Donda vs. Certified Lover Boy


Both Donda and Certified Lover Boy have both been two of the most highly anticipated albums of 2021. Kanye first announced Donda in summer 2020 with an July 24th release date during a Twitter rant. As we now know, Donda—named after Kanye’s mother, who had passed away in 2007 and had always been Kanye’s rock—did not come to streaming platforms until August 29th, 2021.

Drake first announced Certified Lover Boy on October 24th, 2020 with a full-length trailer and a January 2021 release date. Strangely, the album never came in January, February or even March. On March 5th, Drake released the Scary Hours 2 EP, which sent a message to the community that it might be some time before Certified Lover Boy is complete and released.

Kanye, who is notorious for announcing release dates for his albums and not following through, released his first version of Donda to the public with a listening party held at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in Atlanta, Georgia. West lived in a small room in the stadium that was converted into a professional recording studio from July 24th to August 6th until the third version of the album was released through a listening party held at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois on August 26th, 2021. After about two months of rumors, speculation and three listening events held with visuals and live streamed exclusively on Apple Music, Donda dropped unexpectedly at 8 AM on Sunday, August 29th with 21 full-length songs and four different versions of a few of those songs. 

Drake, eight months after the original release date, announced Certified Lover Boy’s new release date by interrupting an episode of ESPN’s SportsCenter on a cardboard cutout that read, “CLB September 3.” Just five days after the release of Kanye’s Donda, the two most anticipated albums of the year were in the hands of the public.

Drake and Kanye’s beef had been brewing the past couple of years due to rumors of Drake taking a liking to West’s wife, Kim Kardashian, and Kanye lying to Drake regarding the release of Kanye’s most interesting single, “Lift Yourself,” after Kanye had told Drake he could use the beat for a song of his own. Naturally, the two are subject to many comparisons based on the fact that the two have been the two most influential artists of the 2010s.

So far, with Kanye having a five-day advantage on Drake, Certified Lover Boy leads Donda in streams with 744 million opposed to Donda’s 357 million streams, as of this writing [Ed. Note—which is fairly dated. Our fault.] Although streams are a good measure of how popular each album has been among listeners, it does not measure the quality of music each album contains. As both artists are massive and are both considered pioneers of their genres, Drake has dominated the game year after year and Drake’s power to make hits has been fittingly named the “Drake effect.” So naturally, Certified Lover Boy was going to get more streams off release. 

First off, Drake’s individual performance on CLB was better than Kanye’s on Donda. Kanye’s strength has always been that he is not afraid to unify artists across all genres to make the best music possible. Donda is more feature-dependent, as Kanye’s all-star cast stole the show including JAY-Z, Playboi Carti, Fivio Foreign, Vory, The Weeknd, Lil Baby, Travis Scott, Baby Keem, Lil Durk, Lil Yachty, Young Thug, Kid Cudi, Don Toliver, Buffalo’s Conway The Machine and Westside Gunn, Jay Electronica, Chris Brown, Roddy Ricch and, on an alternate version of the track “Jail,” DaBaby. The only artist on this album that has more respect than Kanye is JAY-Z. Every other artist idolizes Kanye and they want to give their absolute best performance, which means we get breakout career performances from young up and coming artists Fivio Foreign and Don Toliver. The best features of this album come from JAY-Z, Fivio Foreign, The Weeknd, Don Toliver, Jay Electronica and Roddy Ricch.

Donda consistently comes back to the gospel-rap vibe that Kanye has been trying to perfect since 2019’s JESUS IS KING. This gospel-rap sound seems to be perfected on tracks like “24,” “Donda,” “Jesus Lord,” “New Again,” “Lord I Need You,” “Pure Souls,” “Come To Life” and “No Child Left Behind.” The use of Kanye’s own Sunday Service Choir has a great presence on many tracks chanting, “God’s not finished” and “Make me new again.” Donda expands sub-genres with tracks like, “God Breathed,” “Off The Grid,” “Hurricane,” “Believe What I Say,” and “Moon.” I have to give the best song on the album to “Come To Life.” You can truly feel Kanye’s turmoil and frustrations as he comes back from them as the track turns from dark to fulfilling. The best feature on this album has to go to Roddy Ricch on “Pure Souls.” Roddy and Kanye have top-notch chemistry on this track; Roddy actually outperforms Kanye. Kanye finally finds himself at a point of his life where he feels his mother would be proud of the man he has become and combines his newfound connection with the Lord with his artistic ability to create an album in her honor. 

Drake on the other hand, is less experimental than Kanye tends to be with his feature selection. As for features on Certified Lover Boy, the cast consists of Lil Baby, Lil Durk, Giveon, JAY-Z, Travis Scott, Future, Young Thug, Yebba, 21 Savage, Tems, Ty Dolla $ign, Rick Ross, Lil Wayne and Kid Cudi, with the best features coming from Lil Durk, JAY-Z, Travis Scott, Future, Ty Dolla $ign, Lil Wayne and Kid Cudi. Drake gives some of his best vocal performances ever on tracks like “Love All,” “In The Bible,” “TSU,” “Pipe Down,” “Race My Mind,” “Get Along Better,” and “IMY2.” Drake prepared fans to see a more emotional side of himself ahead of release, hence the title Certified Lover Boy. As much as this album contains some of Drake’s best R&B tracks in a long while, the project is no more emotional than albums like Take Care or Scorpion. A large majority of these tracks give off a vibe that Drake is at the top and he knows it. “Champagne Poetry” is one of the best solo tracks from Drake in some time as he gives a deep dive into the highs and lows of his life since 2018’s Scorpion. Some of these tracks like “Knife Talk,” “Way 2 Sexy” and “No Friends In The Industry” seem to lose focus from the theme. The best song on CLB is “Get Along Better,” with Ty Dolla $ign. Regardless of the type of tracks, Drake and Kanye both went 21/21 with no misses and flawless execution of features.

Whether you prefer Donda’s gospel-rap sound or Certified Lover Boy’s chill, R&B vibe, both of these projects are contenders for album of the year.

As a diehard Drake fan and big fan of Kanye, I have come to the conclusion that Donda trumps Certified Lover Boy. Donda gets the win because of its perfect tracklist, and its most experimental tracks are the best on this album. Kanye has consistently come out with sounds that the rap game has never heard, while some of the best songs on CLB sound just like other Drake songs that he could have made ten years ago. Neither of these albums are even top four in each of their discographies, which compliments them more as artists than anything: their weaker projects are still better than most rappers’ best. Drake and Kanye consistently dominate the game like few rappers have before.