In 2001, rapper and popstar Drake, now a 5-time Grammy winner and 51-time Grammy nominee, started his career on Degrassi, a popular Canadian TV series. By 2006, he had self-released his first piece of music, a mixtape titled Room For Improvement. Since then, Drake has released eight studio albums, 141 singles, 84 music videos, and plenty of compilation albums and song features.
On October 6th of this year, the rapper released his most recent album, For All the Dogs, with features from Teezo Touchdown, 21 Savage, J. Cole, Yeat, SZA, PartyNextDoor, Chief Keef, Bad Bunny, and Lil Yachty.
Many expected the album to be lackluster, considering that his last album was released just over a year ago. In the music industry, that’s an extremely quick recovery after an entire album has been written, produced, and released. Those who weren’t expecting anything stellar from For All the Dogs have been proven right.
Initially, the album needs to be more coordinated. When looking back to the rapper’s older, more critically acclaimed albums, they typically have robust coordination between tracks, making for a “no skip” playlist. For example, his Rolling Stones-rated #1 album Take Care or #4-rated Scorpion has cohesive track lists that feel carefully thought through and executed. Those albums have storylines of certain periods in Drake’s life or a central theme of one issue the rapper was facing. On top of that, the actual musical composition of the songs of those previous albums sounded more like one, carefully executed album that belonged together, rather than a mashup of disjointed singles.
In contrast, For All the Dogs includes such a vast array of incoherent features and styles that it’s almost impossible to be ranked favorably. Standing at one hour and 25 minutes long, Drake’s new album, frankly, is a missed opportunity. It’s true. He included some brilliant verses and interesting features, like SZA’s viral line in “Slime You Out” or the well-written “8 am in Charlotte”. It’s the general theme of, well, having no theme, that tanks this album.
For starters, “Virginia Beach” is set up to be a top-chart hit with its interesting beat and instrumentals, until 30 seconds in, where it’s obvious that the song has no real plot, beat drop, or structure at all. That theme of lacking structure carries onto “IDGAF (feat. yeat)”, a song that includes some beautiful female vocals and gentle music for the first minute of this 4-minute song. That serenity is abruptly stopped by the harsh inclusion of more typical rap-style background music and overly autotuned meaningless lyrics. That second part could easily have been a separate song, which would have been on brand for this chaotic album, but the clashing of the first style in the song makes it nonsensical.
This is not to say that Drake’s album won’t reach the top charts or make substantial profits. After all, Drake is one of this generation’s most famous and charismatic musicians. The album, however, certainly won’t make it into any hall of fame, which is a disappointment to any longstanding Drake fans who long for the sounds and genius of his prior releases.
One positive aspect of For All the Dogs is its connection to Drake’s son, Adonis. Adonis drew the cover art for the album and had a small cameo on the track “Daylight”. This contribution scarcely boosts the overall rating for this album, considering any inclusion of an artist’s child will engage more listeners and humanize the artist.
“Fear of Heights” also has an interesting electronic background instrumental that sounds the most cohesive to Drake’s previous releases and brings in similarities to his most recent album Her Loss.
Overall, this album, although underwhelming in comparison to Drake’s previous releases, still scores 3.2 out of 5 stars, mostly because of the large collection of collaborations, lyrics, and, of course, cover art by Adonis. This album had the potential to reach a 4 or higher if there was a more present storyline, message, or stance from Drake. In the end, the key to reviving “old Drake” would be to revert to the days of heartfelt lyrics, raw emotions, and original beats. It’s evident Drake has the ability, it’s just a matter of whether or not he will take the time.
As a kid growing up in Wellesley, there was nothing I looked forward to more than getting to play Little League Baseball. The smell of big league chew, the sound of the aluminum bats hitting the ball— everything about it was perfect for a kid who loved sports. So, I was surprised to learn that Little League has declined in Wellesley over the past years.
In the past seven years, the number of teams in the division for sixth and seventh graders has been cut in half. They have opened teams up to kids of younger ages to try out for a position on the team. To explain this, some point to America’s declining interest in the sport altogether, some to the larger access to technology such as iPads or iPhones, and some to other sports such as lacrosse or soccer.
But it’s not just Wellesley or baseball. Youth participation in sports has been in decline across the board. In the past fifteen years youth participation fell to 37% in 2021, a steep drop from the 45% participation rate in 2008. Why the drop-off?
A leading cause in this decline is the cost of play. From gloves to pads to helmets, youth sports are expensive. According to The Aspen Project, the average family pays $883 annually for a child’s primary sport. This price tag inevitably alienates some from participating in youth sports organizations.
Another leading cause is the pressure that parents put on their children to excel in their sports. As many Wellesley athletes and parents can attest, there is no shortage of parents who eagerly want their kids to be the next super athlete. From tournaments every weekend to private lessons, it’s easy for parents to lose track of youth sports’ goal– to have fun. According to the Aspen Project, most kids quit their sport by the age of eleven, with the average participation rate being just below 3 years.
Yet hope for youth sports is still very much alive. After the pandemic, youth sports for those under the age of 8 have increased, and it seems that youth sports have been recovering.
I spoke with Bennett Fisher, a representative of the Wellesley Little League. Although he has seen a decrease in participation for those in sixth in seventh grade, participation by kids ages 6-9 is at a record high..
Youth sports have taken a turn, and the pandemic exacerbated the decrease, but that is not to say they will not rebound in the next few years. It is essential that parents safely encourage their kids to play sports as well as youth sports organizations realize the true cost of play. With increased sentiment to make youth sports safer and more affordable, youth sports will come back stronger than ever.