Hot-Take Reactions to Drake's 'For All the Dogs': "Old Drake" Is Back, but Now He's Jaded and Bitter

We weigh in on the 'Take Care'-style production and toxic lyrics of Drizzy's very, very long album

BY Kaelen Bell and Alex HudsonPublished Oct 6, 2023

After lots of teases, a poetry book and a delay of a couple weeks, Drake is back with his latest dispatch: the 84-minute, 23-track For All the Dogs.

With guest appearances from frequent collaborators (PARTYNEXTDOOR, 21 Savage), A-listers (J. Cole, SZA, Bad Bunny) and rising stars (Sexyy Red, Yeat), For All the Dogs is a sprawling epic that feels more like a mainline Drake album than the side quests of 2022 (the dance experiment Honestly, Nevermind and the 21 Savage collaboration Her Loss).

With such a long runtime, it's a lot to take in — but Editor-in-Chief Alex Hudson and Reviews Editor Kaelen Bell crammed the album all morning and shared their hot takes in this DM chat, which has been edited and shared below.

The conversation touches on the return of the "Old Drake," the toxic masculinity of these lyrics, some truly beautiful production, and the guest who upstaged Drake on his own album.

The "New Drake"

Alex: Before we get into this album — what's your relationship with "New Drake"? Lots of people love his work up until about 2015, but things get a little murkier after that. Do you like any of the recent albums?

Kaelen: I'm unfortunately gonna go with the general consensus and agree that he drops off big time around 2015 tbh. There was something charming about the way Drake used to use his weird boys-only sensitivity that kinda curdled into something darker around Views. Also the songs just got worse. This might be blasphemous, but I kinda think Honestly, Nevermind was his most enjoyable in a while. At least it was pretty.

Alex: I mostly agree, although there have been some moments I've really loved since Views. More Life is great, partly because Drake takes a back seat for so much of it and is more of a curator. And then Scorpion is way too long, but it could be pared down to an amazing normal-length album. I think "God's Plan," "Summer Games" and "Nice for What" are top-tier Drake. Since then, the albums have just gotten really forgettable. Not even bad — they just feel disposable, like he's barely putting effort into making them, so why should I bother putting much effort into listening to them? I kinda agree about Honestly, Nevermind though. "Massive" is his best in years.

Kaelen: I think that's what's so frustrating about his latest stuff. I don't remember the last time an artist put out so many projects in a row that felt like they were on autopilot. I think he figured out the Drake Formula™ pretty early into his career, and he hasn't been able to break out of it in an engaging way in a while.

Alex: It's a paradox. Simultaneously doesn't seem to care and yet compulsively makes enormous albums. Imagine if he put all that time into making one 10-song album every three years, instead of two 20-song albums per year?

Kaelen: It feels honestly feels rude, cuz then I have to engage with this stuff that feels like he made it in his sleep. I have other things to do! If there's one lesson we can take from Drake it's the importance of editing.

On Autopilot for the Algorithm

Alex: With all that said — does For All the Dogs change any of that?

Kaelen: How do I put this… No.

Alex: lol

Kaelen: 23 songs of mid-tier to embarrassing Drake lines with some very pretty production doesn't feel like the course correction we need from him. But it's got some highlights, as every Drake album does. That Frank Ocean sample on "Virginia Beach" is so beautiful that the rest of the album can't help but feel like it's chasing that high

Alex: I think you make a good point by saying it's not a sufficient course correction. I've actually decently enjoyed my listens so far — I'm certainly enjoying it more than Certified Lover Boy, which had melodies but not hooks and was just joyless. Whereas this at least feels like Drake is trying a little harder to reconnect with what made him great in the first place.

Kaelen: Yeah, I think my issue with the album is less that it's terrible — you're right that it's leagues better than Certified Lover Boy — but that it still kinda feels like Drake on autopilot. He's increased the speed a bit but that doesn't really feel like enough.

I just can't help but think of Take Care and Nothing Was the Same — those felt like ALBUM albums. Like, artistic statements. So much of his stuff since has felt unsure of what it wants to be or say. Drake is an odd one in the big pop pantheon in that he's transitioned out of being an albums artist and into a singles artist as he's gotten older.

Alex: When he first hinted at the album back in the summer, he said, "They say they miss the old Drake girl don't tempt me," which is a "Headlines" quote. It really feels he's trying to tap into the the sound and feeling of Take Care, which is undeniably his best album. That Frank Ocean sample in "Virginia Beach" really gives me that feeling, as does the piano and gospel in "8am in Charlotte." There are some chopped-up chipmunk soul samples that sound very 2010. He actually does tap into that old feeling at times.

Some of the songs feel a bit like different songs stuck together in a way that's probably him trying to make another "SICKO MODE," and "First Person Shooter" kinda gives me the (slightly) darker aggressive sound of If You're Reading This It's Too Late. He's trying to be "Old Drake."

