The Canadian rapper’s eighth studio album is occasionally great, yet bloated and mediocre like his other recent releases.
When the Toronto native began teasing For All The Dogs, he proclaimed, “They say they miss the old Drake, girl don’t tempt me.” Released on Oct. 6, 2023, his eight studio album contains glimpses of the quality of his older acclaimed material, yet suffers from the same major drawbacks that have plagued his recent releases.
The album starts off on a decent note, with Drake attacking a series of rap tracks with good performances. “Fear Of Heights” and “Daylight” notably feature high-energy trap beats and Playboi Carti-esque adlibs. The artist’s rapping is adequate overall, though his usual ridiculous puns do appear throughout the album; some of the most ridiculous examples being “I wanna slide in your box like a vote” (“What Would Pluto Do”) and “Feel like I’m bi ’cause you’re one of the guys, girl” (“Members Only”).
Drake’s good performances are met with even greater guest appearances: J. Cole helps elevate their anthemic trade-off on “First Person Shooter” with a bold demeanor and clever bars, whereas Teezo Touchdown’s sermon-like singing on “Amen” is soothing and plays off Drake’s usual relationship-based humour.
The album’s midsection is where Drake truly shines. The run from “Slime You Out” to “Members Only” features a handful of low-key and laid-back R&B tracks where Drake gives smooth and soft singing performances over slow, wavy instrumentals. “Members Only” is an atmospheric, nocturnal and wavy R&B track that would feel right at home on Drake’s 2015 mixtape If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, complete with a feature from OVO signee PARTYNEXTDOOR.
Unfortunately, there are many gripes to be had with For All The Dogs. With 23 tracks and over 80 minutes of runtime, the project essentially sets out to be bloated with filler tracks. Drake is absolutely asleep at the wheel on “7969 Santa,” wasting an airy, atmospheric beat on a mind-numbingly boring flow where he even begins to drone off-beat. Many features are notably downplayed or misplaced altogether.
The sample of Chief Keef’s “I Don’t Like” on “7969 Santa” is a head-scratcher, as is the scantness of Keef’s contribution to “All The Parties.” The Chicago rapper delivers a greatly sung bit, yet Drake ends up changing the song’s key and singing Keef’s bit himself later on, making the feature feel unnecessary.
“IDGAF” is another curious case. The track begins with a minute-long ambient intro that proves to be virtually useless when it abruptly cuts to Yeat rapping. Drake’s sudden introduction on the track feels out of place and his appearance lasts only 40 seconds out of four minutes—making it nonessential. Drake simply tacked himself on a track by Yeat, who gives a far more enthralling performance.
“Calling For You” is also a huge waste of potential. The track starts off as one of the most fun moments on the record with Drake hopping on a lighthearted, R&B-infused drill beat from Cash Cobain. Unfortunately, 21 Savage is put over a separate, generic beat, which prompts an average and predictable performance. To make matters worse, both sections are bridged by an obnoxious, two-minute rant from a Mississauga Instagram model who complains about flying economy and likens eating oxtail and jerk chicken everyday on vacation to being in jail—talk about first world problems.
“Gently” featuring Bad Bunny is easily the worst offender. Drake’s performance is a stereotypically basic mish-mash of Spanish words so ridiculously cliché that it feels like a parody. Bad Bunny absolutely does his thing in the second half, proving that the song would be an easy hit if released on his own album a week later without Drake’s verse.
For All The Dogs is decent overall. There are some great tracks—as proven by the R&B material—although they are sandwiched between questionable feature placements, random beat switches, a mix of inconsistent sounds, and several mediocre tracks. Sure, the old Drake is still capable of coming back, but he only appears for one out of every 25 tracks that he releases.
Trial Track: “Members Only (feat. PARTYNEXTDOOR)”