At the top of 2018, Drake, known to his mum as Aubrey Graham, shared two new singles with fans: “Diplomatic Immunity” and “God’s Plan.” The latter would become the lead single for his highly anticipated fifth studio album Scorpion, released on Friday. By mid-April, fans knew there was a new project coming from the the 31-year-old rapper, but he didn’t confirm the release date until two weeks before it dropped. But Drake — who is always calculating when it comes to crafting his own narrative — built up hype around the record. Amid gossip, he gave people something else to talk about: a Degrassi reunion-inspired music video for single “I’m Upset” and a reminder of his sensitivity with the generous video for “God’s Plan” (in which he unforgettably raps, “I only love my bed and my momma”).
When it comes to the Scorpion narrative, Pusha T's announcement that Drake had a son that no one knew about became the central focus. Everyone wondered whether or not he would take aim at Pusha T for his public slight or if the allegation was true. It created a flurry of anticipation around Scorpion, as fans wondered if Drake would respond. His admission that he does have a son, who he’s only seen once, has been the focus of conversation. Because of Drake's "softer" side, it's been easy for fans to give him a free pass when it comes to punching down at others in his music. But, something that has been weaved throughout Drake's music over the years is his misogynistic way of talking about women.
There is a pattern listeners have either chosen to turn a blind eye towards, haven't exactly thought about, or maybe never even realised in the first place: Drake has spent the majority of his career embedding judgmental lyrics about women into his music. There was the slut-shaming of the 2015 single "Hotline Bling" ("Got a reputation for yourself now...Started wearing less and goin' out more / Glasses of champagne out on the dancefloor") and let's not forget his perpetuation of the stereotype that women need saving on 2009's "Houstatlantavegas" ("You go get fucked up and we just show up at your rescue"). But it's been most insulting when the Canadian rapper samples a prominent female artist on his music and then proceeds to diss women.
On Scorpion, he takes it to the next level by using work from some of the world's biggest female artists on songs that aren't kind to women. This isn’t surprising considering misogyny in hip-hop, rap, and R&B has been a consistent problem; it’s even more evident in looking at how few female rappers make it to the top of the charts. Drake may think he’s positioning himself as an advocate by sampling women of colour on his tracks who have been shrouded by history, but he’s more often than not no better than his peers. Frankly, it would be more effective if women just got to have a voice of their own.
With "Emotionless," he samples Mariah Carey's disco-tinged 1991 hit "Emotions" where he heavily examines the controversial way social media increases celebrity for posthumous artists. But while doing so, Drake specifically criticises the way that women use social media. He sings, "I know a girl whose one goal was to visit Rome / Then she finally got to Rome / And all she did was post pictures for people at home / 'Cause all that mattered was impressin' everybody she's known." Even though he's trying to make a point, he ends up creating an unnecessarily gendered observation of social media.
As one of the lead singles on his latest effort, "Nice For What" samples iconic R&B singer Lauryn Hill's 1998 track "Ex-Factor." The video of the song goes one step further, celebrating influential women and friends like Issa Rae, Misty Copeland, Zoe Saldana, Tiffany Haddish, Yara Shahidi, Syd, Rashida Jones, Jourdan Dunn, Tracee Ellis Ross, Olivia Wilde, Elizabeth Lejonhjarta, Victoria Lejonhjarta, Letitia Wright, Bria Vinaite, Michelle Rodriguez, and Emma Roberts. But despite being a "celebratory song" for women, it still oozes undertones of misogyny as Drake manages to degrade women by calling them "hoes" multiple times in the song while trying to praise them. Instead, Drake once again comes off as a fake feminist.
An unexpected sample from Nicki Minaj's 2013 remix of PTAF's "Boss Ass Bitch" surfaces on "That's How You Feel," a song that sees Drake longing for a woman whom he isn't sure reciprocates his feelings. Despite pointing out how he feels for her, Drake makes subtle jabs at her lifestyle, singing, "I know you like to drink 'til the sun up / Grind 'til you come up / Work all winter, shine all summer." While he's sampling the confident words of Minaj, he's simultaneously juxtaposing them with his own self-righteous lyrics that negate the gospel he's trying to preach.
"In My Feelings" sees Drake calling out ex-girlfriends and women who have stood by him throughout his rise to fame while sampling female rap duo City Girls and late bounce rapper Magnolia Shorty. But while appropriating Shorty's music and collaborating with City Girls, "In My Feelings" is a male-centric song masked in Drake's brand of emo-rap that caters to his own ego. As he plays the sensitivity card, he really wants to know how loyal these women are to him: "Kiki, do you love me? Are you riding? / Say you'll never ever leave from beside me / 'Cause I want ya, and I need ya / And I'm down for you always."
As Drake samples other female artists' work as a way to raise their voices, he does a disservice to them by continuing to bring women down with his words. It's counterproductive as he portrays himself as an ally to women — the “good guy” of hip hop — but his efforts result in appropriating and exposing himself as sexist when he judges or objectifies them. By championing artists like Mariah Carey and Lauryn Hill in his music, it seems much more like he’s doing a favour to them than he’s doing a favour to women. Scorpion proves that Drake hasn't changed: he's still lifting women up for his brand all the while bringing them down.