In his Scary Hours 3 review, SHIFTER’s Kevin Bourne says while some of his previous projects “felt like they were for the industry or fans; this one feels like it’s for himself and for the culture.”
It’s official. Bars are back! Drake had fans in a frenzy yesterday when he announced Scary Hours 3 would be dropping at midnight. If you initially thought Drake dropped a whole double album, you weren’t alone. When the clock struck 12 we learned the project is, in fact, titled For All The Dogs Scary Hours Edition. In other words, a For All The Dogs deluxe. One “disc” includes the 23 previously released songs with six new songs on Disc 2.
The Scary Hours series has given us big tracks like “God’s Plan”, “Diplomatic Immunity”, “What’s Next”, “Wants and Needs”, and “Lemon Pepper Freestyle” so the bar was high.
While Scary Hours 3 lacks big commercial hits similar to its predecessors, in some ways, it exceeds expectations. Some criticized Drake for not really rapping on For All The Dogs and making songs for “young niggas”, but on Scary Hours 3 Drake puts on a lyrical masterclass unlike anything we’ve seen from him before. While we all know his pen game is strong, with him also juggling being a singer and hitmaker on the level of Michael Jackson, many of us forgot.
His legacy in pop music is undeniable, but unfortunately, his legacy as a rapper was a little more checkered. After the reference track situation, some even said he could never be mentioned among the great MC’s. With this project, he shows that when it comes to the art of rapping, including wordplay, double entendres, and flow/delivery, he belongs on Mountain Rushmore. As someone who grew up on 90’s hip-hop, it almost feels sacrilegious say, but it’s time to admit that Drake has now surpassed legends like Nas and Biggie on the pantheon of rap (Eminem is still up for debate). We knew he belonged in GOAT conversations but some of us still needed more evidence to rest our case. On the EP, he gave us that, dropping three, four and five syllable rhyme schemes and making it sound easy.
Now, I have to admit, this project is difficult to review. There’s so much to say yet so little to say. What I will say is that this is the most elite rapping on a single project that we’ve heard in years. As critics, we’ve almost had to dumb down our expectations to not sound like grumpy old men and it took years to get here. It feels like we’re being asked to use a part of our brain we haven’t had to use in a long time.
The whole project is too rich to break down; you just have to listen to it. We did get a little tea on his one and off again relationship with Ye and hearing Drake on a 90’s boom bap beats with horns on “Stories About My Brother” is special. We needed that. Hip-hop needed that. Drake is the only artist in hip-hop who can bridge the gap between the different expressions of hip-hop, often divided among generational lines. It opens the realm of possibilities for dream collaborations with artists like Nas, Wu-tang and members of Griselda.
When it comes to standout songs, every song is basically a standout track, but the biggest moment among the new songs is “Evil Ways” featuring J. Cole. Although “First Person Shooter” is a very good song, this is the collab we really wanted. Where fans almost unanimously agreed that J. Cole murdered Drake on that one, the two went bar-for-bar on this one; enough to make you scratch your head. In a recent interview, J. Cole told Lil Yachty is front from a cloth where he’d get him on a future song and we didn’t have to wait long.
This is why the partnership between Drake and J. Cole is so important. J. Cole is regarded as arguably the best lyricist of this generation, but mainstream superstardom has eluded him. Case it point, “First Person Shooter” is Cole first Billboard #1 record. Meanwhile, Drake has reached global superstardom and is at Michael Jackson levels, but because of the belief that he had a ghostwriter and is more of a pop artist, his legacy as a rapper has not been solidified. This is why the two rappers need each other. Drake always seems to draw creative inspiration from the artists he spends the most time with during different parts of his career―Trey Songz, Lil Wayne, Rihanna, Partynextdoor. Perhaps we have Cole to partly thank for bringing Drake back to his first love as an artist.
The one stain, if we can even call it that, on the project is that “You Broke My Heart”, the closing track on the EP, didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the project. Like cutting a great movie scene that wasn’t exactly necessary to the telling of a story in order to make a movie better, the EP may have been better without the closing song. But then again, who cares? Drake has earned the right to do whatever he wants, and express himself however he wants as an artist.
Overall, the difference between Scary Hours 3 and some of his previous projects is that those felt like they were for the industry or fans; this one feels like it’s for himself and for the culture. There’s a personal touch to it. There were moments on For All The Dogs went it felt like he had something to say, but that was only a preview. A likkle taste. Hopefully, what we’ve experienced is not just a blip, but but a whole new chapter in the evolution of Drake and perhaps a renewed focus on writing and well-thought-out and thought provoking content over punching in which often produces fast, microwave bars. Only time will tell.
Kevin Bourne is SHIFTER’s Toronto-based editor and Senior Entertainment Reporter focusing on Black music and film & TV. He was named one of 310 international voters for the 81st Golden Globe Awards by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and a Tomatometer-Approved Critic by Rotten Tomatoes.