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REVIEW: Latest installment in Scary Hours EP series sees Drake at his most focused, honest

November 20, 2023

On "Wick Man," the fourth track on Drake’s "For All The Dogs Scary Hours Edition," the Toronto-raised superstar, with not a hint of irony in his voice, makes one of the boldest claims of his career: "I put so much thought into the messages it’s borderline obsessiveness." 

Drake, the man who once sang "said that you a lesbian, girl, me too," and who, in a song released about a month ago, not so subtly told the entire world that sex with his ex-girlfriend Rihanna was "average," is now claiming that he puts a lot of thought into the messages in his lyrics.

Despite how ridiculous this claim is in the context of Drake’s broader career, he at least backs it up within the context of the six songs on his newest project. 

"For All The Dogs Scary Hours Edition," which is the third installment in the Scary Hours EP series, sees Drake at his most focused, intentional and honest. 

In a teaser for the project posted on his Instagram, Drake revealed that he wrote all the bars for the project "in the last five days." Given the cohesion of the project, this short time frame makes perfect sense. 

On the EP’s first track, “Red Button,” Drake raps with purpose over a serene, hypnotic and mostly drumless instrumental. Lyrically, he sticks to the script that he is the best rapper and he’s too rich and famous to be fazed by any other rapper who might challenge him. However, he humbly reveals the one artist who he feels he has to compete with: Taylor Swift, who he said was the "only one could make me drop the album just a little later." 

The high bar set for production on the first track is met by the Conductor Williams-produced "Stories About My Brother." Williams, who has gained notoriety for his work with the underground hip-hop label Griselda Records, pairs a melancholy sample of droning horn chords with a gently swinging drum beat. 

Drake spends the song’s three verses expressing his appreciation for a close friend and recognizing that he wouldn’t have made it as far as he has without the support of those closest to him. He also manages to show off his pen game

The album standout "Shoe Fits" comes with a disclaimer: "y’all might wanna skip this one. This is a harsh truth." The song sees Drake musing on the superficiality and infidelity present in the romantic relationships in his social circle. Over the track's six-minute run time, the self-proclaimed "Certified Lover Boy" candidly illustrates how fame has complicated his pursuit of genuine love: "I've had my beliefs tested, my faith broken in half, I try to joke and I laugh but I just don't know how anymore, love, I don't know how."

The momentum gained through the first three songs carries into the back half of the project with "Wick Man," which marks the first collaboration between Drake and the alternative hip-hop producer The Alchemist. The Alchemist creates a surreal, almost otherworldly soundscape as the backdrop for Drake to reflect on themes of death and God.

He raps about his late friend, Nadia Ntuli, who passed away in 2021: "Nadia died in Dubai, I waited on a spirit to come by for like 17 months, that s--- didn’t visit me once. The last message she sent to my phone’s about keeping in touch, so pardon me questioning God and not believing it much."

The final third of the project maintains the focus, while shifting its serious tone to a more celebratory one.

"Evil Ways," the only song on the project with a feature, sees Drake trading bars with his friend and fellow member of rap’s "Big Three," J. Cole. Cole uses the song as an opportunity to plug the duo’s upcoming tour: "coke got they nose bleedin' like the seats where you can't see the stage, high up in arenas where they see their faves, AKA me and Drizzy Drake." 

The EP’s closer "You Broke My Heart" sounds like it could fit a Chat-GPT-generated Drake song template, but still goes over well. The grandiose beat smacks you in the face each time it drops, and Drake sounds comfortable both rapping and singing. At the climax of the song, Drake asks his listeners to put their middle fingers up before going into a lengthy "f--- my ex" refrain.

One could argue that 37 is a touch old to be saying such a thing, but Drake sounds unapologetic enough for it to work, and the sentiment is universal enough for it to make an impact. 

On "For All The Dogs Scary Hours Edition," Drake sounds the most focused and driven as he has in years. He doesn’t sound like a man who has it all figured out, but he does sound like a man who has something to say through his music and is eager to say it. 

In the teaser to the album, Drake likened his current creative mindset to how he felt during the recording of the 2015 career highlight "If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late." It's a fair comparison.

"It's just kind of like ... I feel like I’m on drugs," he said. "I feel like I’m in that mental state without doing anything. It's happening on its own. And, you know, who am I to fight it, right?"

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