Donda and CLB: Art vs Artist

By Salomon Dushimirimana

Kanye West standing in front of crowd
Kanye West's Donda Release Party

Perhaps two of the most highly anticipated albums of the year, Drake’s Certified Lover Boy and Kanye West’s Donda have sparked an on-going debate over which is the better album. This comparison, fueled by the long-standing rivalry between the two artists, has seen many people comparing the content, the hype, and the chart numbers garnered by their respective albums. Although Drake advertised the release of his album from January until its September release, Kanye West has done the same with Donda, which had record breaking attendance at listening parties in both Atlanta and his hometown of Chicago. Two weeks before the release of their albums, both artists started going at each other after Drake took multiple shots at Kanye in his feature on Trippie Redd’s album. The feud escalated as Kanye later leaked Drake’s address - a move that some have labeled as “immature.” Fast forward a week later, and Kanye released his album, unfinished, on a Sunday. Although he claims that Universal released it without his consent, that didn’t stop people from eating it up. A week later, Drake released Certified Lover Boy, also known as “CLB,” setting and shattering his own records. On a commercial basis, there’s no doubt that CLB outpaced Donda by miles. However, regardless of the popularity or chart performance of the two, I would like to give a review of which was a better album as far as artistry is concerned.

Breaking down what constitutes these two albums lays the foundation for my opinion. Some songs on Drake’s CLB such as “Papi’s Home”, “Girls Want Girls”, “Fair Trade'', and “Way 2 Sexy”, are the highlight of the album. The album is mostly centered around Drake's lifestyle: his struggle in having genuine friends, his past relationships, and flexing his riches and solidified status in the industry - basically, what Drake sings in every other of his albums. Some of the songs, like “Champagne Poetry”, highlight Drake’s rhyming skills and immaculate flow and continue to prove Drake’s talent and heightened status as one of this generation’s greatest artists. On the contrary, Kanye's album, named after his late mother, takes a more self-righteous approach. Except for paying tribute to his mother, the album depicts Kanye’s faith and the struggle to realize himself through it all. Knowing the highlights of these two albums, a question is raised about which one of them has memorable songs that will persist with time. As confirmed by Complex’s music analytic staff, songs like “Hurricane”, “Off the grid”, “Praise God” and “No Child Left Behind” on Donda stick out more than anything on CLB. In short, despite the numbers that CLB pulled off, Donda has more memorable tracks. This is also supported by streaming stats over the week. Based on numbers reported by HotNewHipHop, Donda had more second day streams than CLB - an indication that Donda had more playability, which is a strong indicator that it will stand the test of time.

Apart from songs and content on both albums, what about the level of creativity? In my opinion, artists are defined by their ability to innovate and create masterpieces and standouts. Even though Drake experimented with new sounds on previous projects such as in major hit “One Dance” on his album Views, the same can’t be said for CLB. As stated by one critic, it sounded as if he was making an album for the sake of creating an album. Every song on CLB sounded exactly how you would expect a Drake song to sound. On the other hand, Kanye took a whole different approach when creating Donda. As he decided to highlight the creative process for the production of Donda with multiple listening parties, fans basically witnessed the creation process of most of the songs on the album. Apart from that, the songs on Donda are unique from the kind of songs Kanye has made in the past. They present his personality as a whole. From his faith, to his family, to his lifestyle, and finally, to his insecurities and inspiration from his Mother. As stated by one music critic, Kanye “ incorporates gospel with rap and other experimental sounds, which makes for a memorable listen.” Basically, this statement highlights Donda’s uniqueness from the usual rap/hip-hop common sound. Kanye took more successful creative risks, but the same can’t be said for CLB.

There’s no doubt that both albums were amazing and at the top of their respective genres in terms of success, but everything considered as far as content, creativity, and artistry are concerned, Kanye’s Donda stands out. Kanye continues to make changes on Donda, the most recent of which sees Chris Brown removed from one of the songs. Despite their competition and comparisons, Drake and Kanye are some of the greatest artists of this generation, and I am excited to see where their artistry takes them next.


References

McKinney, Jessica. “‘Certified Lover Boy’ vs ‘Donda.’” Complex, 10 Sept. 2021, www.complex.com/music/drake-clb-kanye-west-donda-album-comparison/creative-risks.


Zidel, Alex. “Kanye West’s ‘DONDA’ Had More Second-Day Streams Than Drake’s ‘Certified Lover Boy.’” HotNewHipHop, 6 Sept. 2021, www.hotnewhiphop.com/kanye-wests-donda-had-more-second-day-streams-than-drakes-certified-lover-boy-news.138715.html.



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