If fans miss “the old Drake”, well, that’s too bad. The perpetually jilted softboy known for wearing his heart on his cable-knit sleeve is long gone. For the first time, though, he at least wants to try explaining his hardened veneer. Just weeks after the Canadian rapper dropped his long-awaited eighth album, For All the Dogs, he returns with a surprise project – despite having announced a year-long hiatus from music due to health reasons.
Written in just five days, Scary Hours 3 shakes off some of the toxic sludge Drake has been wading through of late. His grievances on For All the Dogs seemed exclusively directed at women, causing some to wonder whether we’d ever see a return to his puppyish, boy-next-door type. Scary Hours 3 isn’t that, but it does even the playing field somewhat, not least by praising the women in his life and castigating the men.
“Taylor Swift the only n**** that I ever rated/ Only one could make me drop the album a little later,” he raps on “Red”. His acknowledgment of Swift lands in the same space in which he calls out their mutual sparring partner, Kanye West: “Every time that Yeezy called a truce, he had my head inflated/ Thinkin’ we gon’ finally peace it up and get to levitatin’.”
On “The Shoe Fits”, Drake delivers some of his best bars in years over sumptuous, woozy beats. Here, the women are out searching for their Cinderella story, something better than their jealous loser boyfriends. For once, Drake doesn’t blame them: “You boys becoming detectives but ain’t in no trench coats,” he mocks. “I would never guessed that you n****s is this crazy/ She took d*** in Ibiza, you turned into Dick Tracy.”
He’s in deep, introspective mode on “Stories About My Brother” as he champions a ride-or-die while reflecting on his own less appealing traits: “Beware of the dog, deep in my character flaws/ Humble back in 2012, now I give arrogant bars.” Again, though, this former romantic insists he is jaded for a reason: “F*** all the settling down / These boys married and lost/ I go for dinner they wife is there/ She starin’ across/ God forbid I take her and they suffer a terrible loss.”
It’s a far cry from his bitter outbursts of recent years. Whether he was dabbling in Afrobeats, trap or UK drill, Drake seemed to channel his charisma into increasingly dark spheres, with little room left for any real insight – or remorse. “People got a heavy misread on my disposition,” he defends himself now.
“Wick Man” is an especially vulnerable turn, on which he wrestles with faith and doubt following the death of his friend, British-Tanzanian model Nadia Ntuli. “Nadia died in Dubai/ I waited on a spirit to come by for like 17 months/ That s*** didn’t visit me once,” he fumes. Drake has never had much success when he tries to emulate his much younger peers, but it’s a delight to hear him refer to Ntuli’s ex-boyfriend as a “munch” – the contemptuous slang term popularised by Gen-Z hip-hop princess, Ice Spice.
EP closer “You Broke My Heart” offers a neat summation of the album that precedes it: Drake isn’t cold; he’s hurt. Australian production duo FNZ and Drake’s frequent collaborator Vinylz weave orchestral-style flourishes in with stuttery trap beats, against which he sings in an auto-tuned howl: “Bunch of feelings I just couldn’t shake/ Disrespect that I just shouldn’t take/ You just couldn’t see the good in Drake.” Come the bridge, it descends into a dose of catharsis: a refrain of “F*** my ex.” On a six-track EP, Drake tells us more than he’s managed to in years.