Critic’s Notebook: Kanye West’s Donda dominates over Drake’s Certified Lover Boy


Jacqueline Chang

Everything about Drake’s Certified Lover Boy from its album cover, to its overdone themes and gaudy lyrics makes it worth throwing it in the trash. Kanye West’s Donda, however, should be given a listen because of its fresh sounds and poignant tribute to his mother.

Anthony Keem, Staff Reporter

I remember listening to “Lift Yourself” by Kanye West in 2018 when he sang nonsensical variations of “poopity scoop” over the beat to spite Drake, who wanted to use the same beat in a song for himself. 

I always thought of this as symbolic of West’s tendency to push boundaries in people through his music. This incident triggered a bitter rivalry made public on Twitter between West and Drake, which eventually culminated in Drake threatening to release his album a week after West’s this year.

Now the two titans of hip-hop compete head-to-head in the charts as Drake released Certified Lover Boy [CLB] Sept. 3,  just around a week after Kanye West dropped his long anticipated album Donda Aug 29.

Unfortunately for Drake, his project comes nowhere near the quality of Donda, which represents some of West’s best work in recent years. The entire album can be described as raw and messy but most importantly emotionally engaging. 

Donda spans 27 tracks and impressively manages to stay fresh and interesting during its 104-minute playtime. Features with Kid Cudi, Jay-Z, Fivio Foreign and The Weekend, just to name a few, continue to demonstrate West’s excellence at merging talents together for album projects. The way he brings everyone together reminds me of his best collaborative work on his album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

CLB, by contrast, only has 21 tracks but overstays its welcome with an 86-minute playtime. The album features many of the same artists on Donda; however, Drake is constantly overshadowed throughout each track. Giveon and Jay-Z rip through Drake’s own performance on “In the Bible” and “Love All” respectively. One of the highlights of CLB, “Yebba’s Heartbreak,” doesn’t even have Drake on the track at all. 

Donda most significantly differentiates itself in quality because, unlike CLB, it is interesting to listen to.

Tracks such as “Jail,” “Off The Grid,” “Hurricane,” “Come to Life” and “No Child Left Behind” exemplify how innovative West can be. The album combines choir and organs with electronic percussion samples and synths to create a hauntingly ethereal atmosphere that leaves me with chills running down my spine. 

Thematically, Donda deals with West’s journey with his personal religious faith and accepting the passing of his mother, whom the album is named after. West’s honesty throughout every track gives a unique insight into how he struggles with mental health and his doubts about God’s role in his life.

However, CLB presents nothing listeners and longtime fans have not heard before, and that remains its biggest obstacle to success. 

The album’s lackluster quality originates from the singer’s reliance on the same topics that he explored in many of his past albums. Girls, hip-hop beef, status and wealth — such themes become played out to sheer monotony throughout its 21 tracks. 

A lot of Drake’s power as an artist comes from his ability to be vulnerable and open to his listeners, but unfortunately, he seems to keep up the same kind of cheap bravado of commercial success from his last album released in 2018, Scorpion.

At some point, “In the Bible,” “Love All,” “Way 2 Sexy” and “N 2 Deep” becomes nauseating to listen to. Drake demonstrates a level of proficiency in his flow and verses, but the subject matter becomes so trite that the album seems to drag on endlessly. 

Despite my criticisms of CLB, it would be unfair to say that the album is completely irredeemable or that Donda is perfect. The chipmunk soul samples on CLB exude a tasteful timelessness and “Champagne Poetry,” “Fair Trade” and “7a.m. on Bridle Path” exemplify great tracks with some strong verses by Drake. 

But the album as a whole fails to impress because Drake doesn’t have anything relevant to say to his fans. 

Donda does have its fair share of problems. Many of the tracks on the album start off very strong but lack direction to close. Additionally, Donda features different versions of  “Jail,” “Ok Ok,” “Junya” and “Jesus Lord”, which other than adding different features, don’t offer interesting differentiations from the original tracks. 

Ultimately, Donda remains as one of West’s most musically competent and avant-garde albums; whereas, for Drake, CLB is a sign of decline in his music quality. It would be more interesting if Drake could artistically keep up with Kanye West, but for now, the beef has been settled with Donda taking the victory with no bars held.