Scary Hours 2 isn’t the full album Drake promised, but inspires listeners to keep the faith that whatever he is planning is worth the wait.
Last fall, Drake promised that his sixth studio album, Certified Lover Boy, would arrive in January of 2021. But two months later, we’re only now (as of this writing) getting fed: A three-song EP, Scary Hours 2. The first Scary Hours was an even slimmer offering — just two tracks, including the debut of “God’s Plan” and the modestly successful single “Diplomatic Immunity.” Back then, the wild popularity of “God’s Plan” (and its instantly iconic video by Director X) easily overshadowed doubts of Scary Hours’ substantiality. The single also set the stage for Scorpion (where “God’s Plan” reappeared, “Diplomatic Immunity” did not), a rather sleepy, unfocused album from Drake carried to minor cultural phenomenon status by the strength of its singles. We could safely assume that the intent is similar behind Scary Hours 2; that its purpose is to get the spotlight back on Drake in time for the upcoming main event, the rollout of which COVID (and also, perhaps, some looming PR disasters) threw into disarray.
Regardless of the motivations behind this prolonged preamble, the strategy seems to be working: the three tracks from Scary Hours 2 debuted in the top three spots of the Hot 100. America must still be fascinated by Drake, clearly — because it’s hard to see these particular songs as worthy of significant excitement in their own right. “What’s Next” stands apart from the rest (and no coincidence it’s also the best) with what sounds like the meeting of demand for Drake on a Whole Lotta Red-type beat, courtesy of producers Maneesh and Supah Mario (the latter fresh off some work on Lil Uzi Vert’s Eternal Atake that makes him a smart pick for Drake). It’s not a stretch to say that the title of “What’s Next” is self-aware, that it’s teasing out a direction for Drake’s coming project. And the aesthetic direction that it suggests might work, too; it’s a direction that Drake flirted with already a bit on “Pain 1993” (with Playboi Carti and Pi’erre Bourne on hand, for authenticity’s sake) off last year’s Dark Lane Demo Tapes. Still, it’s hard not to feel some weariness at this point, or even read exasperation into that title. Drizzy’s career has almost exclusively been dedicated to the act of prognosticating pop music trends — surely an exhausting endeavor in the streaming era. Though to be fair, the song’s lyrics indirectly speak to all this, with Drake oscillating between snide and introspective, dismissing skepticisms of his album rollout with a sarcastic “OK,” while also lamenting the double-edged sword that is success. (It means he has to figure out what’s next, you see.)
The other two songs on Scary Hours 2 tackle similar subject matter, but offer more familiar beats: “Wants and Needs” enlists 40 and Cardo to produce a song in the most classic, brooding Drake mold (would have fit right in on More Life), while “Lemon Pepper Freestyle” gives the rapper a spare, looped vocal sample (“I been tryin’, tryin’, tryin’, tryin’”) to unload on. Much like “Diplomatic Immunity” on the previous Scary Hours, the latter and closing track serves as a sort of “State of the Union,” affording Drake four-and-a-half minutes to go off about his Vegas residency and the adjustments he’s making to a life of fatherly responsibility (granting us the comical image of parent-teacher meetings where he’s asked about Beyonce and Nicki), but only after 90 seconds of intro from the Teflon Don himself (the “Lemon Pepper” of the title alludes to Rick Ross’s ownership of multiple Wingstop franchises and specifically to his passion for that iconic wing variant). “Lemon Pepper Freestyle” isn’t the most inspired Drizzy track around, but, at the very least, it’s an assurance that he hasn’t lost his knack for spinning some enticing narratives out of the highs and lows of his own pop stardom — even as he edges towards something that vaguely resembles maturity. Whether this is still the case with a more substantial runtime will be clear soon enough. But either way, it’s undeniable that Drake has yet to fall out of step with music culture.
Published as part of Album Roundup — March 2021 | Part 1.