First Impressions Of Drake’s New Album, ‘For All The Dogs’

Our thoughts on the best, worst, and most surprising things about the album.


Drake is back. The OVO rapper dropped his latest album, For All the Dogs, featuring guest appearances from J. Cole, Lil Yachty, Bad Bunny, Sexyy Red, and many more. The album marks Drake’s third studio album to be released in the past three years, following Her Loss and Honestly, Nevermind. 

While there may have been some fatigue behind the back-to-back releases, day-one Drizzy fans have drummed up a lot of speculation about what sound the rapper would present to the world on this album. The rapper gave us a hint leading up to its release, stating, “I’m tired of everybody coming up to me, [saying] 'man… we miss that old Drake man. We need that old Drake man… Imma give it to you then.” 

So, is the old Drake rearing his head? Some of the Complex staff share their opinions and first impressions of the album below.

Best song?

Jessica: I’m going to give the award to the album’s opener, “Virginia Beach.” I can’t quite put my finger on why I like it over the 22 other tracks, but something about the blend of melodic and trap flows sounds right. 

Ecleen: I’m gonna go with “Rich Baby Daddy” for best song upon first couple of listens. There are others I liked (like “IDGAF,” which audibly made me go “I think I get it now” regarding Yeat), but SZA, Drake and “SkeeYee” queen Sexyy Red is not a combination (Drake voice) I had on my bingo card. The balance and duality exhibited on the longest track of the project is reflective of Drake’s chaos, and to put it simply, it’s fun. I’m adding to my weekend playlist immediately.

Eric: “What Would Pluto Do” feels like a sequel to “BackOutsideBoyz” and I love it. 

Jordan: Do I even have to say it? My GOAT J. Cole linking back up with Drake on a track after over a decade. “First Person Shooter” is different in every meaning of the word. 

Kameron: On first listen, the best song for me personally is “Members Only” featuring PARTYNEXTDOOR. When Drake teased this album with hints of the old Drake, this is the type of vibe I was expecting and it’s what we got. Party is one of Drake’s most reliable collaborators and this immediately moves up the rankings for me of their best songs together. After one listen of “For All The Dogs” all the way through, this is the song I have continued to play on loop. 

Kemet: It’s hard to go around “First Person Shooter,” though it might be that J. Cole had the best moment on the project as opposed to the entire song being the best track. But “What Would Pluto Do,” “Tried Our Best” and “Drew A Picasso” are up there as well. 

Stefan: I mean… it has to be “First Person Shooter.” I just spent a few minutes looking for a sexier pick, but the J. Cole x Drake duo is undeniable. It’s not easy to make Drake take a backseat on his own song, but at some undisclosed studio in Toronto, between the hours of midnight and 4am on October 6th, 2023… Cole did that.

Drea: I got excited when I heard the clever way Drake incorporated Chief Keef’s drill classic “I Don’t Like” in the background of “7969 Santa.” The Chicago girl in me smiled. Definitely one of my favorites of the rip. (“Members Only” also gives me similar vibes)

Biggest skip?

Jessica: I’m not even that religious, but as a person who previously grew up in the church, I had an immediately negative reaction to “Amen.” This isn’t like Beyonce’s “Church Girl” where it in some ways pays homage to the church-going girl or even other church-leaning rap songs; it’s blasphemous. Beyond that, with lyrics like “Prayin' 'til you find a man” and Lil Yachty in the background saying things like “Thank You Father,” the track is just plain corny. Meek Mill and Drake’s 2012 collaboration “Amen” is the only track of the same title I’ll go back to. 

Ecleen: Unfortunately, “Gently,” which I visibly and audibly cringed my way through.

Eric: “Bahamas Promises” is a little sleepy, and I had higher hopes for the Bad Bunny collab (“Gently”).

Jordan: The lights might’ve been too bright for Yeat, because “IDGAF” is the main song I’m skipping. He just doesn’t work well on that beat flip. Or “Gently” because Drake can’t speak Spanish.

Kameron: “Gently” with Bad Bunny, easily. Their 2018 track “MIA” is very strong but this one didn’t land the same at all, and I don’t see myself ever going back to it to give it another listen.

Kemet: Alright, don’t kill me, but critically, I didn’t find myself raving over the highly anticipated Yeat track “IDGAF.” It’s not bad per se but the age gap between Drake and Yeat showed here, as it didn’t feel cohesive stylistically. Also, it was monumental that Drizzy put his son Adonis on “Daylight.” But jokingly, there’s room for improvement, no pun intended. (I’m mostly playing, but this is a safe space, right?)

