For many, many years now, one of the prime knocks against Drake — arguably hip-hop’s biggest superstar for at least the past decade — has been that he doesn’t rap enough. Every time he drops a new album, the complaint can be found on social media; this is cool, but why doesn’t he just RAP?
This is an understandable sentiment; after all, while Drake’s jump to mainstream attention came with the leak of his R&B-leaning “Brand New” and its simp-tastic follow-up “Best I Ever Had,” he was only in the position for such a tremendous breakout because of his freestyles and rapper’s-rapper projects like Room For Improvement and Comeback Season.
It’s equally understandable why Drake’s always tried to toe the line between serving those two largely separate fanbases. Sure, the fellas supported him early and his rap fan bonafides are undeniable (he’s a sponsor of Ultimate Rap League battles, for crying out loud), but his biggest commercial successes are largely due to support from the ladies.
That was a big part of the reason for the outcry against his most recent album, For All The Dogs. Despite its title suggesting music catering to the rough-and-tumble part of his fanbase that loves his intricately constructed bars, what he dropped instead was a mawkish collection of wounded crooning aimed squarely at MRAs and the women who despise them but date them anyway.
However, Drake’s often at his best when his back is up against the wall. Metabolizing the critiques of his latest, he went back to the lab, synthesizing his responses to those reactions into his third Scary Hours EP, released as For All The Dogs: Scary Hours, and doing exactly the thing so many of us have wanted him to do for so long: RAP.
Rap he does, selecting beats speaking clearly to his backpacker origins (Alchemist, what up!) and doubling down on the warm reception to his J. Cole collaboration “First Person Shooter” with another epic team-up, this one infused with the pass-the-mic chemistry exhibited by fan-favorite rap duos like Jadakiss and Styles and Clipse.
Since it’s such a short project, rather than doing a full-length review, I thought I’d just list my impressions of each of these tracks and why they hit the mark where the previous project didn’t.
You know Drake is in that mode when he reminds fans of the short-lived backronym for his name. “Do Right And Kill Everything” Aubrey goes off for nearly two minutes and thirty seconds with no hooks, harkening back to his Nothing Was The Same intros. Keeping a rhyme pattern going for that long can be a challenge and the fact that Drake sounds so effortless at it just goes to show how much practice he’s put into his craft.
“Stories About My Brother”
Drake says “enough about me” throughout this track, but it’s still mainly a collection of boats about his status and wealth in comparison to his rivals and enemies. Mobster Drake is probably the least believable version of the superstar, but the number of metaphors he comes up with for putting out a hit on someone is borderline awe-inspiring. My favorite: “My brother put some holes in your top, you a Air Force.”
“The Shoe Fits”
This is the closest song on the EP to carrying over the spiteful spirit of the original album. For six full minutes, Drake raps about women who talk down on him but fail to get a man on his level of fame and/or riches. Drake then addresses the men who spend their time hating on him and his lifestyle, only to ultimately lose their girl to a hooper many would call one of the most washed-up NBA players in the league right now. You’re probably better off taking Drake’s advice at the beginning of the track and hitting skip.
Calling yourself a lipstick is … as questionable as a lot of what Drake’s said in recent years and your traction for the Pusha T jabs will vary depending on where you stood when they were openly beefing. But as an extended metaphorical threat of violence, it’s pretty well constructed despite its incredibility. Fans making the same goofy soccer joke about the song might wanna check their sources, though.
“Evil Ways” Feat. J. Cole
“Evil Ways” isn’t just the best track on Scary Hours 3, it’s also a better, more enjoyable conversation between the two rap titans than “First Person Shooter,” mainly because they’re both on topic and it sounds like they recorded it together (longtime readers will also know I’m just a sucker for trading bars). Around the 2:30 mark, I started hoping either Kendrick or Phonte would show up to take it over the top, but even without a surprise feature, I imagine this one will stay in rotation for me way longer than any of Drake and Cole’s prior collaborations. Also, shout out to Bushido Blade, an underrated late ’90s fighting game that gave me endless hours of entertainment for the brevity of its matches.
“You Broke My Heart”
Ugh. Even when Drake intentionally focuses on dropping Scribble Jam-worthy punchlines and reclaiming his hold on his corner of the “best rappers alive” triumvirate, he can’t resist one lazy lean back into the sadboy hum-singing about hating his ex that’s made him into a self-parody on his last three solo albums. We get it, man, girls have cooties or whatever. Go to therapy!