Drake Imitating Drake: For All The Dogs
Despite Drake’s intentions to re-explore his stylistic roots, he released an uninspired and unnecessary album.
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Drake concluded the It’s All A Blur (2023) tour with 21 Savage, which celebrated tracks from his long and hit-packed discography with arenas of screaming fans around the world. After dropping multiple teasers during the tour in the form of on-stage promises, Instagram stories, and a dog mask costume, he has finally released his latest album, For All The Dogs. The album features scratchy crayon cover art of a dog drawn by his son, Adonis, and is accompanied by Drake’s “poetry” book, Titles Ruin Everything. Despite the high expectations that came with months of hype and a stacked feature list, For All The Dogs is little more than a cheap imitation of the “Drake sound,” leading fans to question the direction of Drake’s music career.
Loyal fans had high hopes for For All The Dogs because Drake promised the album would bring back the “Old Drake.” While this is a blanket statement that could have been referring to any aspect of the “Drake sound” of the early 2010s, the most direct connection is in the subject matter. His earliest albums, like Thank Me Later (2010), Take Care (2011), and Nothing Was the Same (2013), share the theme of facing new life experiences with a self-induced loneliness. Many of the tracks on these projects focus on his rise to fame and navigation of romantic relationships as a rap star, most notably on “Lust for Life” (2009), “Successful” (2009), and “Trophies” (2014). While this music sounded authentic then, For All The Dogs employs an almost identical narrative, giving the music a “copy-and-paste” quality.
In addition to his recurring themes, Drake is famous for his memorable hooks, and rightfully so. From “Forever” (2009) to “Passionfruit” (2017), his openings have always set an emotional and powerful tone for his songs. For All The Dogs’ opening track, “Virginia Beach,” embodies this energy with its clear and harmonious R&B vocals. Unfortunately, “Daylight” marks a decline in both passion and performance; Drake’s voice sounds artificial, largely caused by his attempt to match the aggressive tone of the instrumental. This track also feels out of place when compared to the other songs on the album, as if it was produced for a separate project. The same can be said for “7969 Santa” and “BBL Love Interlude”; the songs are forced and feel misplaced in the album’s convoluted (and nonexistent?) narrative. While there are a few highlights like “Bahamas Promises” and “Away From Home,” For All the Dogs is dragged down by the number of filler tracks that make up the majority of its hour-and-a-half-long runtime and would have benefited from being condensed. The extensive and topic-sprawling tracks, which cover everything from pressure to stay relevant to getting over an ex, cause the album to feel messy, raising questions about Drake’s overall objective with this project. Drake tries to solve this by framing the album as a series of songs played on the fictional “BARK Radio” narrated by Snoop Dogg. Despite the concept being successfully integrated in albums like Dawn FM (2022) by The Weeknd, the radio framework sounds random, a last-minute attempt to provide some linearity and cohesion to such a sprawling project.
In addition to a non-existent through-line, the album’s intense focus on sneak disses emphasizes Drake’s petty nature. Drake makes a lot of less-than-subtle disses to other prominent artists, most notably Rihanna. While Drake’s remarks on their old romantic relationship start as early as the first track, “All The Parties” solidifies the idea that Rihanna still plays a huge (and mostly negative) role in his life. The line “Guess it’s time to cover the shark” is a remark about the matching tattoo he has with her, and it suggests that he is adamant on erasing her from his past. Drake also addresses the allegations made against him in February for the murder of XXXTentacion. Drake appeared for deposition in the case earlier this year because of previous tensions between the artists and clearly responds to the accusations in “Daylight”: “I wasn’t there when they caught the body / TPS think that I bought the body / Internet swear that I bought the body / Take more than that to go pop somebody.” The seamless integration of these publicized incidents is impressive, but it also shows a lack of maturity from Drake. As he reaches his late 30s, one would think that Drake’s music would begin to take a more reflective tone, perhaps focusing on the struggles of adulthood (or fatherhood) rather than tossing around childish insults. Beyond the conceptualization of the lyrics, many of the lines on the album are comically aimless, like those in “First Person Shooter”: “The Spider Man meme is me lookin at Drake.” Similar cringey bars are seen on “Members Only”: “Feel like I'm bi 'cause you're one of the guys, girl,” a kind of unintentional sequel bar to the awful “Say that you a lesbian, girl me too” from 2021’s “Girls Want Girls”
One of the album’s few redeeming factors is its features. The selection of collaborating artists strategically targets Gen Z audiences with trendy singers like Sexxy Red on “Rich Baby Daddy,” Yeat on “IDGAF,” and SZA on “Slime You Out.” Drake is able to naturally blend the style of these artists with his own, merging fandoms through seamless stylistic choices. “First Person Shooter” with J. Cole is arguably the best collaboration on the project, as both artists stay true to their respective styles and deliver some undeniable heat.
Overall, For All The Dogs was what Drake said it would be: a Drake album. Unfortunately, the repetitive tracks made for an underwhelming project, especially considering all the anticipation Drake fueled through his delays and empty promises. Beyond that, this album sees Drake neither taking musical risks nor exploring new lyrical content. This, in combination with the amount of unnecessary songs he’s released in the last two years, makes listeners question the artistic effort he is putting into his career. When compared to other rappers of his generation, like Kendrick Lamar or even J. Cole, it becomes clear that Drake will do anything to stay in the limelight. He has reached a point where anything he does creates buzz, even when it’s the bare minimum. Based on his lack of passion in these tracks and the egotistical lyrics about his fame and wealth, it seems as though creating meaningful music is not a priority. As Drake takes his year off, it will be crucial for him to find a revitalized sound before presenting the world with a new, hopefully more thoughtful project.