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‘For All The Dogs’ Review: Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

3.5 Stars

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Drake is back, but it’s not like he ever left. On Oct. 6 at 6 a.m., the Toronto rapper released his eighth studio album, “For All The Dogs.”

Hours before, Drake began celebrating the album’s release with an episode of his new Sirius XM show “Table for One,” walking fans through the project and its meaning. Adorned with covert art made by his 5-year-old son Adonis Graham — who also has a short feature on “Daylight” — Drake announced on the show that this project is the beginning of a health-related hiatus.

“I probably won’t make music for a little bit. I’m gonna be honest. I might — I got some other things I need to do for some other people that I made promises to…” he shared on “Table for One.”

So, what does “For All The Dogs” give fans? With 23 tracks coming in just under 90 minutes, listeners can expect an album full of creative Drakeisms, interesting features, and a few skips. The project encompasses a much needed shift for Drake from the playboy imagery — both in the covert art of pregnant women emojis for “Certified Lover Boy” and the party tracks therein — to a slightly more refined and sonically sophisticated project.

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The 54-stop It's All A Blur Tour, co-headlined by frequent collaborator 21 Savage, featured set design of a floating sperm, a teenage Drake doppelganger hologram, and a tradition of bra throwing on stage. It seems that “For All the Dogs” juxtaposes with much of Drake’s recent persona, and embodies his sensitivities instead.

The opening track “Virginia Beach” starts with a distorted sample from Frank Ocean’s unreleased 2012 single “Wiseman,” and guides listeners through the pain of failed relationships. The sample indicates the feelings of hopelessness that so many can relate to and creates an introspective tone. The song builds up to Drake lamenting, “Asked me if I could have treated you better, but no.”

Lyrically, Drake still embodies his brand of romance centered, slightly sexually objectifying, but nevertheless pensive narratives of success and strife. The album’s second interlude “BBL Love,” encapsulates the essence of Drake’s newest era, “They say love's like a BBL, you won't know if it's real until you feel one / Can I feel it?” In other words, you’ll still find the pop cultural sensitivity that makes Drake a chart-topping rapper since 2010, with a hint to the larger emotional conflicts that allow his lyrics to connect with millions worldwide.

The largest fault of the project is its length, which weakens much of Drake’s other strengths within the album. He’s a quadruple threat as an artist in many respects: strong production, singing ability, rapping ability, and the influence to bring together features from artists such as Bad Bunny, J. Cole, and SZA.

For the songs that Drake cannot vocally uphold by himself, he brings in the help of his dream collaborators Sade, PARTYNEXTDOOR, and rising star Teezo Touchdown. Teezo Touchdown was a refreshing feature on the album, demonstrating his versatility in gospel trap songs like “Amen” and “7969 Santa.”

Feature-wise, the album appeals to Gen Z well with features like Lil Yachty, Sexxy Red, and Yeat. Expect to hear Red’s feature “Rich Baby Daddy” at parties and on Tik Tok for a while, along with the BNYX-produced “IDGAF '' with Yeat. Drake leveraged the artists’ unique sound to create an album that appeals to the “Old Drake” flow-wise, but still has tracks for the club and the aux.

Songs like “First Person Shooter” featuring J. Cole will definitely make their way into sports commercials and gym playlists worldwide, along with “Calling for You” featuring 21 Savage and “Fear of Heights.” The album floats between pensive and party due to its length, which also becomes its key downfall. For an album with features from legends like Chief Keef, his feature along with the first interlude felt misplaced. Although the project had a dog motif in both its namesake and a cameo from Snoop Dogg DJing “BARK Radio,” the narrative was slowly lost.

“For All The Dogs” will feed Drake fans for his upcoming hiatus and even in its skips will be a soundtrack for the post-Covid-19 rap world, where concerts, collaborations, and cross-cultural sounds win. There are tracks for people who want the old Drake back, who need songs to get ready to, and songs for late night drives.

As a new generation of fans and flaneurs enter the streaming era, Drake’s adaptation to the industry marks a transition away from the golden boy and into a father of contemporary rap.


—Staff writer Marley E. Dias can be reached at marley.dias@thecrimson.com

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