Sexyy Red Steals the Show

Alex: I kind of disagree with you about him becoming a singles artist, though — what the hell is the single on this album? "Slime Me Out" was released as the single, but it absolutely doesn't land. I think he still wants to be an album artist — there's even a running theme of dogs running through the album. Or at the very least he's an algorithm artist, who is very aware of the power of long tracklists to game the system.

Kaelen: I don't think his transition to singles artist is a conscious one, but his albums just don't stand alone as statements in the way they used to. Of all the songs chosen as a single, "Slime Me Out" was an insane choice — you have a better SZA feature right there with "Rich Baby Daddy"! and Sexyy Red is there! Featuring Sexyy Red on the album was both genius and a mistake on Drake's part: she sounds so awake and exciting that Drake can't help but feel lifeless next to her

Alex: Yeah, both Sexyy Red and SZA sound amazing on that song, especially with those big Take Care synths. That makes good on the "Old Drake" promise of the album. Beautiful.

Kaelen: Also bonus points go to "Rich Baby Daddy" for interpolating Florence and the Machine's "Dog Days Are Over" in the outro. I will give him that one. There are honestly a lot of moments on the album that fulfill his "Old Drake" promise/threat — they kinda float to the surface the more time you spend with it. But it's the length! This could've been a killer 12-song album.


Alex: The main issue for me isn't the length so much as: why does every song have to be so disgusting? Drake says something completely heinous on basically every song. Being a bit lecherous and self-righteous has always been part of Drake's persona, but when did he become this gross? "God's Plan" isn't gross. "Just Hold On, We're Going Home" is a bit gross, but in a nice way! "Headlines": not gross. But on this one, he uses his beautiful intro song to make period jokes. What are you, 12?!

Kaelen: I think that's what I was getting at earlier in the convo. He's become a much more petulant version of himself in the last half-decade. Drake used to have this goofy, sensitive underdog complex that worked when he was younger, but it's turned into this childish MRA-lite grossness. His support for Tory Lanez through the Megan Thee Stallion shooting saga reinforces the feeling — it's not fun to root for Drake anymore.

Alex: There was always a certain degree of suspension of disbelief in buying into his underdog persona. As many people have pointed out, he didn't start from the bottom — he started on Degrassi. But I bought into the idea of him as this lonely celebrity who desperately wanted connection but didn't know who he could trust. No one has ever made bragging sound sadder. I was rooting for him! But now he just seems more fixated on critiquing women's sexual performance and plastic surgery. It's transactional and entitled and icky.

Even if I couldn't relate to being a celebrity, I could relate to his sense of isolation. But now he opens songs with a line "Bust that pussy open for a real one." Sorry to be a prude, but yuck.

Kaelen: I kinda think that's what made it work in the early days — it was a persona that he performed, this sensitive Lothario who came up from the bottom and was disillusioned by his fame and success. I think the problem might be that there's no real separation between Drake the persona and Drake the person anymore.

Alex: Don't even get me started on the opening lines of "Gently." I don't even blame Drake for that — I blame his team. Someone needed to intervene. Talk some sense into the man. Get some ghostwriters in there, I'm begging you.

Kaelen: Oh god, "Gently." Embarrassing on a few levels, but that opening should be funny (in a laugh WITH ME and not AT ME way)! In someone else's hands, something so clumsy and tone-deaf would read as a goof, but Drake can't pull it off

Alex: I never go on Twitter/X anymore, so I haven't gotten a sense of the public reception yet — but are people making fun of that bit? "Casablanco"? It sounds like someone failing his 11th grade Spanish oral exam in real time.

Kaelen: Oh absolutely. There's also been plenty of chatter about ally Drake resurfacing on "Members Only." "Feel like I'm bi 'cause you're one of the guys, girl."

Alex: It says a lot about New Drake that I instantly read "members" as referring to penises.

Kaelen: Lmfaooo. Even with that stupid-ass line, "Members Only" is one of my early favourites — I like when Drake goes heartbroken and bittersweet. Though a lot of that is because of PARTYNEXTDOOR.

The Final Word (for Now)

Alex: So we've talked a lot of shit. Obviously it's hard to cast a final judgement so far, since we've only had this morning to listen to an 84-minute album — but if you had to give it a grade right now, what would it be? Bear in mind that this is the first Drake album since you moved to Toronto, so this is officially a test.

Kaelen: If it means my excommunication from the city so be it, but I'm leaning toward something like a 6/10. Drake's mean streak is getting exhausting and unpleasant, and the beautiful production and catchy melodies can't really make up for it this late in the game. Maybe a 5? I might just be in a bad mood. But if I am, Drake is at least somewhat responsible.

Alex: I'm with you on a 6/10. But it's not a 6 where I'm lukewarm — more like a 6 where I love parts of it and hate other parts of it. At the very least, I instantly dragged "Rich Baby Baby" over into my "Best of 2023" playlist, so that's something.

Kaelen: "Rich Baby Daddy" is the MVP, no question.

Alex: Well, time to listen to Sufjan. Take care ;) 

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