“The goat was running away from the other monsters and the other animals,” says Adonis, Drake’s young son. He is describing a picture he’s drawn and explains, unsurprisingly, that it is “Daddy goat”. The message is clear. Adonis’ artwork is actually pretty impressive (he also demonstrates a humble disposition not to talk about money, which cannot be said about his old man), and the goat itself serves as the album cover.
Who would’ve predicted this back in 2018, in the weeks after Pusha T released ‘The Story of Adonis’ and revealed to the world that Drake had a mysterious son. The rehabilitation began immediately. Drake acknowledged it, rapped about it — “I wasn’t hiding my kid from the world, I was hiding the world from my kid”, he rapped on ‘Emotionless’ — and now Adonis is front and centre, his artwork and role in Drake’s life at the very forefront of For All The Dogs. It even sounds like he’s got a verse featured on the album, with a child rapping on the outro of ‘Daylight’.
As a father, Drake might be able to live up to Adonis’ goat, but For All The Dogs certainly doesn’t. The album is cocky and decadent, slathered in glorious production, and while it does occasionally hit the mark, the songs ring hollow more often than not.
The first half of the album is better than the second. ‘Virginia Beach’ is a good opener, and collaborations with 21 Savage and J.Cole both produce decent tracks — but even then, ‘Calling For You’ with 21 isn’t as good as the collaborative Her Loss, and neither Drake nor Cole could claim to be anywhere near their best, and therefore the song seems unlikely to be remembered.
Whilst not an exceptional project, it is certainly a welcome release from Drake in particular. Following his last two projects, I was beginning to see Drake as a brand rather than an artist, so it is good to see him return to his If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late style of rapping.
However, Her Loss lacks some identity as an album. 21 Savage feels like a passenger too often, and the project is somewhat inconsistent. Nonetheless, Her Loss is a welcome addition to the catalogues of both involved, especially to the fans of Drake alienated by Honestly Nevermind.
‘Daylight’ opens with a sample from Tony Montana in Scarface. Opinions will vary, but the whole Don Drizzy of Toronto as an organised crime boss isn’t all that convincing. Drake has done the rich man looking down from his hill before – and better – than he does here. The song itself then feels like an imitation of better Migos tracks, released the best part of a decade ago. If it is then Adonis on the outro, he again stakes his claim to being the real star of this project by arguably outperforming his father.
At first, the sharp beat switch-ups keep the album interesting, but they are used so readily that they, too, eventually grind. By the time ‘Gently’ rolls along, Drake’s alternation between Spanish and something approaching his strange Jamaican voice are both as bad as each other.
“Things get kinky after fifteen years of dominance,” Drake proclaims on ‘8AM in Charlotte’. It’s hard to see where any of this kinkiness appears, sonically at least, unless monotonous bragging and sub-par singing is your thing. It might be what he is trying to achieve with the beat switches.
The penmanship is as inconsistent as the sound. ‘8AM in Charlotte’ shows the kind of verses Drake can construct, flowing into the catchy, varied ‘BBL Love (Interlude). The sublime soon becomes the ridiculous, however, with ‘Gently’ and ‘Rich Baby Daddy’, likely the two most divisive tunes on For All The Dogs. Bad Bunny just about saves ‘Gently’, and in SZA and Sexyy Red, Drake has enlisted two of the most current voices in R&B and hip-hop for ‘Rich Baby Daddy’. The song is almost very good. The production is, yet again, wonderful, but the vocals leave it with the unenviable combination of being sped up and too long. Drake’s singing is almost frantic R&B, SZA’s hook slightly cringeworthy, and the whole affair running over five minutes only protracts the unease.
Of course, there are moments. There will always be with Drake and his wildly successful partnership with Noah ‘40’ Shebib; you need to admire his commitment and work ethic. It’s Drake’s third album in two years, massive in size and scope, and its faults are not down to a lack of trying. Yet with this music quality at his fingertips and a who’s who of features available, the inability to produce a consistently good project since If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late seems like a great shame.
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