‘CLB’ vs ‘Donda’: Rap royalty go head-to-head

Both Kanye and Drake have proven themselves impossible to ignore

CLB and Donda dropped within one week of each other.

Fans of rap royalty Drake and Kanye West have probably only taken out their headphones to sleep over the past week. 

On Aug. 29, West released his much-anticipated tenth album, Donda. The following week, Drake released Certified Lover Boy (CLB)—the timing of which instantly pitted the projects against one another. 

Both albums had been originally set to release significantly earlier this year, so by the drop dates anxious anticipation had been long built-up. 

Certified Lover Boy currently sits at number one on the iTunes charts, and Donda sits at a close second place—a ranking I can confidently agree with. 

CLB is an hour and a half of pure lyrical reflection and honesty, consistent with Drake’s long-lived—and much-loved—style. Featured artists include Travis Scott, Lil Baby, Lil Durk, Future, Young Thug, and Jay-Z, who serve to further bolster the talent and skill within the album. 

Drake’s new album is solemn, with the exception of “Way 2 Sexy,” and the overarching theme of the album seems to be romantic love. 

In addition to his romantic journey, Drake analyzes his emotional maturity in “Fair Trade” featuring Travis Scott: “I've been losin’ friends and findin’ peace, honestly that sound like a fair trade to me.” He also focuses on women in “Girls Like Girls,” which delves into sexuality, and “TSU,” which features a storyline related to the plight of a sex-worker. 

Drake himself describes CLB as an exploration of “toxic masculinity and acceptance of truth which is inevitably heartbreaking,” which certainly holds true. However, in terms of overall album quality, CLB can be criticized for showcasing a certain aversion to change, as some fans might find it sounds too familiar. 

Drake is emotionally honest throughout CLB. Perhaps it’s his remarkable consistency that draws listeners back with each drop.  

Ultimately, CLB is well-mixed and structured, whereas Kanye’s Donda can be interpreted as disorganized, with some hidden gems embedded within the chaos. 

Donda, named after Kanye’s late mother, is a deeply personal project, which makes it immediately fascinating. But the album has been extremely polarizing for fans and music critics.  

When looking at Donda, it’s important to consider exactly what it is that has always made Kanye a cultural rap icon and whether or not these qualities are present within this new release. 

The opening track, “Donda Chant,” peaks interest and confusion immediately, but I believe this was the desired effect. Although unconfirmed by Kanye himself, it has been speculated by fans that the chant is designed to mimic his mother’s last heartbeat. 

It’s quickly apparent that Donda focuses on Kanye’s grief. However, there are other themes being explored, including religion in “God Breathed” “Praise God” “Jonah” and “Jesus Lord.” The religious theme is consistent with Kanye’s 2019 album, Jesus is King.

“Jail,” the second track, has a heavier rock sound than most other pieces on the album, with a brilliant Jay-Z verse, making it a stand-out song. 

Undoubtedly, there’s irony and hypocrisy in the overtones of this album which come off as self-righteous as Kanye criticizes the very ‘cancel culture’ he has fallen victim to himself. 

There are tracks on the album which showcase the qualities of Kanye that make him a captivating artist—vulnerability, chaos and unbound expression. However, it’s the messiness of the album that ultimately takes away from the listening experience. 

The overall quality of the album is weakened by its length of almost two hours, making the meaningful, expressive moments easier to overlook and difficult to appreciate.

All of that said, with Donda, Kanye has yet again established himself as a bold artist who’s tough to ignore. 

It’s undeniable that both Drake and Kanye have released projects that although different, each display remarkable creativity, and both serve as effective reminders of why they sit at the top of hip-hop culture today. 


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