(October 7, 2023). Okay, perhaps this article’s title uses a lame metaphor to make its point, but it’s no lamer than the new subject album by Drake—released Friday (Oct. 6)—one that’s full of cheap dog references and soundbites that are obviously intended to make For All The Dogs sound more cohesive and contextual to man’s best friend.

Except the album is neither cohesive nor all that contextual, unless you consider Drake’s normal penchant for droning on about bad relationships, rehashing old beefs he wants to keep current, and comparing himself favorably to some of pop culture’s greatest icons (Muhammed Ali and Michael Jackson in this case) to be a unifying thread, or the inclusion of several cheap dog references to be adding context.

With 23 tracks and a running time of 84 minutes, Drake kinda keeps the promise he made during the much-hyped buildup to For All The Dogs: to bring the “old Drake” back.

He’s certainly up to his old bag of dog tricks on this one: recycled trap beats, slowed-down (or sped-up) samples, eerie sounding backing tracks, lyrics repeated ad-nauseum, solemn ballads lamenting toxic relationships and/or Drake’s general paranoia, weird musical transitions and interludes, and those beefs.

But those things seem more like the Drake of the last half-decade or so than they do the Drake of old. In keeping with the current season and to continue Drizzy’s weak metaphors, this album is full of more dog tricks than dog treats.

Upon playing the album, one’s first reaction might be: how much longer can fans keep listening to new variations on the same old themes, set to some of the same old trap beats with the same old whiplash transitions from slow to fast-tempo grooves, often in the same songs?

The biggest and perhaps only difference between this album and any of its recent predecessors are the numerous dog references–and there are plenty of them–including the fictional but metaphorical radio station call letters, BARK Radio, announced on one track by the ultimate dog DJ himself, Snoop Dogg (or a very good soundalike), and on another track, “BBL Love,” by what sounds like Folasade Adu (aka the international superstar singer Sade, uncredited, of course, so tough to verify).

There are also dog-barking sound effects like those found on the ballad “Bahamas Promises,” on which Drake (again) sings depressingly about another failed toxic relationship before ending with more barking dogs to keep it in context.

At one point, on the song “All the Parties” (featuring Chief Keef), the banter devolves into a soliloquy on the uses of our four-legged friend’s barking sound, “Roof”: “What’s on top of the house? Roof. What’s in the top of your mouth? Roof. What’s babe’s name? Roof (Ruth??). What do a dog say? Roof. We comin’ to tear the what off? ‘Roof.’ They raise your tax, we raise the…Roof.”

Get the point?

In these ways, For All the Dogs attempts to be a concept album, I guess, with the concept being “let me show you how many ways we (men) can be dogs (and how women are to blame)” On the eighth track “7969 Santa,” at the 2:37 point, the eerie, mid-tempo trap track morphs into a piano-driven ballad where an uncredited Teezo Touchdown croons: “dogs will be dogs, though we may roam, leave the door open…tonight I’m coming home…” before segueing into a dog-like wail before Snoop offers the BARK Radio monologue in the outro.

On another track, Drake offers that he’s man enough to tell the woman she’s wrong, further embracing the “men are dogs” stereotype.

Perhaps the album’s worst exercise in hound-like misogyny–in the choruses of the track “Fear of Heights–is the line: “I know you a cat, but can your pussy do the dog?”

Even for those who might consider that line clever, you’ll have to wade through 43 seconds of Drake going on about how anti-Anti he is before getting to it. Huh?

It’s his anti-Anti rant, btw, that has led some astute listeners to believe this track is a jab at Rihanna, on whose last album, Anti, Drake was featured (on the No. 1 single, “Work,” in 2016).

That jab and the supposed rift it represents, assuming it exists, seems random and trite.

But that is the essence of today’s Drake, who increasingly spends time rehashing old beefs (and triggering new ones) in a 15-year career that should be well beyond that point. One has to wonder when, or if, the 21st century’s most successful rapper, who will turn 37 later this month, will move beyond the pettiness and start to show any growth, at least artistically.

“Slime You Out” audio clip featuring SZA. This single topped the Billboard Hot 100 last week.

There are some good moments on For All the Dogs. “Drew a Picasso,” despite its formulaic ballad arrangement with all of the depressingly eerie elements mentioned earlier, has a nicely clipped bass beat that makes you want to pump it up on some good speakers.

