Drake Returns With ‘Scary Hours 2’ EP, a Lead-in To His Upcoming Full-Length
For someone who’s at the absolute top of the recording industry, it’s tough to get excited about a new album — or really, a release of any kind — from Drake. His volume of hits is virtually unparalleled, as he’ll repeatedly tell you himself, including on “What’s Next,” the first track of his three-track “Scary Hours 2” EP. But even though he refined the “in my feelings” singing-rap hybrid pioneered by the Pharcyde and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and subsequently commercialized by the likes of Kid Cudi into a formula that he could replicate endlessly, updates from him, especially ones where he’s lead artist and not featuring, have taken on an air of obligation rather than the excitement of a true “event,” like the world feels when Beyoncé, Jay-Z, or other artists on his level release new material.
To that end, “Scary Hours 2” feels more like a stopgap to hold fan attention before the release of his long-rumored fifth studio album “Certified Lover Boy,” which of course it is: like the first “Scary Hours,” released in 2018 in advance of “Scorpion,” it exists to drum up excitement for a full-length record. Unfortunately, Drake hasn’t had much to say in a long time that doesn’t repeat the same topics that have become the cornerstones of his biggest-selling tracks, including his longevity, hit-making ability, and his irresistibility to beautiful women who cause him all sorts of problems. So if this broadside over hip-hop’s bow doesn’t pander as desperately to trending social media challenges as his 2020 pandemic hit “Toosie Slide” (from his “Dark Lane Demo Tapes” mixtape), it also doesn’t suggest anything in the way of a new, or yeah, exciting direction for a member of the genre’s ruling class.
Of course, you have to give young commercial rappers a little latitude (though he’s been performing for more than ten years, he’s still only 34); the compulsion to overshare in the social media era is unfortunately commensurate with an inversely proportional volume of real news to share, and things to say. So when Drake brags about box seats and the challenges of being an internationally-charting superstar (“You blow up and they say you sellin’ your soul / Thеy want my life exposed”), the fact that it’s familiar territory is somewhat to be expected. At the same time, when he raps “I guess they must have they reasons / They wanna know how I’m livin’ my day-to-day life in the regular season,” you realize that it’s precisely that kind of candor that we want from a rapper who spun gold from the straw of his emotional confessions. Admittedly, his “day-to-day” is going to be a little different than his average fan’s, but it’s those topics — relationships, fatherhood, real business and not just the accumulation of wealth — that could truly showcase how he’s growing, which makes us follow along even when the music is as underwhelming as on a track like this.
To that end, “Wants and Needs” exposes a bit of that interiority to great effect, even if Lil Baby, recently named the best rapper of 2020 by Complex, absolutely vaporizes him with a white-hot featured verse. To be fair, Drake is absolutely on his game with his verse too; he cycles through confessions (“Heaven-sent, God-sent / Least that’s what my mom says / Proof is in the progress, money’s not a object”) and punchlines (“The earrings are real, the petty is real, might charge my ex for a feature”) with the ruthless dexterity that made him a superstar. But after spending a year simultaneously receiving accolades like Complex gave him and being described as underappreciated (especially with regard to awards and nominations), Lil Baby isn’t just ready to follow in his elder statesman’s footsteps, he’s downright hungry to assume the throne in his own kingdom. His subject matter isn’t altogether different from Drake’s (or most commercial rappers working right now), but the speed and dexterity of his bars are nothing short of overpowering.
Named after featured artist Rick Ross’ appetite for the eponymous buffalo wings, “Lemon Pepper” reunites Drake with his frequent collaborator for a spirited celebration of lavish living that unfortunately cannot help but sound slightly underwhelming after Lil Baby’s work on “Wants and Needs.” Nevertheless, the Ross’ booming voice and naturally authoritative approach gives the song a cinematic sweep with his lead-in verse before Drake actually pivots from navigating his way through “private villas only” to talking about the mundane responsibilities of parenthood (“Yeah, dropped him off at school, big day for my lil’ man / Recess hits, daddy prolly made another M”). Suffice it to say that earning a million dollars in a few hours is not an especially common accomplishment, but Drake’s honesty about his success reflected in the duties that every parent faces makes the song more interesting, and him more relatable as a performer.
Ultimately, to what end these songs speak to the overall subject matter and consistency of “Certified Lover Boy” remains to be seen; the first “Scary Hours” included “God’s Plan,” but “Scorpion” ended up being overlong, meandering and too frequently sounded like he was improvising verses. But if it’s still too early to get excited about his next full length with any real confidence, at least the songs on “Scary Hours 2” indicate he will likely continue his rule over the landscape of contemporary hip-hop, whether or not there’s a chance that he’ll change it — or himself — in any significant way.
“Scary Hours 2” releases March 5 on Apple Music.