Stefan: “Gently.” When the two biggest commercial artists in the world link up for a track, you expect magic, but on this track, you can see the strings. Drake’s spanglish and some odd beat switches are forcing this one off the queue.

Drea: I’m a big Drake stan, usually this would be a hard pick for me, but not this time. I could completely do without ‘Fear Of Heights’. It just doesn’t do it for me. Big skip.

Best thing about the album?

Jessica: I think this is a great balance of Drake’s singing melodic side and straight rapping side. It’s been at least three projects since Drake tapped into his versatility in a way that felt cohesive and authentic to him. 

Ecleen: The interludes. This is quite a long project and the boy was not lazy with the breathers. “BBL Love” made me giggle and the Sade vocals made me float; the latter, quite the flex of a sample. Plus, on “Screw the World,” entirely a sample from DJ Screw, was a tone setter fit for filling the air alongside haze and cigar smoke of gatherings in the DJ’s native H-town and beyond. 

Eric: Drake brought back some of the “old Drake” formula (more singing, very specific songs about exes, a PND feature, etc) without retreading the same old sounds of his early albums. Instead, he called on newer producers like BNYX to make something that sounds as “current” as Yachty promised it would be. Drake’s always had a nose for sniffing out new ways to update his sound, which is why he’s been on top this long, and he’s still doing it this deep into his career.

Jordan: Besides Cole being on the album, it was really dope to hear Cash Cobain get a beat placement on the only song with Drake and 21 Savage on the project. He’s the godfather of sample drill, and to hear those influences have a far enough reach that the biggest rapper on the planet is jumping on the wave is amazing. 

Kameron: The run from “Slime You Out” through “All The Parties.” This is one hell of a stretch for those who prefer R&B Drake over any other version of him. “Tried Our Best” has been floating around all summer as a leak, and to see it find a home on the final version of this album is a win because it’s one of his best R&B cuts in recent years. If I had to give somebody a reason this album is mandatory listening, this stretch would be it. 

Kemet: The guest appearances and not the listed ones. Sure, J. Cole spit venom on “First Person Shooter” and extended his insane run of features in 2023, PARTYNEXTDOOR was tagged to show why OVO x OMO collabs have been become coveted on “Members Only,” and Sexyy Red continued to reign as the queen of racy rap in the roller rink bop “Rich Baby Daddy.” But the hidden features and interpolations made for a magical listen as well. Hearing Frank Ocean’s voice “Virginia Beach” was a blissful surprise, Fridayy’s sonorous crooning in the back of “Calling For You” was A1, Young Thug’s high-octane ad-libs on “What Would Pluto Do” added some electricity to the record and among others, Ty Dolla $ign’s harmonies on tracks like “Tried Our Best” were celestial. Even OG’s like Sade (“BBL Love”) and Snoop Dogg (“7969 Santa”) were honorably recruited to be a part of Drake’s eighth solo LP. There were a lot of chefs in the kitchen but they all cooked for sure. 

Stefan: Drake taking chances with features. Teezo, Sexyy Red, Yeat, just to name a few. Drake is no stranger to co-signing the newer generation, but his ability to gel with their sound and jump into their world is always appreciated.

Drea: The vibes are extremely laid back on this project; it definitely sets a specific and direct, tranquil tone.

Worst thing about the album?

Jessica: My immediate negative about the album is that it’s quite long. I’m still not trying to listen to 23 tracks on an album, even if it’s Drake. Besides that, I’m not sure I can identify that Drake hit — the song that is universally loved off of one listen has replay value to last years. Maybe I need a few more listens. 

Ecleen: Predictability on the subject matter. Plus, some of the voice samples felt unnecessary; on songs like “Calling For You,” it was especially annoying and jarring. Plus, perhaps it’s time to start properly crediting these folks if the industry’s gonna continue to go crazy with them, no?

Eric: Maybe it’s because I woke up at 6 a.m. to listen, but the middle section of this 23-song album got a little sleepy and lost momentum when Drake got to slower songs like “Bahamas Promises” and “Drew a Picasso.” It’s hard to hold attention for 90 minutes on a tracklist this long, and he could have cut some of those. He taps into his R&B bag successfully on “Members Only” with PartyNextDoor, but some of the others weren’t necessary.

Jordan: Some of these songs are too long and don’t need a beat switch. It’s fun when he does it on the high energy tracks earlier on the album, but it gets tired fast. 

Kameron: The first half of this album is too chaotic for the first listen to have been at 5 a.m. A listen later this evening and over the weekend might change how I receive the beginning of the project. But Drake, please, never drop a project before the crack of dawn again. 

