On For All the Dogs, Drake’s outright contempt for women borders on sinister
Sign up to Roisin O’Connor’s free weekly newsletter Now Hear This for the inside track on all things music
Get our Now Hear This email for free
Once upon a time, Drake was a boy. Or more precisely, he was “The Boy,” as he often called himself: an ex-child star with a sensitive croon and a tender babyface, the fresh-faced prodigy who monopolised the culture. But with his 37th birthday in sight, Drake feels not just like a man, but an old man, in part because of his refusal to act his age. As he circles an inevitable mid-life crisis, the childish pettiness and adolescent insecurities that were once endearing in their juvenilia now seem tired and immature. Instead of chilling out and settling down as he approaches his forties, Drake’s new album For All the Dogs sees him acting up more than ever, in ways that frequently reek not just of insecurity, but outright misogyny.
Almost as if his bars were engineered in a laboratory to incite online discourse, Drake constantly reminds you of his age by directing his fragilities at women significantly younger than himself: a 21-year-old who wasn’t “a savage” on “Calling Your Name”; a 25-year-old who blames their relationship woes on her youth for “7969 Santa”. While Drake has always used uncomfortable language when talking about women, For All the Dogs sees him step into a role that’s nauseatingly patriarchal and almost abusive. He wants to handcuff them on “Fear of Heights,” then whip and chain them like “American slaves” on “Slime You Out”. When he raps that he “packs them into my phone like sardines” on “First Person Shooter”, his outright contempt for women stares you directly in the face.
Of course, none of this is really all that surprising – what else can you expect from an adult man who showed off his collection of hundreds of bras thrown to him during live shows? But it’s increasingly hard to ignore the toxic masculinity of it all, as Drake tries and fails to prove he can keep up with the cool kids. On tracks such as “Daylight” and “Fear of Heights”, he strains to fit over the futuristic “rage” sound popularised by Playboi Carti.
For better or worse, the album is at its best when Drake’s not there: “IDGAF” opens with a spaced-out sample from jazz group Azimuth, before Yeat’s fried voice hits like a drone strike. On “Rich Baby Daddy”, Sexxy Red and SZA come together for a moody club banger, with Drake barging in like a creepy afterthought. In both cases, it’s easy to wistfully imagine versions of these songs that don’t involve Drake . Instead, they’re just the latest moments in a long career of jacking the swagger and draining the clout from emerging artists.
At times, there are snatches of the “old Drake” – the way he interpolates a haunting flip of the Frank Ocean bootleg on “Virginia Beach” brings to mind the cloudy textures and hazy samples of his early work. But more often than not, Drake just sounds old, as his heartbreak calcifies into something harder, and more sinister.
Drake was once considered a rare rapper who made music “for the girls”, thanks in part to the vulnerability in how he sang equally of adoration and contempt for the women in his life. If the title of For All the Dogs didn’t make it clear enough, then the constant no-homo humour and the bars that practically beg you to smile more and cover up will: For All the Dogs is decidedly for the boys.