Scorpion is everything, all at once. No, really. Drake has had a reckoning coming for a long time. Skillfully piling on global styles onto a seemingly unstoppable pop machine, it’s been catching up to him. Once tempering his palette largely with a Houston-lite sound, the Toronto king's quest for true ubiquity has since consumed Wu Tang, London rap, patois, and just about anything he could get his hands on in between. There’s only so much you can absorb, and Scorpion is a clear reaction, pulling back and inwards.

Following his very public, image damaging (though just how damaging remains to be seen) dressing down by Pusha T, it was revealed Drake had a secret lovechild, or at least that’s how ‘The Life of Adidon’ played it. Fans and detractors alike, of which there ever seems to be an even split, turned eyes towards Scorpion. Announced long prior, the project suddenly had the pressure of a career-saver on it.

To some extent, hip hop has always been Drake’s playground. More to the point, his fantasy. As his influence grew, so did his dreamworld. The Degrassi star who ‘Started from the Bottom’, the sweet kid with dangerous friends. ‘Adidon’ could only have been a rude awakening. Whatever the spin for his lack of a fiery response (we see you, J. Prince), Drake was finally confronted with a stark truth: he will never be able to win a fight on their terms and maybe, honestly, he ought to occasionally check his ego. Where he’s coming from, with what he has to lose, there will never be anything in it for him.

Would nearly losing it all bring clarity? Would he stumble further? The answer seems to be all of the above. It’s key to acknowledge: this album very much exists in the shadow of Drake’s potentially fading fortunes. An “editor’s note” from Aubrey Graham himself tells all you need to know about the mood here:

"I hate when Drake raps. Drake sings too much. Drake is a pop artist.
Drake doesn't even write his own songs. Drake took an L.
Drake didn't start from the bottom. Drake is finished. I like Drake's older stuff.
Drake makes music for girls. Drake thinks he's Jamaican. Drake is an actor.
Drake changed. Anybody else > Drake... Yeah, yeah, we know.”

While there are moments of blatant brand protection (“I wasn’t hiding my son from the world / I was hiding the world from my son” irks), Scorpion largely finds Drake in a surprisingly honest, reflective state. It’s perhaps unfortunate it took a major beef to shock Aubrey Graham back to life in his music, but the gilded, sanded down perfect distance of the sagging, dull Views and decent More Life is blessedly largely set aside. “I want the truth, but it’s dangerous,” Drake warily coos on ‘Jaded’, and it feels pointed.

It’s a shame it had to be across such bloat. It’s hard to imagine Drake feels he’s just so important it was necessary to address his precarious position across 25 tracks. Even amidst turmoil, he’s still balancing out his maximum revenue potential. His perspective on quality is still almost dismissive, with him rapping flippantly, “A classic is just 10 of these,” over a DJ Premier beat. The beat is perfection, naturally, Premo for a current audience, but Drake’s “I could make the classics my peers are making - if I wanted to” posturing has grown more hollow than ever.

Amidst his ever-present fears of losing relevance, Drake has still yet to truly "fall off". It’s not that Scorpion is bad music - it’s exactly what you’d expect, and too much of it. Its maximalism offers plenty for the converted (and the charts), after all, this far in, nothing is going to turn those set against him. For those of us with more complicated relationships with Drake’s music, there’s also nothing here to overwhelm the sense of stagnation dominant since Views. It all ultimately doesn’t matter. He’s more on point that in years, the presentation is painstaking, but Drake cannot fight growing sense that he’s a titan, swinging out at the dark, nowhere left to go but down.