It’s hard to point out someone so controversial yet influential as Canadian rapper/singer Drake. Really, the only comparable figure is Kanye West, but that might not be a fair comparison. Less than a year after a collaboration album with 21 Savage, titled “Her Loss,” Drizzy is back with “For All the Dogs.”
Drake’s first solo album since “Honestly, Nevermind,” “For All The Dogs” is certainly better than his other efforts in the 2020s —-especially the abysmally received “Certified Lover Boy” —- but certainly doesn’t deliver without a few blunders.
Drake, born Aubrey Drake Graham, has long been a pioneer of intertwining R&B and hip-hop. Records like “Take Care” and “Nothing Was the Same” put him on the hip-hop map in the early 2010s after a short-lived but relatively successful stint as an actor in the cult-classic show “Degrassi: The Next Generation.”
After three well-received and decently popular albums, Drake released “Views” in April of 2016. A departure from his tried and true style, “Views” took inspiration from dancehall, trap and Afrobeat. An instant hit, the album topped charts for 13 non-consecutive weeks and received multiple Grammys for the cut “Hotline Bling.”
In 2018, Drake dropped “Scorpion,” which quickly became one of his more controversial releases at the time; while some critics praised its sonic exploration, others criticized its length and erratic nature. It incorporated elements of trap, R&B, soul, dancehall and more into its 90 minute runtime. After two EPs and a mixtape in 2020, Drake came out of the woodwork in 2021 with the aforementioned “Certified Lover Boy,” which was panned by a lot of people but still found itself topping many year-end lists.
It’s definitely important to note the meteoric uprise of Aubrey Drake Graham and the person that he is before diving into this album, as every record he releases seems to only get more personal. While this record certainly has songs that are refreshing to hear, it still suffers from issues present on most other Drake releases.
The opener is one of the highlights of the record. It features a beautiful Frank Ocean sample, ethereal synthesizers and lustrous production. Lyrically, Drake does fairly well on this cut; however, there are still some questionable bars. Overall, this track sets up high expectations for the record that are just not met by the rest of it.
From there, “Calling For You” features an underwhelming verse by 21 Savage, sparse production and more ethereal samples. While its faults lie in its verses, it’s one of the more interesting tracks on the record. Midway through the track, a spoken word interlude by model Babymirnz separates Drake and 21 Savage’s verses with a backhanded diss towards Pusha T. While the interlude is comedic, it doesn’t really add much to the track, and brings it down from being one of the better tracks on the album.
“First Person Shooter” is perhaps the best cut off the album, with an amazing feature from J. Cole but an admittedly mediocre verse from Drake. Still, the track has an infectious beat and tight production as J. Cole delivers clever lyrics with one of the best flows on this entire album. This cut contains one of the most hilarious bars from Drake, “I’m one away from Michael, beat it,” referencing the fact that Drake is one chart-topping hit away from dethroning Michael Jackson’s record of 13 songs.
Following this, “IDGAF” features a stellar sample from ‘70s Brazilian jazz-fusion group Azymuth and some of Drake’s best flows on the entire album. The feature from Yeat, while slightly goofy, is one of the better features on the record; however, it starts to lose listeners in the second half.
Littered throughout the second half of this record are several slower tracks—almost ballads—with some landing more than others. “8am in Charlotte” features a chill piano sample, almost reminiscent of classic ‘90s jazz rap — such as A Tribe Called Quest or Digable Planets. Drake’s verse is one of his best on the album, delivering genuinely soulful lyrics with one of his best flows of the decade so far.
One of the more noteworthy tracks on the latter half of this record is “Gently” featuring Bad Bunny. The song is a defiant and boastful reggaeton track—new territory for Drake. The opening sees a pleasant acoustic guitar and piano loop, with Drake singing in Spanish. The latter half features Bad Bunny on vocals, delivering an infectious verse. Overall, this is one of the more interesting tracks on the album, and a commendable effort to expand into new territory.
“Rich Baby Daddy” drags on for way too long; it’s the longest cut on the record at over five minutes. It features a standout guest verse from SZA, which is a highlight of the track. The record closes with the somber cut “Polar Opposites” and features some of Drake’s most sincere lyrics and delivery on the entire album.
This album has a lot of strengths and a lot of weaknesses. Generally, it’s a step in the right direction; however, it falls into the same faults that plague his other releases. It’s very long at 90 minutes, has a lot of filler and several ridiculous lines from Drake. “For All The Dogs” gives hope for his future releases, even if those beams of hope are few and far between.