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Drake’s “For All The Dogs”: A Rundown Of The Rapper’s Eighth Album

Under a year since his last full-length, Her Loss, the Toronto MC is back. Drake’s eighth studio album, For All The Dogs, has just arrived. Here’s a breakdown of what you’ll find on this 23-track effort.

We open with “Virginia Beach”—a track whose mission statement you can find in the lyric it takes its name from: “[she] pretty but rough, just like Virginia Beach.” Clad with a sample from an unreleased Frank Ocean song, Drizzy is in a familiar spot, giving the audience plenty of details about a relationship gone wrong. An unexpectedly understated intro to the album, the track is well placed as it does foreshadow where much of Drake’s For All The Dogs spends its time.

An Explosive First Act

“Amen” is where things really get rolling. It features the first collaboration between the Toronto MC and the chameleon-like Teezo Touchdown, whose release Drake publicly celebrated as some of “the best music ever.” True to form, Touchdown again changes shape for his contributions here, calling to mind the work of Sampha on “Too Much” or Giveon on “Chicago Freestyle” with his church-inspired choir verse. That church inspiration continues with the characteristic soul sample-laden backing track. 21 Savage is next up on “Calling For You,” a track that doesn’t reinvent the wheel by any means. If you checked in to their collaborative LP, this one will be familiar, as it bears a lot of the same makeup as slower, tender cuts from that project.

Speaking of Her Loss, the aggressive, boisterous Drake that we got on some of that project’s biggest hits makes his first appearance on “Fear of Heights.” It’s a lean towards the mafioso kind of persona he’s adopted before, and the lyrics contain pointed barbs fit for the occasion. Notably, it’s the cut on the album that most directly addresses his recent feuds, chiefly the beef between him and former GOOD Music president Pusha T. In a not-so-veiled threat, he raps “Virginia, I pull up and chill / You know you can’t come where I stay.” Mafioso isn’t just a description pulled out of thin air, either, as “Daylight” opens with a literal Scarface quote. The mind behind the project’s album art, young Adonis Graham, also appears in the closing moments of this one with his on-mic debut.

Drake and J. Cole embracing at the former’s 2019 London Concert. The two reunite on ‘For All the Dogs’ on Drake’s”First Person Shooter.” Taken from @jcoleville on Twitter.

At Long Last, A J. Cole Feature On Drake’s For All the Dogs

For long-time fans, and hip-hop geeks in general, track 5 is nothing short of monumental. “First Person Shooter” is the long-awaited link up between Drake and J. Cole, who have had a ten-year gap in their collaborative history since “Jodeci Freestyle” and “In the Morning,” off of the latter’s debut album. Since then, the two artists have risen to quite literally the top of the game, something they both address at length on each of their verses. Cole does so the most directly when he spits, “Love when they argue the hardest MC / Is it K-Dot? Is it Aubrey or me? / We the big three like we started a league.”

The mutual respect they share comes up in subtextual ways, as well, with the North Carolina product adopting a rapid-fire staccato flow that’s been a Drake signature in his recent work. It almost goes without saying that the Dreamville boss turns in an all-world performance, as he’s wont to do. Either way, the end product of their long-awaited joint single totally lives up to the hype, delivering on a promise they’ve both delivered many times before.

Also long teased is the follow-up, “IDGAF” which brings Gen Z champion Yeat into the fold. This is the fullest embrace of “rage rap” trends on Drake’s For All The Dogs, something that won’t come as a surprise if you’ve paid attention to the frequent deployment of Working on Dying’s producer BNYX, who handled production on “Search & Rescue” and Travis Scott’s “MELTDOWN.” Given that, Yeat isn’t far out of his comfort zone, and hands in a typically off-the-wall verse in his appearance.

