Early impressions of the rap superstar’s eighth studio album, which features plenty of his trademark imperiousness alongside features from SZA, Bad Bunny, J. Cole, and more.
The title of Drake’s latest album first appeared in an ad for his recent poetry book Titles Ruin Everything that leaned into his boyish toxicity: “They say they miss the old Drake, girl don’t tempt me. For all the dogs.” He spent much of this summer’s It’s All a Blur tour announcing features—including one from Nicki Minaj that is noticeably absent from the final album—before revealing the cover art, a drawing of a goat by his son Adonis. For All the Dogs was preceded by two singles, the SZA-assisted ballad “Slime You Out” and the chest-puffing timestamp track “8am in Charlotte,” representing the stark tonal binary that’s come to define Drake’s music over the past decade.
The record doesn’t stray far from his trusty blueprints. It is a nearly 90-minute trip through petty relationship drama, rich-guy flexes, and a handful of subliminal disses floated across beats from a who’s who of rap’s biggest producers. It straddles rap and R&B in the same way past projects like Nothing Was the Same and Certified Lover Boy did while keeping the mean streak of last year’s 21 Savage collaboration Her Loss and leaning a bit more vigorously into modern rap trends than usual. Now 36, Drake wants us to know that he’s still got that dog in him, for better or worse. Let’s dive in.
Mr. Nice Guy left the building a long time ago
Drake may have started out as a puppy-dog lover with a chip on his shoulder, but his attitude seems to deepen into a jaded fuckboi sneer more and more with every album. Dogs revels in that hedonistic flair, boiling the women in his stories down to the bags he buys for them and their nieces, and the drugs they inhale in the bathroom. “Slime You Out” and “Members Only,” in particular, are classic Drake, where he sings the virtues of his boys’ club as he dangles wire transfers over women’s heads. The old Drake never shied away from this kind of manipulation, but with more money, clout, and a fanbase practically begging to live vicariously through him, he’s rarely sounded as heartless as he does here.
Bold-name features are always just around the corner
Dogs is a roll call for some of music’s biggest names to come spar with the Billboard champ, including Bad Bunny and J. Cole. Longtime collaborators coax him into comfortable territory, like how the PartyNextDoor collab “Members Only” sounds fit for the Nothing Was the Same era, or how Lil Yachty’s guest verse and five production credits bring back memories of Her Loss, where he also appeared in the liner notes. Newer guests have an easier time injecting youthful energy into the songs: Genre-straddling oddball Teezo Touchdown has a handful of moments, but none as distinct as his soulful melodies on “Amen.” Two of the most memorable features come from Sexyy Red and SZA, whose raucous verses on “Rich Baby Daddy” live up to the song’s hectic, club-ready beat.
Drake is trying harder than ever to stay current
Drake is in his rap bag heavy on For All the Dogs, tapping Gen Z talent in an effort to keep up with modern trends. “Calling for You” apes the NY sample drill popularized by rappers like Cash Cobain (who has a co-production credit) and Chow Lee, while “IDGAF” has him crooning over rage beats alongside Yeat. References to of-the-moment memes—like the Druski-popularized “I stand on business,” on “Daylight”—and to the fact that he’s one chart-topper away from tying with Michael Jackson for the most No. 1 singles by a male solo artist, on “First Person Shooter,” ground the album’s recording within the last few weeks. There’s echoes of Kanye-style last-minute album tinkering in the writing, which is ironic considering that Ye may have caught a stray or two on “8am in Charlotte” with lines like, “You forced a lot of fake love when real ones stood in your face/That’s why you got deserted by your niggas like pudding and cake.”
The beats are a trip through space and time
On the production side, Drake enlists folks from across the map. Southside (“Daylight”) and Tay Keith (“First Person Shooter”) represent the modern South. Griselda Records affiliate Conductor Williams, from Kansas City, Missouri, comes correct with a soulful loop for “8am in Charlotte.” There are splashes of reggaeton and dembow (“Gently”), and several dalliances into rage music (“Fear of Heights,” “IDGAF”). One of the album’s most jarring moments is “Screw the World (Interlude),” which features ripped audio of the late Texas legend DJ Screw rapping over Nas’ “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)” beat in his signature chopped-and-screwed style. And album opener “Virginia Beach,” produced by 40 and Harley Arsenault, weaves in a sample of an obscure Frank Ocean track from 2012. Drake is an avowed rap nerd, and the styles on display across Dogs are particularly expansive.
The most Drake-iest Drake-isms
“Any nigga try and trouble you/He gon’ find out that it’s on-sight like W-W-W/On-sight like dot com, put a baby in you, a hot mom” – “Virginia Beach”
“Whipped and chained you like American slaves” – “Slime You Out”
“Your girl’s in the bathroom laying down white lines like supremacists” – “Tried Our Best”
“They say love’s like a BBL, you won’t know if it’s real until you feel one” – “BBL Love – Interlude”
“Savage got a green card straight out of the consulate/Where I go, you go, brother, we Yugoslavian/Formal is the dress code, dawg, so many checks owed/I feel Czechoslovakian” – “8am in Charlotte”