Saying “Drake is back” feels odd because he never really left, but, in a way, Drake is back. After the disappointing Dark Lane Demo Tapes and the enjoyable, but phoned-in, “Laugh Now Cry Later,” things felt a bit shaky for The Boy. Going into his new studio album, Certified Lover Boy, it felt like Drake needed to take a step back and find himself, his sound, and his pocket again. With his latest release, Scary Hours 2, Drake has found all three of those things. Featuring collaborations with Lil Baby and Rick Ross, the triple-single sets the tone for Certified Lover Boy perfectly.
Scary Hours 2 is led by “What’s Next,” a delightfully sarcastic introduction to the mini-project. Over an addictive Maneesh and Supah Mario beat, Drake flips the script on the constant question of “what’s next” for him. When you’ve reached the heights that Drake has, with no genuine signs of a decline in the near future, everyone wants to know what Drake has left to do. He utilizes a catchy flow and an earworm hook that gears the song towards mainstream listeners in the same vein as “God’s Plan” and “Nice For What.” “What’s Next” is built to be a hit single, but Drake’s true priority is responding to those that want to know about his life. When it comes to rappers, particularly those as emotionally open as Drake, listeners tend to invade their privacy and demand every detail about their lives. In this way, the cheeky “And Valentine’s Day, I had sex, okay?/We’ll see what’s ’bout to happen next” bar is Drake’s not-so-subliminal message to those who are overly invested in him on a personal and career level.
“Wants and Needs” follows “What’s Next” with Lil Baby’s strongest verse of 2021 yet. Obviously, with the most consumed album of the year, 2020 belonged to Lil Baby, but this new verse shows that he isn’t hitting a roadblock anytime soon. Produced by Cardo, Dez Wright, and 40, the production here is sparse, particularly in comparison to “What’s Next,” but it provides ample space for Drake and Baby to weigh the importance of women, religion, money, etc. in the grand scheme of what is wanted and what is needed in life. Drake starts off with a stream-of-consciousness flow that morphs into something more structured once the beat is finally solidified. He raps “Haven’t fallen off yet, yee/Come with a classic, they come around years later and say it’s a sleeper,” with a specific urgency that lets us know that he means this with all of his heart. The most compelling part of “Wants and Needs,” however, is not Lil Baby’s breathless rapid-fire verse (although it’s certainly impressive), it’s the fact that Drake even gave Baby the space to go crazy like that. Scary Hours 2 is a warm-up for Drake Season; it’s not the time to get washed on your own song. Nevertheless, Drake isn’t necessarily getting washed. What’s happening here is that he’s letting a younger rapper from the new generation shine. It all comes back to Drake at the end of the day, as Baby raps “I’m screamin’ out “YOLO,” yeah, that’s still the motto.”
Finally, Drake brings things to a close with the Rick Ross-assisted “Lemon Pepper Freestyle.” Obviously, Drake and Ross have made classics like “Aston Martin Music” and “Lord Knows” together, so you know when these two are on a track together, you’re getting something that’s opulent, contemplative, and reflective. “Lemon Pepper Freestyle,” which features production contributions from Boi-1da, Austin Powerz, FnZ, and Keanu Beats, is exactly that. At almost six minutes, the track sees Drake pulling the curtain a bit and offering a peek behind the lavish lifestyle he boasted about on the two previous tracks. The track exists in direct opposition to “What’s Next,” structurally, but the two songs are in conversation thematically. With a focus on the one-verse format as opposed to tidy hooks and choruses, “Lemon Pepper Freestyle” sees Drake rapping about being a co-parent (“Yeah, dropped him off at school, big day for my lil’ man/Recess hits, daddy prolly made another M”) and basking in the impact he has had on a generation of musicians (“Ushered a generation in, these are where my confessions live”). The sample-driven (Quadron’s “Pressure) production is the perfect late-night drive sound; it’s that pocket that Drake pretty much perfected and owns. And now he’s back in it, as sharp and as strong as ever.