For All the Discontent

Drake’s new album, “For All the Dogs,” follows half a year of epic touring, and falls short instead of living up to the anticipation
Photo courtesy of OVO Sound and Republic Records
Photo courtesy of OVO Sound and Republic Records

There is no question that Drake has the genres of rap and hip-hop “rapped” (pun intended) around his finger. Leading up to his most recent release, the internet was obsessed with what the 36-year-old artist (and one of Billboard’s top 10 greatest rappers of all time) was going to drop next. This obsession is curious, but not new. Since his first release in 2007, Drake has surpassed expectations of rap success. He has held his seat at the head of the table that is hip-hop as a genre, but his latest release has me —along with millions of fans of the genre — wondering if his music deserves it.

On “For All the Dogs,” his eighth solo studio album, Drake leaves his audience wondering: What remains of life once you reach the top? It seems, by his music, that he does not quite know the answer himself. “For All the Dogs” is an album of caustic songs about heartbreak, a shift from his tried-and-true themes of sex and female objectification. While he attempted a sharp turn from messages of sex, money and living large, his methods of conveying these themes have undeniably faltered. These 23 songs are a little more raw than the ones that gave him his big name in the industry. Yet, they still fail to utilize new, unfamiliar tactics, instead relying on his typical macho and oftentimes misogynistic lyricism. 

The peak of that attempt, “Tried Our Best,” is a surprisingly soothing expression of frustration: “I swear that there’s a list of places that I’ve been with you, I want to go without you / Just so I can know what it’s like to be there without having to argue.” Throughout the album, Drake describes having the trust he offers violated (“Bahamas Promises,” “7969 Santa”). However, songs from the album return to an overused form. And while “Tried Our Best” offers an approach to frustration that is often underrepresented in rap — gentleness and humanity —  his themes of disappointment with and objectification of women are still present. This is shown in songs like “Fear of Heights”: “Yeah, and the sex with you was average / Yeah, I’m anti ‘cause I had it with you / And I had way badder b****** than you, TBH” and “Daylight”: “She broke up with him and deleted a post / She said she was vegan, she eatin’ a goat.” In pretty much every album, Drake voices his disdain for the women around him, and frankly, his attempts to relate with listeners by attacking the girls in his life are tired. We see this in songs from previous albums, like “Her Loss” track, “On BS,” where Drake sings “I blow a half a million on you h***, I’m a feminist.” Like so much of his recent output, Drake’s lyrics are perched between humor and shock. The joke is, of course, the men that call women h*** are not feminists. But then again, the album as a whole is an off-color ode to femininity, from its title to its cover art. As per usual, he fixates on the power women hold over him sexually and the power that he can hold over them in any other aspect of their lives.

Just often enough, he slips in a line so packed with random syllables that they somehow fit together and rhyme: “Chinchilla ushanka, we shiin’ out in Courchevel” (“8 a.m. in Charlotte”). This reminds us that he is unexpectedly clever when he wants to be. But clearly, he did not want that enough for this album. “For All The Dogs” includes some of his least ambitious rapping of all time. On prior albums, he balanced out lyrical complexity with melody, but this time, that was rarely the case. But in places where he was deliberate with his wit, Drake gives us unforgettable lines like “They say love’s like a BBL, you won’t know if it’s real until you feel one” (“BBL Love (Interlude)”). While most rappers go with lines that pack a punch, his clever rhetoric is so outlandish that the lines he drops earn the status of iconic. 

Still, the album also had a handful of deeply modern, innovative, and nuanced production choices rarely showcased by other rappers. If his new album was showstopping in any area, it was sonically. “Amen,” featuring Teezo Touchdown, intertwined themes of faith and religion while playing with softer notes that contrast the stereotypical harsh nature of rap. Sharp, seemingly scattered piano notes and subtle but noticeably choir-style singing were intertwined in the background — which made the transition to themes of religion a little less jarring. I have to say, I really enjoyed the way that Drake paired his lyrics with his sonic choices, and brought the unique, softer aspects of religious-esque music to his primarily rap discography. 

Songs like “Rich Baby Daddy,” featuring Sexyy Red and SZA showcase sounds recalling the Atlanta bass music of R&B and soul singer, INOJ, and 1990s hip-hop group, Ghost Town DJs. The contrast between sounds does wonders for captivating the interest of listeners, and somewhat makes up for Drake’s lack of ambition vocally. “Another Late Night,” a collaboration with Lil Yachty, full of off-kilter censor bleeps that are jarring and somewhat unsettling, contrasts the smoky, soul-drenched minimalism of “8 a.m. in Charlotte.” 

But this sonic innovation is also standard Drake technique, and while I love him for his creativity when it comes to sound, this tactic is nothing new. His two album drops last year, dance-music quasi-experiment “Honestly, Nevermind,” and 21 Savage collaboration “Her Loss,” vastly contrasted with the rest of his discography and it’s clear from just the first song on each album that they are very different releases. But while Drake’s jump from genre to genre keeps the hip-hop world on the edge of their seat, I find his jump far more scattered than experimental, and “For All the Dogs” is even less focused than the previously mentioned albums. 

There is no question that it’s not an essential Drake album. Drake’s inconsistency when it comes to sound calls to question what the “Drake signature” even is. After all, Drake sings “What am I doing? / What am I doing? / Oh yeah, that’s right I’m doin’ me / I’m living life right now man, and this what I’mma do ‘til it’s over,” followed by “But it’s far from over,” (“Over”). But Drake dropped that line in 2010, and his latest releases have me wondering if his history of dropping quality releases is indeed “over.”

At the end of the day, “For All the Dogs” was nothing less than one long musical rant that should have been titled “For All the Discontent.” Even after raking up anticipation and excitement after its delayed release, I’ve got to say, this album is simply nothing new. I’m all in favor of hopping on the Drake fandom bus, but “For All the Dogs” is making stops in all different directions. Instead of having a new and unique sound paired with an overall message, the album leaves me feeling disoriented and confused. While Drake fell short of the musical ‘wow-factor’ fans expected, songs like “Amen” and “8 a.m. in Charlotte” have musical innovations that we have never seen from him. Although I love the change in pace that these songs provide, their scattered, unorganized nature leaves the album feeling disconnected and unfocused, rather than experimental. At the end of the day, it lacks an underlying message, and instead of showcasing Drake’s creativity and musical versatility, it reveals his lack of commitment to one solid message. At the end of the day, I’m just not loving “Certified Lover Boy’s” latest album.



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Morgan Johnson, Photo Staffer
Morgan Johnson is a first-year photo staffer on The Muse. She loves listening to all things Drake and binging The Blacklist, and if she's not on the court playing volleyball for school or club, you can find her at the beach or on the boat
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