Kemet: Not that the project needed more guest appearances but the pump fake of the Nicki Minaj collab kinda sucks. Young Money is arguably one of the best rap collectives of all time in terms of success and impact. Each time Wayne, Nicki or Drake drops, there’s an opportunity to cement that idea even more through familial collaborations. But the actuality of them linking on wax has surely become a rarity these days. 

Stefan: Lack of rap Drake. We got a good taste of it on some songs early on, but coming off Her Loss I was looking forward to hearing more from braggadocious Drake. If by Old Drake he meant singing/R&B Drake, he wasn’t lying. 

Drea: The album will probably grow on me as I listen to it more, so I hate to nitpick too early, but I wanted more party anthems and uptempo tracks.

Biggest surprise?

Jessica: I guess I didn’t anticipate the rumored shots at Rihanna on “Fear of Heights.” To be clear, he didn’t necessarily name her, but after hearing lyrics like, “Why they make it sound like I'm still hung up on you?/That could never be/ Gyal can't ruin me/ Better him than me/ Better it's not me I'm anti, I'm anti,” it’s impossible to not get the obvious references. It’s especially surprising because it’s been years since the two have been connected, and while fans may have said that he’s still in love with Rih, he’s released several projects since their separation. 

Ecleen: The uncredited vocals and ad-libs scattered throughout the project by way of Frank Ocean, Yachty, Teezo and more. Drake’s the deepest he’s been in his singing bag here and the experience jumped out, but the help of friends throughout the project really elevated it as a whole.

Eric: I can’t lie, Drake and Lil Yachty fooled me with the pre-album narratives. I was afraid that Drake would lean too much on clickbait theatrics after promises that he would be “severing some ties and burning some bridges” (plus Lil Yachty’s warning that Drake would be discussing “controversial” topics). But outside of some subliminal shots (fans have theories that he’s subbing both Pusha-T and Rihanna on “Fear of Heights”) most of the discourse has been about the actual music so far, which I appreciate. (We’ll see if that changes in the days to come with any interviews and music videos.)

Jordan: Despite being optimistic, there was no way I really thought Cole and Drake would jump on a track together again, especially after they didn’t perform any of their songs together during Dreamville Fest 2023. Rest assured, I was pleasantly surprised by “First Person Shooter.”

Kameron: How heavily he leaned into the modern sounds of hip-hop. Drake is a chameleon and that is part of what makes him one of the greatest hip-hop artists of all-time. But it was shocking to hear him abandon his own distinct sound completely in the beginning of the project and even at parts towards the back end. Even on projects such as ViewsMore Life, and Honestly, Nevermind, he adapted to new sounds while still sounding very much like Drake. There are times here when that doesn’t seem to be the case. 

Kemet: Teezo Touchdown being on multiple songs was pretty surprising. Fan or not, the rising musician continues to rack up co-signs and this was certainly among the hugest he could get. From Tyler, The Creator to Travis Scott and now Drizzy, it seems like the industry has chosen him already as they did Sexyy Red. Shoutout to Teezo for holding his own and putting on for the talent in Texas. 

Stefan: The lack of spicy bars. Leading up to 6AM today, the assumption was Drake was coming for heads. Yachty said that some of the topics on the album were controversial, and just this morning Drake was talking crazy on Table For One saying how he was going to burn some bridges. There were subliminals thrown around on “Fear Of Heights” that seemed aimed at Pusha and Pharrell (and Rihanna?), but when the first song on the tracklist is called “Virginia Beach,” I’m expecting their names to be dropped.

Drea: I’m surprised the project is so laid back, I'm not complaining though. I just didn’t know what to expect. I’m still happy Drake blessed us with new music.

Favorite bar?

Jessica: I’m still searching for a Drake bar, but for now, I’ll give it to Cole: “Love when they argue the hardest MC/ Is it K-Dot? Is it Aubrey? Or me?/ We the big three like we started a league.” 

Ecleen: “There’s plenty people dead to me, still breathing” on “Polar Opposites,” or “Shania Twain, notepad, I’m makin’ it line-dance” on “8am in Charlotte.”

Eric: It’s not the most clever bar on the album, but it made me laugh to hear him rap, “To keep it real, I wasn't really gangster 'til now/I was livin' on a cloud, I was quiet as a mouse.” Who said Drake’s not self-aware?

Jordan: Cole’s entire verse on “First Person Shooter.”

Kameron: It's impossible to pick just one from the last verse on “Tried Our Best.” That entire last verse is just perfection for me.

