Donda, Donda, Donda.
I love you, i love you, i love you, until I —
Two very different introductions belonging to two of hip-hop’s biggest names; setting the tone for two very different moods.
If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m talking about the week-apart releases of Kanye West’s DONDA, and Drake’s Certified Lover Boy.
If there were artists akin to a holy grail, these two would come extremely close and with good reasons. They are the wordsmiths part of a generation that has continued to shift cultural views on music, fashion and art.
Kanye West is a rapper known for breaking boundaries with his sound, always experimental, always unpredictable, and always a success.
You can tell this when you read about (or listen to) his discography, just how much West is respected as a musical artist despite his erratic public displays in recent years. Don’t focus on those, focus on the music – that’s what is important in this article.
West is a phenomenal rapper, who plays around with beats like one would play around with fashion daily. If he doesn’t like it, he’ll change until he’s happy (sometimes).
It’s why fans only received the black-covered DONDA album plus 5 years after it was promised; with every tracklist released to the public came a pushed back date – Kanye always trusts his gut.
Even before he released DONDA (a tribute to his late mother), he promoted his latest work of art like he had the physical copy in his hands.
Hosting sold-out live sessions that included merchandise, featured voices in the album like The Weeknd, Lil Baby; and also featured his estranged wife Kim Kardashian – West was holding a national tour using snippets of his music to people who were mildly freaking out at Kanye’s decision to sleep in the chosen stadiums to finish his album but running to the venues anyway.
He is the equivalent of an evangelical televangelist (which he occasionally believes that he is outside of music), who knows his flock of fans will come to him in droves with a press of a key. West knows this because he knows his music.
He even tried to get his actual childhood home from Chicago to the stage just to immerse his fans that much in the listening experience that is DONDA.
However, ‘Ye’ is a man of controversy, which was brought in the form of the featured appearances from Marilyn Manson and DaBaby that brought a number of sharp criticisms on social media.
DaBaby for his comments on Megan Thee Stallion after her shooting incident, as well as homophobic and factually incorrect comments made on HIV during his performance at the Rolling Loud music festival, and rock musician Manson, who faces accusations and lawsuits from several women alleging sexual assault and abuse.
He knows and trusts his production skills and how they have not failed him in the two decades that he has been in the music industry as a rapper, producer and writer.
His gut led him to creating an album that gave us smooth transitions, effortless rhythmic flows from Jay Electronica; Fivio Foreign etc, and a little taste of his Sunday Service spirit from songs like ‘Pure Souls‘ and ‘Lord I Need You‘ with their gospel undertones. Also, one cannot forget that the melancholic vocals from fans’ features master Kid Cudi.
When it dropped, it created history by marking one of the biggest opening-day streaming tallies in the history of Apple Music and Spotify. It may not be an immediate hit in one listen for some, but it is definitely worth the listen if you are a keen hip-hop fan.
The same can almost be said for that of Aubrey ‘Drake’ Graham. It didn’t take long for the Canadian to amass such a large global following, to which he should be thankful, for they contribute to his record-breaking sales with every single/album release.
‘Certified Lover Boy’ (CLB) was also a long awaited album, not as long as Kanye but in Drake years (meaning one year is two years for Drake fans).
This was an album Drake teased fans with mercilessly, almost to the point when he really started to promote his latest LP after confirming a release date, his fans were like piranhas following the scent of Aubrey Graham’s every tweet, like, sneak peek and Instagram post. They are an insatiable fanbase (one of which I am an amateur member of).
When the album dropped though, it was insane. Even with the expected release date (not the original one, he lied to us about that) announced, no one could have really expected the online chaos the album and subsequent music videos would bring.
Had this been the early 2010s, Drake probably would have caused a partial global blackout. From the diverse features including Travis Scott; Future; Giveon; Tems; 21 Savage and Young Thug; to the comedic relief-associated music video (watch ‘Way 2 Sexy’); to the now iconic heart-shaped cut on top of a fade hairstyle.
Two iconic artists, two long-awaited albums, one societally-impactful genre and I honestly feel that as a fan, we’re spoiled human beings.
In an age of immediate access to online applications and music, we’re instantly fed new music every week without preparation, often with little window for a promotion unless you’re popular on social media.
With CLB, while it is an album filled with bops aplenty, it almost sounds duplicated. It almost sounds similar to Drake’s previous projects (namely Scorpion) and that is slightly disappointing.
There is always the idea of replay value to consider with any production and release of an album, and CLB is an album teetering on a tightrope where it could fall onto the net of ‘popular albums of 2021’ or continue on the line of an album considered of musical quality through replay value.
One of great aspects about Drake’s album is that apart from some well-produced tracks, he included African artists Tems as a vocal feature and Congolese-South African artist Tresor as one of the producers on ‘Fountains’.
Music magazine NME wrote in their review about Donda being an album “worth your time” once you find a few gems on West’s 10th album.
Drake’s CLB is described as the one of those albums that places you between the experiences of toxic masculinity and acceptance which usually becomes heartbreak from the man who became society’s version of wearing his heart on his sleeve from his past songs and public relationships.
We hardly get the album bus banners or the weekly talk show promotions (as commonly as we used to), so the two albums being dropped in the manner that they did was probably one of the most ingenious marketing strategies seen for musical artists.
After listening to both albums, one can already tell which album will reign in longevity and which will reign in streaming records.
In the end, the fans on the sides of Certified Lover Boy and Donda win as they enjoy some of the best offerings from 2021.