Take your pick: ‘Donda’ or ‘Certified Lover Boy’

Kanye West and Drake are two of the biggest icons of this generation, and not only through their music. Drake is regularly seen hanging out with some of today’s greatest athletes and West has been a staple in the fashion industry for over a decade through his Yeezy brand.

Each released highly anticipated albums within the same week. After an equivalent of 309,000 first week sales from West’s album “Donda,” Drake’s “Certified Lover Boy” debuted with 613,000 sales and broke his own Spotify streaming record.

While the numbers suggest a decisive victory for Drake, student reviews indicate a much tighter battle.

“I think ‘Donda’ was way more original,” Bailey Matrascia, ’22, said. “In Drake’s album, there were some Drake-esk things and that’s okay but I felt like Kanye’s sampling was more unique. There were some good samples on CLB but on ‘Champagne Poetry’ he just basically — if you’ve heard of that Navajo song — took that beat and kind of just copied and pasted it without adding anything to it.”

Originality seems to be where West shined the brightest over his counterpart.

“This is no disrespect to Drake at all because it could be anyone — Trippie Redd, Juice WRLD, Pop Smoke or whoever — but Kanye just continues to push the boundaries,” Anthony Baldeosingh, ’22, said. “He put Lil Baby and the Weeknd on the same song and it slaps.”

“Donda” is not only the name of West’s most recent and tenth album, but also the name of his late mother who passed away in 2007 at the age of 58. While fans have theorized on the possibly hidden messages behind the album’s opening track, “Donda Chant,” it is no mystery that the album is intentionally non-explicit. This was done to honor his mother and act in accordance with his re-devotion to the Christian faith.

This is the third studio album from West that has been clean. The difference this time is that he allowed artists to use profanity in their verses, opting to blank out the words instead.

“It honestly didn’t really bother me,” James Stoltenberg, ’24, said. “I didn’t think Kanye needed that to get his message across because he really never cusses that much so I barely noticed it, but now knowing the album was for his mom makes it kind of cool. If that had been done on ‘Certified Lover Boy’ there would have been a bigger difference.”

“Certified Lover Boy” observed less risks but delivered on the classic sound and themes that have made Drake a mainstay on the Billboard charts. After its debut week, CLB held nine of the top 10 spots on Billboard’s Top 100 songs.

“My expectations were pretty high just with it being a Drake album but it’s honestly probably my favorite album of his yet,” Stoltenberg said.

While Drake’s sound is more formulaic, his accolades — which include his tenth #1 song, “Way 2 Sexy,” — earned the attention of his audience and afforded him the opportunity to go off script.

“I thought the sound and this ‘in-your-bag-but-in-your-feels’ type of music that got him on the map is something he excelled at,” Baldeosingh said. “At the same time ‘Champagne Poetry’ is a five minute intro of him just rapping, but he’s at the point where people are going to listen to the whole thing which may not have happened early in his career.”

While Drake has been afforded the leeway to rap without a chorus for minutes on end, he also has the freedom to have more fun with his music even if not everyone is a fan of his gimmicks.

“I knew Drake was going to do something kind of cringey at some point,” Matrascia said. “I get it, and if you’re enjoying ‘Way 2 Sexy’ that’s fine, like it’s a ‘bad bitch guy’ thing so it’s funny, but it’s also kind of corny still.”

The “Way 2 Sexy” music video features the notoriously untalkative Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard dancing alongside Drake and featured artists Future and Young Thug.

Though the subject matter of “Donda” and “Certified Lover Boy” are vastly different, neither is lacking in terms of featured artists.

“There were a lot of spectacular features on CLB,” Stoltzenberg said. “Lil Baby on ‘Girls Want Girls,’ Travis Scott on ‘Fair Trade,’ and 21 Savage on ‘Knife Talk’ all come to mind.”

With neither album lacking any star power, the point of difference came through the unexpected pairings and use of features on West’s album.

“Man, that man Kanye is different,” Baldeosingh said. “You’ve got Playboi Carti and Fivio Foreign on the same track rapping about God. I mean Fivio Foreign is a crip, like he is a gang member and you got him rapping ‘You know we got God with us/Look at me and you see a God figure.’ You don’t even have to be religious to appreciate it and understand historically the significance of religion and its effects on culture. And all of this over a drill beat? Kanye’s different. Drill was kind of born out of a dark space, too.”

“It felt kind of cinematic and grandiose,” Matrascia said. “The amount of features made it feel very collaborative at times even though Kanye’s on every song.”

Although the album’s produced very different sounds, West is responsible for inspiring the sound of Drake just as he has for many other artists today.

“The underwater drum from ‘Say You Will’ by Kanye off of ‘808’s and Heartbreak’ inspired so much of Drake’s sound and is used in Drake’s album,” Baldeosingh said. “Kanye might use that sound on a few tracks now but he’s moved on from it. He’s given us something new every time and I think that’s the same thing with ‘Yeezus’. People hated it and now everyone loves ‘Black Skinhead.’”

With “Donda” and “Certified Lover Boy” containing 27 and 21 songs respectively, fans of each artist have been provided ample listening material.

“I thought ‘Donda’ was a masterpiece and I thought CLB was a masterpiece too,” Baldeosingh said. “I listen to ‘Donda’ more because I haven’t heard that kind of music before, and so I think it’s going to age better. If I came to you with a pair of Jordan Bred 11s and a pair of Jordan 1s, but you already have the 11s then you’re going to take the 1s.”