Drake – For All The Dogs

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He really could have quit while he was ahead. Recently announcing that he’s going to be taking a hiatus from music to focus on his health after releasing four studio albums in the space of just over two years, the 6 God himself has elected to do so after restoring his reputation as one of the most tired-out, idea-devoid and self-parodying figures in popular music today. After Certified Lover Boy, the completely inadvisable dance music diversion of Honestly Nevermind, and the surprising return to form of Her Loss alongside 21 Savage, Drake’s latest is most similar to the former – a bloated album where he tries to recapture the magic of his old formulae, finding that he’s now too out-of-touch to have anything new to say and too riddled with the same insecurities and toxicity he’s always been to make it anything but laughable at worst and unbearably boring at best. Are there fleeting moments where Drake shows us, as we all know, that he’s capable of being worthy of his level of stardom when he puts in just the slightest touch of effort? Of course there are. But you’d have to think that even his fans are getting tired of digging through a 23-track, 84-minute project to find them. Bad dog, Drake. Bad dog.

You have to imagine that Drake sits alone in his house, steaming mad with people who don’t even give him a second thought on the brain. The opening track is called “Virginia Beach,” after Pusha T’s hometown, seemingly for the sole reason of perpetuating a one-sided beef that he lost years ago. The track itself is a whimper of an intro, which doesn’t assert itself with its meandering melody and dad bars (like rhyming “on-site like dot com” with “hot mom”), but it’s even funnier when he breaks up the flow of “Calling for You” with an extended skit from the perspective of a girl that he imagines has been taken on a subpar vacation by his rival – seemingly based on a Twitter post he made criticizing an airline earlier this month. The track also contains a horrible sudden falsetto of a trendy Jersey club-adjacent beat that doesn’t give him any support, and a tacked-on 21 Savage verse that doesn’t fit. Worst of all, however, is Drake opening “Fear of Heights” with the line “Why they make it sound like I’m still hung up on you,” following it with quite a few lines that make it clear that he’s the most hung-up person of all time. His target appears to be the happily-married Rihanna, and if Drake truly didn’t care, he wouldn’t be sounding like a crybaby trying to convince himself she’s not that great like a guy who got rejected on Tinder. Drake has clearly been taking advice from those macho dating coaches who tell you to neg your love interests, the hard-hitting beat that drops after becoming an afterthought. The one on “Daylight” works a lot better despite Drake’s inauthentic tough-guy routine and gun bars – it’s still one of the more energetic tracks here. “Amen” is equally elevated by Teezo Touchdown filling a kind of soulful, Ty Dolla $ign-esque role and a jazzy piano beat.

If there’s one thing For All The Dogs is good for, it’s giving J. Cole his first number one hit. He comes through with the technical skill and charisma that Drake lacks on “First Person Shooter,” which comes constructed with an appropriately epic and stadium-sized instrumental to match the duo’s boasts about being as big as the Super Bowl. A beat switch finds Drake complaining once more about green text messages, before two of the worst artists working today link up for “IDGAF,” a song that’s successful solely because it’s being made fun of on TikTok. Yeat’s garbled, chipmunk-esque vocal pitching continues to sound like a torture chamber, accompanied by his usual dead-eyed, surface level lyrics, while Drake sounds like the uncle failing miserably at being hip with the kids. “7969 Santa” comes with a canned, awkward “I Don’t Like” sample, Drake approaching the track with the same pouty energy as “I’m Upset” as he halfheartedly runs through a list of things doesn’t like about an ex. Teezo Touchdown kills it again on the back end, but it’s too late. The whining continues on “Bahamas Promises,” where he actually addresses a woman by name (so maybe that’s progress) but bases it on the premise of “Broken pinky promises, you f**ked up my Bahamas trip,” and “Tried Out Best,” a song so repetitive it sounds like he’s out of breath at times that contains more petty complaints about the ladies. Even SZA can’t save single “Slime You Out” – it seems like Drake has the idea that he’s in rare territory as someone who can both rap and sing well, after being built up that way at the beginning of his career, but he really isn’t the kind of guy who can carry these lengthy, self-indulgent R&B tracks. Especially not while being unlikeable, condescending and borderline misogynistic. SZA is always captivating, but the beat is so lifeless that even she sounds stranded on an island with no support.

Drake lays out his insecurities in one of the most obvious ways yet on “Drew A Picasso,” crooning “I can’t picture you with him, that’s just so embarrassing I want to die.” Why people look up to this guy as a cool, manly figure when he’s the antithesis of what a rapper (or an admirable person) is supposed to be is lost on me. He’s the guy who became a bully himself because he got bullied in high school. The track goes on forever and never lands on a hook. He continues to appear like a petulant child on “Members Only,” where he repeatedly complains about a girl that he’s interested in being too close to his circle – addressing it awkwardly as the “gangy” like he’s his son’s age. Speaking of Adonis, Drake suggests he needs a sister on “What Would Pluto Do,” and I certainly hope he never gets one – because that woman would be so traumatized having someone with Drake’s attitudes about women as a dad. He drops some more bars that see him competing with Eminem for who can elicit more eye rolls, but the beat on this one is better than most, with rising synth tones adding the rhythm the project has been lacking. “All The Parties” is yet another meandering sludge of a track where Drake says he wishes he could stop beefing while actively inciting beefs with a pointless shot at The Weeknd and an interpolation of a Pet Shop Boys song without permission. Chief Keef sounds horrendous on the hook and Drake doesn’t sound much better copying it. “8am in Charlotte,” however, has some of the most intelligent bars that Drake has dropped in years and easily stands out as the best track on the album – this is where he proves that at the heart, he’s really a rapper’s rapper once all the drama and nonsense gets pushed out of the way. Well, most of it.

Just when you thought the days were over of Drake doing ill-advised accents, we get “Gently,” a brief nothing of a track just to make sure one of the biggest artists in the world is on the album that features Drake copying Bad Bunny’s cadence. “Rich Baby Daddy” is the last shot of fun to a dour, mean-spirited album that needed it – the skittering hi-hats and airy vocal sample of the beat pick up the energy in a big way and Sexyy Red takes the role of the master of ceremonies, while it also becomes the track for SZA’s energy to shine. You’ll still have to skip the sluggish outro where Drake sings “Dog Days Are Over” every time though. “Another Late Night” is the obligatory Lil Yachty spotlight with how much they’ve been around each other in recent years, so they came up with a half-hearted song to bury at track 21 and hope nobody would notice. “Away From Home” is the most like Drake’s usual state-of-the-union, reminiscing track on the project, but who cares if he drops a couple interesting bars: all that stands out is Drake’s history of holding grudges as he devotes an extended segment to criticizing Esperanza Spalding of all people – a jazz artist who beat him out for Grammys Best New Artist twelve years ago. The project ends the way it started on “Polar Opposites” – with Drake melodically meandering all over the scales and projecting about a girl being immature.

Drake mentioned that his hiatus was going to be for a year, which in honesty, isn’t that much of a hiatus at all. With how much he seems to care deeply about setting chart records, if he really wants to beat that Michael Jackson record for the most number ones among male artists, he’s going to have to go away for a while and come back with something worthwhile. It’s clear that people’s patience has been running out.

Favourite Tracks: 8am In Charlotte, First Person Shooter, Daylight

Least Favourite Track: Bahamas Promises

Score: 3/10

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