For All the Dogs by Drake: Canines Take On Canada

Image courtesy of OVO Sound and Republic Records

Aubrey “Drake” Graham’s new album cover looks like a drawing from a six-year-old.

That’s because it is.

Adonis, the Canadian rapper’s only son, was doodling a story one day when he drew a picture of an odd goat stick figure. Adonis recounts the story in the music video for Drake’s new single “8am in Charlotte. Drake was so interested in his son’s creation that he bought the picture, put it on a black background, and there it was: For All The Dogs. 

Of course, there was much online frenzy when Drake first announced the album, hate when he pushed the project back two weeks, and finally, praise from his fans when it dropped. But does this album live up to the hype, or continue on a mediocre tangent similar to Drake’s most recent projects?

The new project opens with “Virginia Beach,” a cut where Drake raps on beautiful instrumentation from producers OVO40 and Harley Arsenault. The sample used is from singer Frank Ocean’s 2012 song “Wiseman,” which was originally supposed to be featured in Quentin Tarantino’s movie Django Unchained. However, after being dropped from the movie, Ocean decided to release the song as a single. The sample is pitched up and looped as a romping 808 bass, hitting headphones in a beautifully cathartic drop. This song is among some of the more captivating ones Drake has released in recent years. The lyricism is on par, but not multi-layered like some other bars on the album; Drake raps about a woman whom he compares to Virginia Beach because she is “pretty but ghetto.”

Other standouts from the first leg of the tracklist include “Amen,” with a standout chorus feature from Texas musician Teezo Touchdown. Teezo has been on a hot streak in 2023, landing features on many albums from artists such as Lil Yachty and Travis Scott. He also released his debut album in early September of this year, entitled How Do You Sleep At Night?. On “Amen,” there is lots of talk about how prayer is cleverly an innuendo for begging for a relationship (“Amen” sounds like “a man”). The sample is also crisp here, with flailing pianos here and there and a good verse from Drake.

The next five tracks after “Amen” similarly embody the vibe of calmness leading up to hype moments, signified by random beat switches. “Calling For You” is a two-part mess consisting of Drake rapping over some bass and odd kick placements, complete with an interlude of some random woman yelling about her man “looking for something” on her phone. 21 Savage then enters the track and raps for a minute or so. Two songs later are “Daylight,” a track where Drake sounds quite murderous, a gigantic switch-up from previous tracks. Then, yet another beat switch suddenly happens, and believe it or not, Adonis Graham himself raps a one-minute verse on a boom-bap instrumental that sounds nothing short of legendary. 

“Don’t talk to my man like that,” the boy says. 

The best song from this stretch of hype-ness is definitely “First Person Shooter,” with J. Cole, which sounds like a cut from Dreamville, J. Cole’s major hip-hop label. The bars could be better from both Cole and Drake, but both icons get their points across, and the song is good overall.

The next notable track is “Slime You Out,” a single released three weeks before the release of For All The Dogs. Drake is known for his versatile departures into more R&B Style cuts, which separates him from the pack of mainstream MCs. “Slime You Out” is Drake’s latest iteration of this trend, in collaboration with uber-popular female singer SZA, who has had a streak of popular singles and features in the past year. The song is melodic and catchy but has lost some quality due to its prevalence on the social media app TikTok before the album’s release. 

The rest of the tracklist of For All The Dogs kind of lags in terms of catchiness and replayability. However, several tracks are arguably some of the best parts of the album. Both “Bahamas Promises” and “Tried Our Best” are melodic and sonic soundscapes that touch Aubrey’s more sensitive side (including some catchy bars, like; “I swear to god, you think I’m Shakespeare / That’s why you always wanna play, right?”). “Members Only” shows the classic Toronto collaboration with singer PARTYNEXTDOOR. It is a lucid beat with some high falsetto melodies that cut through and enter a dream-like state.

The next big song, and the most punchy cut on the tracklist, is “8am in Charlotte.” The track was mentioned previously in the music video where Adonis talks about his drawing. The beat from underrated producer Conductor Williams is a beautifully flipped piano and gospel sample with hard-hitting kicks. Drake delivers his most pungent verses of the album in a monotone flow that stands out not directly from the inflection, but rather the sheer amount of references: “‘Cause your words don’t match your actions like a foreign film / And now its silence in the Lamb’ like the horror film.” 

“8am in Charlotte” also continues a different trend of Drake’s, his “timestamp” series, where he always has a track on his projects titled with a certain timestamp in a city. This song could be the best one of them yet, in my opinion.

The last two standout tracks are “Gently” with reggaeton megastar Bad Bunny, and the album closer: “Polar Opposites.” “Gently” starts with straight weird vibes, as Drake oddly raps about “Italianos” in a messed-up Spanglish accent. The song rapidly speeds up and transforms into a Bad Bunny sweet spot: reggaeton rhythms that are fast-moving and catchy as anything. “Polar Opposites” is a return to a psychedelic and R&B-induced Drake deep cut, with a signature sped-up vocal sample diddling in the back of a slow-moving beat. The singing is tasteful, deep, and a fitting end for a new era of Aubrey Graham.

It seems like Drake’s past few albums have had, as I coin it, “similar-different vibes.” What I mean by this is that his style shifts from album to album are only slightly significant enough to warrant any genuine artistic growth. For All The Dogs has its highlights, and they are ethereal and beautiful. However, due to its consistent inconsistencies, it fails to meet the expectations of such a huge artist like Drake. Perhaps, as he grows older and wiser, we will see him take even larger musical leaps. Instead, it’s just the same “old-new” trend that continues to plateau with every consecutive release.