Certified Lover Boy versus Donda: Lineup of the Year

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Drake and Kanye’s long rivalry has come into picture with the releases of Certified Lover Boy and Donda. (Graphic Illustration by Anushka Anand)

Tanika Anbuchelvan and Samiya Anwar

Drake and Kanye West, 10-year-old rivals started off on the wrong foot when Kanye allegedly removed Drake’s verse in his song “All of the Lights.” Their feud reignited this year when both artists came out with competing albums within a week of each other and the two continued to fight in the public eye: Kanye doxxed Drake; Drake leaked Kanye’s diss track “Life of the Party.” Their tiresome rivalry may seem like it will never end, but it will certainly be remembered in the annals of music history.

Drake’s highly anticipated sixth studio album Certified Lover Boy was released Sept. 3, and despite its commercial success, the lyrics in the album are predictable and shallow. Drake envisioned his album as a heartbreaking combination of toxic masculinity and acceptance of truth, but fails to dive any deeper when discussing his experience with his self proclaimed toxic masculinity.

It is evident upon further listening that the album is filled with the classic Drake formula: sob stories about his complicated relationship with women. “Girls Want Girls” features rapper Lil Baby and describes Drake’s relentlessness when hitting on lesbians, through a now infamous bar, “Yeah, say that you a lesbian, girl, me too.” The lyrics bewildered fans and social media trolls alike, both agreeing that Drake is too old to be writing lyrics this outlandish in his songs.

“F*****g Fans’’ describes Drake’s inability to stay loyal in a relationship, rapping “​​Most times it was my selfishness and your helplessness that I took advantage of.” Instead of sounding heartbreaking as intended, the lyrics are superficial. “TSU” describes Drake’s relationship with a stripper who needs financial support and he raps, “We used to do pornos in the studio but now you got morals and s***.” Again, his lyrics come off disingenuous and immature.  The angelic chimes of “TSU” are diminished by Drake’s continually strange lyrics as he tries to paint himself as the stripper’s savior. 

Drake’s track list includes too much variety to attribute to a single theme. On “Way too Sexy” his tone is boastful and cocky, while in “Race my Mind,” he sounds monotonous while harping about failed relationships. “Knife Talk,” featuring rapper 21 Savage, discusses Drake’s gang affiliation, in a strange divergence from the album’s overarching theme. In “No Friends in the Industry” and “7am on Bridle Path” Drake whines about how he feels undervalued in the music industry and throws shots at rival Kanye West, proving a lack of self-growth as well. The album comes off patchy rather than as a united body of work. 

Many prominent artists are featured on the album, ranging from Kid Cudi to Jay-Z. “Fair Trade” is a fan favorite, featuring Travis Scott. Travis has an alluring verse while Drake raps about how he is losing friends in the industry. “IMY2” is made brilliant by the famed touch of Kid Cudi, leaving the listener wondering, “what does Drake contribute to the song?” Similarly, in “Love All” Jay-Z sets the tone and carries the song. 

Musically, the album has a strong pop influence, but overall, it was bland, uninspiring, undoubtedly not enough to make up for the lack of worthwhile lyrics. Drake has the same zoned out sound on every song and relies on his many features to add authenticity and essence to the music. Although Drake claims that he is currently in his golden age, it’s safe to say that his peak was back in 2016.

Donda, Kanye West’s tenth studio album, dropped on Aug. 29.  A chaotic timeline leading up to the album drop included  mysterious Instagram posts, well-attended Apple Music listening parties and multiple missed release dates. Legendary artists featured on the album, such as Playboi Carti, Travis Scott and the Weeknd, helped the album gain much attention. Following the precedent he set with JESUS IS KING, Donda marked another clean album from Kanye. Despite the controversies and delays, Kanye’s implementation of vocals, hip hop, rap and gospel influences brought the entire album together, making this album worth the wait.

Following the release of his 2019 album, JESUS IS KING, fans understand the importance of religious content in Kanye’s lyrics and music. In Donda as well, Kanye, an openly devout Christian, based the majority of his songs on the reformation he experienced after opening his heart to God. “God Breathed,” “Praise God,” “Lord I Need You,” “Jesus Lord Pt 2” and several other songs in his album contain gospel- driven lyrics and vocals. While his references are hard to understand at times for a non-religious audience, the lyrics seem to share a story, one that fans are interested in. Even at Kanye’s Apple Music live event, references and motifs pertaining to Christianity and Jesus prevailed as he sang around a church with intentions to mimic a Sunday Service.

Donda features a variety of musical genres, ranging from drill to gospel. His song “Off the Grid,” featuring Playboi Carti and Fivio Foreign, is a conventional, high-energy rap song that is invigorated by the drill beat switch before notable New York drill rapper Fivio Foreign’s verse. Right off the bat, Playboi Carti’s high pitched vocals compliment Kanye’s rapid rapping and the electric soundtrack fading away to Kanye’s voice repeating the hook “off the grid” adds a unique element to this song. Throughout the song, beat drops are thrown left and right, leaving fans at the edge of their seats with goosebumps on their arms. 

Another one of Kanye’s songs, “Lord I Need You” he sings melodically, in contrast to his typical rapping style and uses choir-like vocals in the background to compliment his voice in a way that moves the song forward.  

The most streamed song on Donda according to Spotify is “Hurricane” featuring Lil Baby — one of the few artists present on both Certified Lover Boy and Donda — and the Weeknd. “Hurricane” starts with the Weeknd’s voice and a soft, reverberating echo leading to the apex of the Weeknd’s verse. His mellow and soothing vocals compliment Lil Baby’s and Kanye’s rapping on the following verses. This contrast entices fans to listen more, as it feels like a musical story of two sides, instead of the monotonous, boring rapping of Drake on his album.

All together, Kanye West’s album Donda further develops the religious influence on Kanye’s  production and sees him venturing into new genres. His contributing artists and variety in musical composition makes this the best Kanye album.