Earlier this week, Drake announced a continuation of his ‘Scary Hours’ EP series on Instagram, recorded soon after the release of ‘For All The Dogs’ in early October. I wrote in my review that legacy was on Drake’s mind on an uneven collection tracking the Toronto rapper at a mid-thirties crossroads. On Thursday, Drake blithely doubled down on his uncompromising creative practice, sharing: “I feel no need to appease anybody. I feel so confident about the body of work I just dropped that I know I can go and disappear…You know, ultimately, it’s coming to me in a way that I haven’t experienced since [2015’s] ‘If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late’ where it’s just kind of like I feel like I’m on drugs. It’s not like I’m picking up from some unfinished s–t. You know, this is just happening on its own. And who am I to fight it?”
The ‘Scary Hours Edition’ features six new tracks pieced together in just five days; an addendum, and a corrective of sorts to the sprawling excess of ‘For All The Dogs’. It’s an extension of an era yielded from fits and bursts of influence and inspiration, unfolding like one long exhalation over a patina of boom-bap, bright-toned 808s and gauzy minimalism courtesy of The Alchemist, Vinylz, Boi-1da, Ovrkast, and Lil Yachty.
Its primary strength lies in the way Drake threads himself and finds pockets within the grooves and crevices, foregoing lustre and grandiosity in favour of an understated performance piece. Drake moves listlessly, with eyes closed, through the haze of his memories, and that sense of dissonance with his surroundings comes to a head on ‘Evil Ways’, the ‘Scary Hours Edition’ most transparent moment. Here, Drake and J. Cole continue their fraternal repartee after last month’s number one ‘First Person Shooter’, interplaying bravado, glazed portraits of youthful decline, and cautionary wisdom.
There’s an existential paranoia about this recent iteration of Drake, however. On ‘The Shoe Fits’, Drake begins with the disclaimer “Y’all might want to skip this one, this is a harsh truth…” Throughout Drake frames his lyrics as catharsis through confession, but his sibilant takedowns of lovers, rivals, devotees and critics offsets what should be contemplation with an aversion to change. On ‘You Broke My Heart’, Drake castigates an ex through a signature rap-sung drift, the bridge the apex of Drake’s dismissal with bleak diaristic lines that draw a sharp intake of breath, or an eye roll.
On ‘Red Button’, Drake compares his monopoly over charts and culture to another industry juggernaut, Taylor Swift, moving his release date to avoid competing with her. Relevancy, according to Drake, is defined by viral engagement, commercial gains and number one hits. That’s a fallow place to reside in. Competitive vim has been a marker of hip-hop since its inception, and this six-track monologue is essentially one long reminder to the masses that Drake is Drake’s only competition. The veneer is slipping, however. Drake’s recent output signals to a tangible fear of diminishing returns, and fading glory. How he reckons with that going forward remains to be seen.
Words: Shahzaib Hussain