That track’s title could also be a nod to the album’s cover art, the picture of a menacing looking animal drawn by Drake’s five-year-old son, Adonis. That cover may very well be the best part of For All the Dogs, except we’ve known about it for the past several months, so our tails have long since stopped wagging over it.

On the next track, “What Would Pluto Do,” another ballad, Drake raps with slightly more attitude and confidence. The chorus asks the titular question: “So, the question is what would Pluto do; he for the hoes so I did it…what would Pluto do, he definitely fuckin’ on this hoe.”

Okay, maybe that’s not so clever. But Drizzy manages to squeeze in another nod to his son in the second verse: “baby girl, Adonis need a sister and my baby mama out the picture.”

Second official single, “8am in Charlotte,” is an improvement over most of the album’s other tracks, with Drake seemingly freestyling over a slow beat and a piano bed (with sped-up chipmunk-like backing vocals) on what’s been deemed his continuing “timestamp” series of raps. The video for this song (below) features his son Adonis who explains the inspiration for the album’s cover drawing (it turns out it’s actually a GOAT—like his dad, Drake surmises—not a dog).

“8AM In Charlotte” video featuring Drake’s son Adonis Graham

On “Gently” (featuring Bad Bunny), Drake indulges his guest rapper with a Spanglish, ballad-like opening verse that sounds like me trying to read a sentence in 10th grade Spanish class, before it suddenly shifts to an up-tempo Latin-trap number with Bad Bunny carrying Drake’s water for the bulk of the tune.

Sexxy Red comes out blazing hot on the hooks and bridge to the catchy dance number “Rich Baby Daddy,” also featuring SZA, and the song is amped up for at least the first four minutes.

At that point, the tune is inexplicably overcome by Drake’s normal wallowing in the wake of another toxic relationship’s ending, with our leading man interpolating a hook from a prior pop hit: Florence & the Machine’s “Dog Days are Over” (of course, another cloying dog reference).

When Drake allows them to be, those are a few of the album’s brighter, if not so stellar, spots.

Otherwise, Drizzy seems lazy here, almost like even he was bored recording the album. On the aforementioned “All the Parties,” he unnecessarily borrows from Pet Shop Boys’ 1986 No. 1 smash “West End Girls,” apparently without permission in this case (Q: since when did Drizzy need to do that?).

The casually inserted interpolation of the line “in a dead-end world, East End boys and West End girls” doesn’t really add to (or subtract from) the track, but it is surely to generate some nice revenue for the synth-pop British duo of Tennant and Lowe (should they pursue it), probably more so now with Drake’s ask-for-forgiveness-rather-than-permission approach to borrowing it.

Speaking of dead-end worlds, most of For All the Dogs is better suited for wallowing in a tree-smoke-filled haze while lounging on a couch than it is blaring out of your jeep’s speakers as you cruise downtown streets (unless, of course, you’re doing that while in a smoke-filled haze…not recommended though).

In the end, the album takes very few risks artistically and won’t be compared favorably to many of its predecessors, with perhaps the lone exception being his house music diversion However, Nevermind, which fans resoundingly rejected after its No. 1 debut in July 2022. (Of the nine Drake albums currently riding the Billboard 200 chart, Honestly, Nevermind comes in eighth highest at No. 146 with only Dark Lane Demo Tapes ranking lower.)

Laziness aside, Drake is guaranteed another chart-topper with For All the Dogs; it will debut atop the Billboard 200 (chart dated Oct. 21) becoming his 13th No. 1 overall.

That will move him into third place all-time behind the Beatles (19) and Jay-Z (14) for most No. 1 albums, and (temporarily) ahead of Taylor Swift (12), who will likely join him within a few weeks when her re-recorded 1989 (Taylor’s Version) impacts.

Bottom line: this album is a lackluster effort whose true legacy will lie not in what its first-week numbers are or its No. 1 chart debut, but in where the album sits months and years from now. Don’t expect to see this one ranked among career high points like Views, More Life, Take Care, Scorpion and even recent efforts like Certified Lover Boy and Her Loss.

Somewhere near the bottom where Honestly, Nevermind and Dark Lane Demo Tapes dwell seems more realistic.

The day For All the Dogs dropped, Drake announced that he was “closing his studio doors” for a year. That’s either the sign of fatigue or hip-hop’s No. 1 hound in need of a reset.

My guess is it’s a little bit of both.


DJRob (he/him/his) is a freelance music blogger from the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop, rock and (sometimes) country genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff!  You can follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @djrobblog and on Meta’s Threads.

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