Plenty of Reflection and Introspection From the Toronto MC

From there, “7969 Santa” is most interesting for its production choices, which are trendy and a bit more online than we typically see from Drake. The lo-fi synth work and hi-pass Chief Keef sample make this resemble a YouTube edit more than his standard fare, but it’s a fitting backdrop for the rapper to reminisce about women who have scorned him. Teezo again chips in towards the end with a choir-like interstitial, before a hidden feature from Snoop appears. The Long Beach legend plays radio DJ with some obligatory dog-themed metaphors in his monologue, dropping the album’s title alongside mentions of pit bulls, “B.A.R.K. radio” and tearing the “roof” off. He queues up “Slime You Out,” a song whose success and significance we covered when it was dropped in the lead-up to the project.

Drake and Drake alone carries the four middle stretch of the project. As teased in the title of its first offering, “Bahamas Promises,” we return to an embittered tone, scorned again by a partner he brought to the most scenic of locations. That continues on “Tried Our Best,” which is rife with true-to-life imagery of a relationship gone sour. It’s also where we get the most Lil Wayne-like performance—Drizzy’s verses are filled with word association and similes that absolutely call to mind his mentor. The “Screw the World Interlude” pays respect to another one of his influences, the late Houston icon whose chopped not slopped style blended with a slowed version of Nas’ “If I Ruled The World” for a perfectly placed palate cleanser.

Familiar Faces and A Few First-Timers

That gives way to the triumphant return of PARTYNEXTDOOR on “Members Only,” which throws back to the halcyon days when the OVO signee was a sure bet to appear on every Drake effort. Notably absent is another frequent collaborator in Future, though he’s “here in spirit” on “What Would Pluto Do,” where his toxic relationship habits are the guiding light for Drake in deciding how to go about his day-to-day.

Teezo Touchdown pictured with Drake. ‘For All The Dogs’ features the multi-hyphenate twice, on “Amen” & “7969 Santa.” Taken from @champagnepapi on Instagram

Hinted at by his aforementioned sample, “All The Parties” is the first official collaboration with Chicago’s Chief Keef. His appearance is brief and melodic, but he’s indirectly present with Drizzy’s allusions to his work: references to his catalog from “Love No Thotties” to “3Hunna” to “Love Sosa.” “Gently” is the second collaboration with Bad Bunny, following 2018’s “MIA” which came at the peak of the Puerto Rican singer’s come up. Responding in kind, this track is a full embrace of his style, a total dembow anthem where Drake takes a bit of a backseat.

Atmospheric Jersey club is what you hear next with Sexyy Red and SZA in her second appearance on “Rich Baby Daddy.” The latter is the biggest standout here, but Sexyy Red isn’t as odd of a collaboration as you might think. Her chorus serves the same purpose as Houston samples have on previous smashes like the bridge on “Nice For What.” She very much holds her own in the verse section she’s granted. In the last song bearing a feature, rage synths define “Another Late Night.” This is just the second official collaboration with Lil Yachty despite their recent behind-the-scenes relationship.

Some Choice Solo Drake Highlights From For All The Dogs

“8AM In Charlotte” brings the most focused Drake verse, not particularly a surprise if you’ve tuned in to previous “time in location” tracks. Just like previous entries “5am In Toronto” and “6PM in New York,” this is a truthful, transparent check-in on recent ongoings in the rapper’s life. It’s a lot of grandiose imagery about his everyday life, and some insights into the big names he stays around, notably mentioning 21 Savage’s visa saga.

We close out with a two-pack of Drake’s solo song, “Away From Home,” which features more production highlights from BNYX. This is clearly the superior of the pair. While other songs have been backward facing, this track feels different in its genuine “good old days” reflection about the humble beginnings and how reaching the heights Drake has sometimes doesn’t feel as good as he once imagined.

With For All The Dogs, Drake reasserts his living legend status directly in a ton of the verses he turns in. But we’ve all heard plenty of his music by now. He even admits this tacitly with the cast of characters included here, an eclectic bunch that helps add intrigue and innovation to the material featured. As always, commercial smash status is a sure bet. After all, the album already birthed a number one single with “Slime You Out.” But “IDGAF,” “First Person Shooter” and “Gently” also seem like prime candidates for chart-topping success. All said, this eighth album stands out from the rest of Drake’s catalog by taking a more grounded and focused approach than previous LPs. It is no doubt in the upper echelon of 2023 rap releases.

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