Updated: May 24, 2022
Consisting of compelling storylines, leader boards, and large-than-life competition, Hip Hop draws many parallels to major sports. Much like athleticism, an artists' value transcends the tangible aspects and touches on something deeper. Whether it's in the form of the nostalgia that warps you back to a pivotal time in your youth or the fuel that ignites heated barbershop debates, Hip Hop is kept alive and well by the discourse that surrounds it.
Of the many characters that Hip Hop has birthed, few are as polarizing as Drake. Wherever you stand on the rapper and the moves (and setbacks) that his legacy is built on, there is much to applaud and criticize. The Toronto native's latest release, Scary Hours 2, prompts a dual-sided review of the project and the artist's career overall. So, let's talk about it.
View 1 (Kirbs):
I am starving for meaning and substance with Drake.
It’s probably unfair to expect it from “Scary Hours 2,” a 3-song EP meant to curb your wants and needs (see what I did there?) for an upcoming album called “Certified Lover Boy.” But when you’ve arguably been the biggest name in Hip-Hop (so really, all of music) for a decade-plus, anything that you do can carry the weight of a classic moment.
“Air Canada Centre, n****, when I die… Ya’ll gon’ have to fly in and do your fake cry. First couple rows, you gon’ see the real guys; The one’s that purchase they vehicles cause of their trunk size.” - Drake “Lemon Pepper Freestlye”
This stadium funeral scene has unfortunately become a reality too many times, but it’s also fictionally a trope that most rappers eventually visit in their work at some point. So since Drake has asked us to envision the imminent public celebration of his life— I won’t apologize for doing so. Let’s picture it. What will the speeches be about? What will we celebrate? His many hits? Certainly. His longevity and work ethic? Definitely. Some anecdotes about him flexing or looking out for his friends the way he often raps about? I’m sure there will be many. I think what will be most talked about and celebrated is how undeniably talented the man is. From Canadian teen-soap star, to underground backpack rapper, to international pop star, and with his growing business acumen— Aubrey Graham had a way with words. Whether he was acting, spitting bars, singing melodies, hosting an event, being interviewed, or politicking with world leaders and billionaires he was smooth and he slid through and under the walls of any boxes he was put in. If you can’t find a Drake song you rock with on some level in his immense and diverse catalog, then that says a lot more about you than it does about him. The man (and his team) can make a song that sounds good… period.
But will we talk about a classic album the way we speak posthumously about Biggie’s “Ready to Die”? Will we recall his community activism the way we do with Nipsey? Will we celebrate his fatherhood like Kobe? Will we be able to look back fondly and with admiration on his philanthropy or leadership, especially in times of great need?
I have to offer the preface that it is always inspirational to see a black man succeeding. I am not (and no one else is either) in any position to tell a black man how to be black. Thats not my intent. But remember when Drake used his talent to help us gain perspective on racial injustice in America? Yeah, neither do I. Remember when Drake made that one joint that took big chances sonically and lyrically that showed how much he’s grown as an artist and a man and changed the culture forever? Um, what’s the name of that one again? It’s slipping me.
At least one of you Aubrey apologists are thinking about “God’s Plan,” but can y’all please show me the line in that song (or any of his songs) where Drake was talking in the collective “WE” instead of “Me” or “We” as in the OVO Owl Gang (hootie hooooo!) or fame-sick entertainers, or the Raptors, or whoever his “We” is? Again its’ escaping me. But I didn’t forget the video where’s he’s handing out stacks to unsuspecting folks in Miami (home-sweet-home #14 for Aubrey). It’s a great video for a great song and giving the way he did can never be hated on. But it can be pointed out that Drake seems to only know how to present his concern for others in the form of “flexes” literally worthy of music videos. His dad bars on “Lemon Pepper Freestyle” bear a resemblance…
“Yeah, dropped him off at school; big day for my little man. Recess hits, daddy probably made another ‘M’. School bell rings and I’m out there to get him again. Yeah, teacher-parent meetings; wives get google eyed regardless of what they husbands do to provide. Askin’ if I know Beyoncè and Nicki Minaj—of course. Pull up to the front in the fleet of Suburbans. Flooded French Immersion with the Secret Service. Shit is so obvious it defeats the purpose.”
This is fly af. I won’t front. But its old news that Drake is fly. Its old news that Drake is a big deal. How many times did he tell us he was gonna roll up to his high school reunion, or his exes wedding, or Hooters (hootie hoooooo!) to see the waitress who wouldn’t date him —with this exact same energy? “Stunting” and “flexing” isn’t a part of parenthood. I guess its a matter of taste whether it can make for a meaningful rap verse about parenting, but it’s a fact it says nothing about actual parenting. I’m not here to judge what type of parent this man is either. I have no idea. I do know there’s more to single parenthood than gauging how impressed the other parents are of you at the meetings. And there’s a lot more to co-parenting with a child’s mother then “I sent her the child support, she sent me the heart emoji.” You might be thinking “its just entertainment, he isn’t suggesting that’s all there is to it.” Well, I agree—it is entertainment. And its good entertainment. But, I do think Aubrey thinks this is growth and inspirational. And hey, if it inspires you—then it’s inspirational. But I’m going to continue to expect more from someone who has entered “GOAT” conversations through the philosopher door. He doesn’t do it for the block right? What block is he even from? He doesn’t do it for “the culture.” The backpack bars have been gone for a decade. He does this in journal form, like Doug Funnie, seeking to learn more about himself through multiplatinum hits instead of Quailman comics. And even though he’s still having mobster fantasies bragging about his posse’s trunk sizes (my eyes aren’t rolling because they’ve never returned to proper position since he claimed he was going to “catch a body” on “Headlines”) and he’s not the same kind of ancient wisdom type hip-hop philosopher someone like Nas is-- He’s a philosopher nonetheless. His expertise is supposed to be living life, gaining knowledge, and reflecting it in art. I’m still hoping for more.
