The internet fame machine pumps out music stars on the regular — Justin Bieber, Post Malone, Cardi B — but few truly embody the internet in the way that Drake does. The man is a walking meme; our mockery or admiration of the Toronto rapper is forever buoyed to the top of our feeds. Drake is the internet — and he hates it.
For stans, this is nothing new: perennial Sad Boy that he is, Drake has always loved talking (and rapping, and singing) about how much technology and the internet only serves to alienate us from each other. It always feels a little cheesy when Drake spits it, but he can get away with it, because he usually taps into something real. If nothing else, his confessions about how technology affects his relationships are messy enough to start conversations. (In “0 to 100,” for example, he talks about the fear that a partner will get upset if she keeps scrolling through the pictures on his phone.) Scorpion, which was released last night, blows past Drake’s typical weariness of technology and morphs it into something darker. Drake isn’t just tired of the internet. He’s having an existential crisis over it. He is entrenched in the internet because he has to be, but he doesn’t know what to do with it. It fuels him and tears him apart in equal measure.
You feel this exasperation while listening to the double album, which, at 25 songs and 89 minutes long, ends up feeling like work. It’s not that the record is bad; there’s just so much of it, and Drake sounds capital-D Done throughout. Wading through it feels like reading a meandering YouTube vlog, or a too-revealing Tumblr post that, despite its faults, still captivates you anyway. More than once, he wonders whether he might only get his due after he’s dead. More than once, he questions who his friends are and what lovers want from him. Much of the drama he describes unfurls online—and that’s the problem.
The album’s cornerstone is undoubtedly “Emotionless,” the Side-A showstopper wherein Drake immediately demands that you do not link him whatever the hell it is you’re reading about him. (He’s Done, remember?) The song later gets to a long stint where he laments the way people around him use social media. People “[scroll] through life fishin’ for praise,” strangers shade him but end up being “underage” and “alone and afraid,” but most of all, people constantly do things that he doesn’t understand online. Here’s Drake:
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
I know another girl that’s cryin’ out for help
But her latest caption is “Leave me alone”
I know a girl happily married ‘til she puts down her phone
I know a girl that saves pictures from places she’s flown
To post later and make it look like she still on the go
“Look at the way that we live,” he pleads, before dropping a gossip bombshell. After weeks of getting roasted online in the wake of Pusha T’s diss track, “The Story of Adidon,” in which the G.O.O.D. Music rapper claimed that Drake had a secret child, Drake straight-up declares that wasn’t the case at all: “I wasn’t hidin’ my kid from the world / I was hidin’ the world from my kid,” he says. His insinuation? The way we regard each other online is so ugly, that he found it better to keep his baby away from the spotlight than to drag him into a digital world that he hates.
Do I believe him? No. Despite his efforts to the contrary here, he still sounds like a deadbeat dad who doesn’t make time for his kid. But Drake obviously believes Drake. That’s why he keeps blaming social media for so many of the things that go wrong in his life. He’s worn down because of public opinion, especially after the rumors of his baby (“My comment section killin’ me”), social media posts from lovers end poorly (“All hell starts to break loose in my texts”), people use him for clout (“I don’t even care, I need a photo with Drake because my Instagram is weak as fuck”). Drake’s always been a moody man, but his angst has never been so explicit that he’d release a song on which he constantly yells, “I’m upset!”
What’s changed? Well, anyone who is Extremely Online likely already has a daily prayer that amounts to “don’t @ me,” in the same way that Drake doesn’t want you to link him to anything. Online, and especially in this news cycle, every single day feels like an entire year now. Author Mary H.K. Choi captured this sentiment perfectly in a tweet earlier today: “hi-key feel like we’re going to reach the end of the internet and start showing that red stripe that receipt rolls get.” On Scorpion, Drake is just catching up with the rest of us.
More than anything, though, it feels like Drake is grappling with the reality that the stories he’s told about himself aren’t quite true. After countless songs touting his bachelordom and the world’s inability to tie him down, the myth that is Drake is starting to crumble. He has a son. He can lose a rap battle: Pusha made sure of it. And maybe, for all his signature introspection across various albums, Drake doesn’t know as much as he thought he did:
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’ve been through it
But this is the harsh truth now
Even so, for Drake, this — the Pusha T showdown, the overly long album, his shortcomings as a parent — aren’t exactly a failure. Taking some Ls leads to a bigger win, though it is an ironic one. Saving his Pusha T response for the album means we’re listening to it all, taking notes, indulging in his history as if it were an alternate reality game. Who is Drake talking about? What’s he referring to here? If you want to get the receipts, you’ll have to go online and Google them. As much as he hates it, the internet is Drake’s battlefield.