The double album generally comes at a major precipice in a hip-hop artist’s career. Nearly every double-disc release in the genre was the capstone of a significant arc in an artist’s journey. Few acts could resolve to will themselves through a gauntlet of twenty-five plus tracks on a whim. There were triumphant chest-pumps like Wu-Tang Forever, Outkast’s Speakerboxxx/Love Below, and Nelly’s Sweat/Suit, while others have been a back-against-the-wall eruption like Tupac’s All Eyez On Me. Some albums were a little of both, like Notorious B.I.G.’s Life After Death, and Jay-Z’s Blueprint 2. Drake’s Scorpion, out last Friday, is the latest entry into the double-disc canon.
Scorpion has more solo tracks than any other major solo double album, which speaks not only to Drake’s talent, but his ambition to shut everyone up and show what he can do — and he did it all. That’s why he was the sole figure of the album’s suspenseful trailer, not saying a single word as he drove to the studio. He knew all eyes were on him, and his musings showed that he was fixated on the mirror his damn self.
While Drake doesn’t share any of the legal or street woes Tupac once experienced, he may certainly identify with lines like, “is you a friend or foe? N—-, you ain’t know?,” which Tupac incredulously directed at his one time friend Biggie on the emboldened “U Can’t C Me.” All Eyez On Me was the perfect title for Tupac’s 1995 double album, which was released upon his release from prison and signing to Death Row Records. Tupac believed that the Brooklyn rapper (and his Bad Boy boss Puff Daddy) knew that he was going to be robbed and shot by the crew of New York underworld figure — and later hip-hop manager — Jimmy Henchmen’s at New York’s Quad Studios in 1994.
Tupac placed Bad Boy Records in his furious crosshairs, just like Drake was set to do with GOOD Music. Pusha T’s caustic “Story Of Adidon” diss exposed Drake’s child and a baffling photo of him in Blackface. The song followed Drake’s “Duppy Freestyle,” a reply to Pusha T’s “Infrared” diss which Drake’s frequent collaborator Kanye West produced. While Kanye tweeted that he was oblivious to “Story Of Adidon’s” existence and told Pusha to end the beef, the admission didn’t excuse the two from Drake’s ire.
The Toronto rapper probably felt like his good deeds for Kanye — such as writing for the Ye album — had gone on to be punished with “Infrared” and “Adidon,” which has parallels to Tupac’s inkling that Biggie should’ve told him about the robbery plot. While Tupac’s shooting was much more serious than Drake’s diss, both of their perceived betrayals produced feelings of resentment and a longing for revenge evident on their albums.
According to Drake’s investor J. Prince, Drake had “cocked and loaded” a reply to Pusha containing “career-ending” barbs at Kanye but ultimately shelved the song for fear of its damaging consequences. Even so, traces of Drake’s dissatisfaction with his frenemies were all over Scorpion, just like Tupac’s animus toward Bad Boy was on All Eyez On Me.
For all three artists, who had so much to say amidst their feelings of betrayal, the double album was a sprawling canvas for emotional divestment — and they sold boatloads of units while venting. All Eyez On Me and Life After Death are both diamond selling albums. Like Drake, Biggie was at the peak of his success, but all wasn’t rosy in his world. With multiple tense encounters between Bad Boy and Death Row, and warring gang factions egging on their clash, the conflict was decidedly more serious than what we’re accustomed to these days. Puff Daddy and Biggie decided to offset the mountain of drama with a mountain of hits and sales with Life After Death.