While I have you mad, I’m gonna hit you with a few small-picture points on “Scary Hours 2.” I know y’all are hype to have new Drake and so am I to a degree— but this is not new stylistically at all, and its rarely a coincidence when artists leave tracks to an EP as opposed to their actual album. Drake and his “OVO Sound” are very formulaic. When he caught flack for being ghostwritten for, it was really a misnomer for it being exposed that he heads a rap think-tank. The think-tank that includes 40 and Boi-1da etc, is clearly productive and efficient and could even be seen as cool and innovative, but once again, its just another instance of Aubrey struggling to relay the “realness” he’s supposed to be a master of. Aside from the content being slow to progress, another thing the OVO Sound team headed by Drake has failed at recently is sonic growth. There's something to be said for consistency and cohesiveness in a catalogue, but a lotta Drake stuff just straight up sounds the same. On “Scary Hours 2,” I could probably name a handful of ancestors for each of the three records, but right off the top I can give you one for each. “What’s Next” in its cadence and content is extremely similar to “I’m Upset.” The Lil’ Baby assisted “Wants and Needs” is very reminiscent of Drizzy and Gucci Mane’s “Both,” and y’all’s favorite track “Lemon Pepper Freestyle” is a doppelgänger for the Hova collab, “Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2” -- just with a less exciting guest verse. I love Ross and Lil’ Baby, but their features on this EP were not their most memorable work. The most positive thing I can say about Drake on this project and this stage in his career is that his consistency and mic-presence easily outshines mediocre efforts from high caliber peers.
If you’re a Drake disciple, you’re gonna keep quoting these same-old-yet-slightly-updated bars like they’re God’s word for the next couple weeks (or until “Certified Lover Boy” comes out) but I think in a truly honest, sober moment —we both know you won’t be playing any off these “Scary Hours 2” tracks in 10 years. If you’re like me, and you respect and enjoy Drake, but want more… the wait continues on a truly classic, fully evolved Drake moment in Hip-Hop that will artistically and spiritually justify the undeniable run of superficial success this legendary (no matter how ya slice it) artist has had. We’ll have to see what’s next.
View 2 (Geronimo):
Love him or not, the magnitude of Drake's run cannot be overstated.
Let's open our calendars to the year 2010. Our neighbor to the north has maintained a consistent presence since this year's graduating class was in the third grade. Read that again. He has experimented with an array of sounds throughout the years, alienating crowds of a certain taste here and converting other crowds there.
Not only has the Toronto native led the league in scoring, but look at his assists. The talent of the artists that Drake has put his arm around is apparent, but even clearer is the power in his loosely-distributed cosign. Call it politics and you'll surely have a solid argument to stand on. Accuse the Toronto native of appropriation and wave-riding and you'll definitely find your sentiments echoed. Record label executives could gather their brightest and spend an afternoon reverse engineering The Boy until they have the raw materials laid out in front of them (as they likely have). With most of the ingredients laid out on display (as well as the algorithms and so-called major label button pushers), the question then becomes: why is there only one Drake? Perhaps for the same reason that those that said they "made Hov" have yet to make another.
The past decade hasn't come without scandal. Not only has Señor Champagne survived catastrophic blows that would've ended the careers of most of his contemporaries, he's gotten bigger in the process. Ghost writing accusations (proven true) were woven into million dollar marketing for his tour. Taking a clear loss to one of Hip Hop's nastiest pens--and haphazardly revealing a son in the process--left no measurable mark on Drake's legacy (other than a tarnished relationship between him and Kanye West). As Drake stated himself, he has had many opportunities over the past decade to mess it all up and he hasn't. Any student of success should look at Drake's track record and see a library.
Which brings us to March 5, 2021. Following a delay in his highly anticipated, Certified Lover Boy, Drake drops an unexpected 3-Pack entitled Scary Hours. Some hated it, some loved it. I thought it was great. Quotables, slick talks and intriguing pockets. Content aside, you knew what to expect of its reception. Why? Because we've run this drill for ten years and it's the same every time. Stans have the Aubrey-based IG captions posted by sunrise. Non-believers suck their teeth at the self-proclaimed 6 God. "He's lost it." "That guy don't miss!" You know, balance.
As fun as the debates about whether or not Drake has lost his magic, the aforementioned students of success exclaim, "you're talking about him." That's the magic. Villain or hero, you tune back in next week to see what happens next in the Adventures of Owl Man. Who can do that once? Who can maintain that significance for a year? Five years? Ten? The list is short. We can argue about the reasons behind his prominence. We can praise it or poke holes in it. That's the beauty in music. The discourse is healthy for Hip Hop. As a student, I'm just happy to be alive for it.
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