Champagne Papi, the 6 God, Aubrey, the Boy, Wheelchair Jimmy, Mr. October, October’s Very Own, Heartbreak Drizzy or the artist best known as Drake has returned from a nearly year-long absence with his 8th studio album, “For All the Dogs.” Having been teased from the beginning of the year, as well as during his tour, the album was finally confirmed in mid-July through Drake’s poetry book. Featured at the end of the book is a QR code that led fans to a website announcing that an album was on the way, along with the quote “They say they miss the old Drake, girl don’t tempt me,” a lyric from Drake’s 2011 hit “Headlines.”
What Drake meant by “the old Drake” is left unclear. Did he mean he was going back to his original, early 2010s style? This version of melodic rap was a style that on the one hand put him on the map, but also gave him a reputation as an overly-sensitive young man, which definitely gave Drake some enemies early in his career. Or is he referring to the style he adopted in the latter part of the decade, which included heavily trap-inspired instrumentals, and a shift in topics from women and relationships to more flexing, as well as detailing violence in his community?
This question would begin to be answered with the release of the album’s first single, “Slime You Out,” featuring first-time collaborator but long-time “friend” SZA. Just from this song alone, it seems as though Drake is leaning heavily towards that early 2010s style, with the passionate and melodic Drake vocals reflective of his work on “Take Care” and “Nothing Was the Same.” In terms of the actual quality of the song, this was definitely a solid effort, with both Drake and SZA contributing quality verses. Despite an interesting, poetry-style outro, the song was pretty good and set the tone for what one should expect from the album.
However, any expectations were thrown out the window just a few weeks later, when the day before the album’s release, Drake released another single, “8 am in Charlotte.” As the newest installment in his “time and place” series, many expected the song to feature heavy lyricism, but as soon as the “Conductor” producer tag was heard, it became clear that this song was something else entirely. He adapts to the style of one of modern boom bap’s biggest producers and goes for four and a half minutes straight of some of his best bars to date. For example, “so many checks owed I feel Czheckoslovakian.” Need I say more?
The next morning, the album was finally released, and only more questions were raised as to what was meant by “the old Drake.” Starting off with the album’s intro “Virginia Beach,” which is definitely an “old Drake” song. With a Frank Ocean sample on a beat produced by one of Drake’s closest confidants, OVO 40, there are some very clear signs of vintage Drake throughout the song. This continues with the next two songs, with Drake’s verses on both featuring him lamenting a past love, something he has been known for doing since the beginning of his career.
However, there is a clear shift for the next three songs, with all of them being more trap-focused, one of them even being produced by legendary trap producer Southside. Overall, all great songs, especially his collaborative effort with J. Cole, “First person Shooter,” which features both artists discussing their current status in the rap game. Besides demonstrating a clear shift in sound, these songs also mark a change in theme, with all three discussing money, fame, and “standing on business,” themes that have become synonymous with Drake’s more recent work.
However, no song on the album shows such a drastic shift sonically as much as “IDGAF,” a collaborative effort with newcomer Yeat. Despite Yeat being listed as the feature, he is undoubtedly the one who carries the song. Produced by Yeat’s long-time collaborator BNYX, the song doesn’t stray away from his traditional style, and it is up to Drake to adapt to that, which he does extremely well. Following this song, there is another shift in tone, in which Drake proceeds to autocroon throughout the next six songs.
Besides a respectable DJ Screw tribute and some solid moments on the tracks, they are few and far between, and the overall remarkably boring stretch of the album leaves fans wondering why it was included in the first place. Drake quickly changes pace with the Lil Yachty-produced “What Would Pluto Do?” a tribute to another one of his long-time collaborators, Future. Yachty’s influence on the track is very evident, and aside from his ad-libs after every line, he has stamps all over the song, almost as if it was Drake simply just performing one of Yachty’s songs. This shift in energy is quickly halted with the next song “All The Parties,” another slow, uneventful track that completely wastes a Chief Keef verse, something that is very hard to come by.
The album continues with collaborations with Bad Bunny, Sexy Redd and an actual feature from Yachty, with each song leaning towards the styles of its respective features, rather than Drake sticking to his own unique style. However, these are some of the most interesting, unique songs off the album, with each song seemingly not taking itself too seriously, allowing for Drake and his collaborators to simply have fun with it, and make something exciting for the fans. The album’s conclusion includes a compelling look back at Drake’s come-up with “Away from Home,” but the final song, “Polar Opposites,” is yet another drawn-out track featuring a melodic Drake talking about another past relationship. However, is this what he meant by “the old Drake?” These are the kinds of songs that made Drake who he is, but is that all in the past now? Will there be another “Marvin’s Room” or “Best I Ever Had?” Most likely not. At the time, that kind of music was new, especially in a rap game that was just getting over the gangster rap era. That period is completely different from what is happening today, where nearly every artist is influenced by Drake in some way. At the end of the day, people get tired of the same old thing, and every artist, Drake included, needs to adapt in some way. If For All the Dogs is any indication, he has found a way to do that, and if that includes “borrowing” other artists’ styles and hopping on their waves, then more power to him.