Kemet: J. Cole’s Spider-Man meme bar clearly stole the show. But I’m going to go in another direction and draw attention to some of that stuff Drake was talking about on the introspective “Away From Home.” Who was outside when Drake had the clean-shaven face, a brush cut and wore his hats at an obscure angle like T.I. in the early 2000s? If you remember, then you as a real day one likely appreciated when he said, “Even got on 106 & Park with “Replacement [Girl]/My momma was my manager, my uncle was my agent.” Bringing it back to before Lil Wayne co-sign, this nostalgic reference showcased the full picture of how much Drake took his career from nothing to something over the last 16 years. What a journey.

Stefan: “Don’t talk to my man like that” by Adonis Graham. I'm just trying to be on the right side of history with the next great Graham here.

Drea: “You're too down with the gangy, you're one of my members.” on “Members Only.”

Overall thoughts?

Jessica: Is the “Old Drake” back on For All The Dogs? I wouldn’t say that he’s back in full form on this project, but there are definitely remnants of what used to be. With that said, I think he does a better job of blending the melodic with the rap sound, which is more seamless and digestible. The project is still a bit too long, and I’m missing the universal hit he’s created in the past, but the album as a whole isn’t a miss. 

Ecleen: 22 songs is a lot to take in and fully assess under 24 hours, but on first listen, it’s clear that Drake is somehow doing both the most and the least. Though not particularly a new attribute of his, as he’s now a vet, he could easily release tight, cohesive projects and try to get another classic in. Instead, he’s (wisely) IV’ing himself to young blood like Lil Yachty and BNYX to continue with experimentation and simultaneously (not so wisely) continuing to ride the often misogynistic, corny wave forewarned on the opening of tracks like “Slime You Out.” The Canadian rapper is in his R&B bag here, and it’s perfect for the season. But is Drake turning a new leaf or sticking to his old dog ways to the grave?

Eric: On first listen, I like it better than Certified Lover Boy ​​(it’s going to take more than a day to digest this whole 23-song album, though). I’ll always prefer Drake’s shorter, more stylistically focused albums like If You’re Reading This and Her Loss, but he went back to the something-for-everyone formula here, and he mostly pulled off what he was going for. The production is better than CLB (shout out BNYX and co.), and it has fewer skips—although there’s still fat to trim. Stay tuned for Complex’s updated Drake album rankings in the next week or two, but I have a feeling it’ll slot somewhere in the middle.

Jordan: At his most petty, Drake makes music for disgruntled exes who need to “get their lick back” even though they were the problem. At his most honest, he speaks transparently about situations that most people lie about to their friends. It sounds like Drake is back trying to give a little something for everyone on For All The Dogs with his mix of singing, rapping, and festival songs, and it works for the most part but also makes the album feel bloated. The strongest aspect of the project is how well Drake works with others, which is evident in his natural synergy with collaborators like J. Cole, PND, 21 Savage, and Lil Yachty. He also gives a platform to the next generation of artists and producers, with Cash Cobain producing “Calling For You” and Teezo Touchdown floating on “Amen.” I think it’s too early to say where this ranks in his discography, but between a timestamp song, Cash Cobain beat, and Cole feature, I’m satisfied. 

Kameron: As a huge Drake fan, I’ve never been one of the people to want fewer tracks from him. Views is an album I mostly enjoy front to back, same with “Certified Loverboy.” But this is the first Drake album since Scorpion, where I felt that leaving five or six of these songs on the cutting room floor could have served him better. Especially when holding it up against Honestly, Nevermind and Her Loss, which clock in at 14 and 16 tracks, respectively. This is a solid offering that could have been made even stronger if condensed. 

Kemet: For All The Dogs seems like it might age as one of them. Even at this point in his career, Drake has an endless archive of cadences and melodies, both of which are on display here. Pair that with his hopeless romantic reflections and disgusted bars about his juniors having the audacity, and it’s one hell of a combination. At no point did he seem like he was forcing it, nor did he sound like he had nothing left to prove. He sounded comfortable and like he’s in a great space in his career where he’s letting the feeling come to him instead of chasing it. On top of that, fans have been begging for the dominant presence of melodies since the heyday of So Far Gone and Take Care, so that was overall gratifying. 

Stefan: Early this morning on OVO Sound Radio, Drake said he will stop making music and lock the door to the studio for a while. In the almost 3 years since CLB, he’s given us three new albums. Three entirely different albums, and I'm honestly still trying to figure out where to rank them in his discography. He’s been moving at light speed, and I think some downtime will allow for that. For All The Dogs seems like the right one to leave us with, proving time is a flat circle, as we enjoy some melodic old Drake.

Drea: Overall, the album is pretty smooth. There are a lot of tracks to digest; I'm going to need more time to sit with it. Drake delivered a familiar and comforting overall body of work for his core fanbase. Very much Drake vibes.

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