“I had someone tell me I fell off, ooh, I needed that” – Drake, Headlines, 2011.
Take care, Drake’s making headlines again. See what we did there? Seriously though, Toronto’s premier rapper has found himself once again in the limelight. Once again, at the start of a new year. Dropping not one, but two, two new tracks in the shape of the preluding Scary Hours single. We’re not going JFK on you here, but Drake’s been known for dropping surprises at the dawn of a new year – 2015’s masterful mixtape If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late comes to mind – and he’s been known to do a Liam Gallagher and cryptically tweet ‘Scary Hours’ in the middle of the night when something in the shape of a surprise is going down in the world of OVO Sound. Conspiracy theories are a real thing, just saying.
What Drake is also known for doing is making his surprises some of his most masterful moves, his checkmates, if you will. In a similar strand of song-writing and secrecy to If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, ‘Scary Hours’ is Drake bringing it back to what he does best, chiming in on dealing with his life as Canada’s answer to Kanye, and the increasingly frustrating pressures fame puts on living life on the flipside; much like If You’re Reading This…, Scary Hours reads like Drake’s contemplating whether Aubrey Graham even exists anymore.
We’re not saying Drake’s going through some existential crisis mid-career, especially as last year’s ‘playlist’ More Life pushed him from global superstar to artistic visionary, with a taste for British Grime and the ability to mix business with pleasure in a supersized supersonic soundtrack kind-of-way. Really, what we’re trying to say is that by contemplating where he’s at in the wake of taking over the world, Drake is subconsciously allowing himself to revisit his roots. He’s allowing himself to take care.
Back in 2011, Drake was, as he is now, everywhere, just a little more wide-eyed and fresh-faced. He was idolising Eminem and Kanye, not creatively crippling them like they’re the mentees like he is right now. In 2011, on Take Care’s Headlines, he rapped about falling off the radar, falling off the wagon, dropping the form etc. etc. etc. The truth is, he hadn’t even fell off. He hadn’t experienced the world in the way he has now, so the feelings he was trying to understand he couldn’t even begin to comprehend, fame wasn’t something to be analysed at the time, it was something to ride. Views got our boy paranoid, an awkwardly unbalanced attempt at repackaging himself for a wider audience he’d already captured, looking over his shoulder constantly waiting for the claws to come at him in the back, only to find they’d stabbed him in the front instead. If Drake had fell off in 2011, then this was a near-death experience. More Life brought him back, like a phoenix rising from the ashes. But it wasn’t Drake. It wasn’t even something physically real. It was conceptually a playlist, a figment of his imagination.
So, Scary Hours. Scary Hours is Drake rising not only from the ashes, but from his tomb, like Jesus before him, ready and willing to deliver his message to the masses. Paranoid, once more, but in a healthier light. Looking outside rather than in, Drake guards himself lyrically and musically against the outsiders, having realised his inner circle is his inner circle for a reason. Barricading himself within a wall of sound ‘Take Care’ Drake would’ve been proud of, simplistic beats that rise like orchestrated chimes, designed for sipping champagne in downtown bars like the high life is a standard night for everyone. Far removed from the infectiousness of Views’ chart-stealing sounds, these throwback beats feel fresher than a fever whilst stepping back into the background, allowing Drake to showcase his ability to spit a flow with nothing but pure fire, the very talent that took him to the stratospheric heights he’s now reached in the first place. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late was worth its weight in gold because it featured Drake at his most retrospective, as well as him being at his most vulnerable, and Scary Hours welcomes home the retrospection Drake retaliated Cash Money with without the vulnerability that came with it, replacing it with an air of confidence that is at its peak hauntingly disturbing.
Whilst God’s Plan is the charming lead Scary Hours needs to grant Drake his keys to his kingdom once more, it’s the intensity of Diplomatic Immunity that puts Drake well and truly on the front foot in this strategic game of chess between himself and the world at large. If you were worried Drake was going political on us, don’t worry, he’s not jumping into – or making his – bed with President Trump like some of his friends have, instead, he’s getting personal with himself and the world, specifically all of the eyes that are now constantly on him, like a phone lighting up with a text, glances snap to Drake when something hits the news.
Ripping up rulebooks and spitting wax lyrical wars of words, Diplomatic Immunity is a play on its political namesake – Drake’s reflecting on the immunity his fame awards him, and what such a powerful weapon that immunity is and the costs its use, and misuse, has on his private and public spheres. Through this, he spits some of the best lines his lungs have managed in a long-time. From taking on critics – “Opinions over statistics, of course/gassed off journalistic/come at me and all you’ll get is the ballistic report” – to exceeding excesses even the most glamorous of our culture struggle to succumb to – “Very presidential, I broke all the codes for zonin’ in my residential/I broke spirits that I never meant to/my body isn’t much of a sacred temple, with vodka and wine/and sleep at the opposite times.” Diplomatic Immunity is Drake reflecting on his fame, reflecting on his misuse of it, and understanding, almost retrospectively, that thanks to his fame, he can be whoever he wants to be whenever he wants to be wherever he wants to be.
With the beats back in Take Care territory, and the words wired to the mind of a reflective, retrospective Drake who won the naysayers over on the in-depth laments, paeans, and tales of the excesses of fame and its repercussions of 2013’s Nothing Was The Same and 2015’s If You’re Reading This…, 2018 could be the year we’re delivered a Drake album/mixtape/playlist/movie/other (delete as appropriate) that does away with anxious ambition and returns with the confident air of a god among men. Between Diplomatic Immunity and God’s Plan, Drake has afforded himself the godlike status he was given by the public long ago, knowing that whether we think he’s fell off or not, he’s most definitely walking on water – unlike some other famed rappers who most definitely have fell off – and God most definitely won’t let him drown.