to the Number Two song in the country for only one week before reclaiming the top spot once more. The numbers on the video for “Nice For What” are also nearly ten times what the official audio of “The Story of Adidon” gained, making it clear that all the buzz barely made a dent beyond the headlines. But the blowback is felt more intrinsically throughout Scorpion. The careless bravado that forced Drake and Pusha into a feud to begin with has a new air of resignation.
That undercurrent leaves room for Drake to answer questions. He confirms his son early on the album, amid bigger musings on the state of the world, his interpersonal relationships and his own newfound responsibilities. On “Emotionless,” he claims he “was hiding the world from my kid” between diatribes on social media’s mind- and life-numbing effects. On “March 14,” he recognizes the irony of being a single father after years of unpacking and challenging his own parents, who divorced when he was young. The struggles his single mom faced in raising him in the absence of his father, whose relationship with Drake had to be rebuilt years ago, is a throughline for many of Drake’s more reflective tracks, and that same theme is thankfully present on Scorpion.
His newfound fatherhood, though, doesn’t stop him from worrying about the girl he likes unfollowing him on “Summer Games” or the first love he let get away on “In My Feelings.” He worries that Fashion Week belongs to the girl of his dreams more than it does to him on “Finesse,” even noting that he “want[s] my baby to have your eyes.”
Both Jay Z and Kanye West – two of Drake’s biggest peers and inspirations – had similar interludes of trial-and-error when it came to abandoning the single man lifestyle in their music. By the time his eldest daughter Blue Ivy was born in 2012, Jay had already been transitioning his lyrics and sound toward luxury rap, and he made the move to dad rap seamlessly. Everything Is Love, his recent collaborative album with wife Beyoncé, is a good example of how he’s handled that shift: It’s an excellent, aspirational set that redirects the sexy, fun energy of his pre-Yoncé single life toward their married, family-focused life.
West, on the other hand, has generally taken a more serious approach to rapping about his children, making them part of a greater narrative about his financial woes and mental health. On Ye closer “Violent Crimes,” he is still figuring out what being the father to two young daughters means in relation to how he treated and sang about women in the past. He prays for a daughter to not look like her mom, an international sex symbol whose body has been his greatest muse in recent years.
The tension between these two modes – grappling with, and in some ways answering for, his new reality, and simultaneously maintaining the jet-setting lifestyle of a wealthy bachelor – is what drives Drake’s new album. He veers between the two constantly, dedicating as much time to the empty crib in his crib as he does to comparing his home (and the number of models inside it) to that of Mohamed Hadid (on a song named after his mom, no less). Elsewhere, he pivots from kissing his son on the forehead to still questioning if there’s more to life beyond trips to Dubai and corporate ties. He might not have an answer yet, but he’s looking for one.