When Kayne West began envisioning what shape his upcoming album “Donda” would take, I doubt he had Drake and his upcoming album “Certified Lover Boy,” or CLB, in mind. However, the stories of the albums have intertwined into a standoff between the two artists, stemming from the long and tumultuous careers of both artists.
Drake, who has been struggling most of his career to be viewed as a legitimate contender to his peers, uses “Certified Lover Boy” as both an opportunity to flex his track features as well as his first attempt at legitimacy since decisively losing a feud with Pusha T. and West.
Coming off a divorce with Kim Kardashian and a part-presidential-campaign, part-mental-episode, “Donda” has given him the chance to address his situation and reflect on his past. “Donda,” although clearly the less polished of the two, offers the listener an aspect of Kayne’s life that can only be truly understood without the expertise of a producer.
The choice to include long instrumental breaks that sound more relevant in an 11th century English Cathedral diminishes its reliability and its use in Instagram stories. However, it adds a scale of time and a level of universality in Kayne’s conflicts with his family and faith, something that Drake does not reveal in CLB.
When Drake releases an album, it is stuck in the dark limbo realm of both being so constantly in the present moment with virtually no forethought as well as being a record that could’ve been dropped at any point of his career. The fact that his worldview as a 34-year-old is indistinguishable from what he had in his early-20s is indicative to the level of self-awareness he often lacks.
In making an album so incredibly focused on dismissing his insecurities, Drake only exacerbates them. In making an album that attempts to show his indifference to his Kanye feud, Drake instead peppers mentions of West throughout the album. In making a track titled “No Friends In The Industry,” he forgets that the track is sandwiched between 21 Savage, Kid Cudi, Nicki Minaj-ish and Lil Baby Features. The best explanation is that Drake’s internal thought process for deciding the direction of CLB is underdeveloped, that it is essentially spraying-and-praying, leading to wildly different platitudes.
Meanwhile, “Donda” is bloated and burdened with underutilized tracks. The original purpose of Kanye’s work is to be introspective and consistent with its artist’s perspective and tries to give the listener something of value. It has purpose and makes a statement with more than a single dimension, something that cannot be said about CLB.
“Donda” tackles the artist’s insecurities and the deepest conflicts and attachments with his wife, mother and God in a seriousness that understands the weight of what it grapples with. It does not deliver the same “mistress-turned-lover” bars for the eighth album in a row, but instead delivers something new and unique.
“Donda,” although unorthodox, provides listeners with a level of seriousness and level of commitment to the narrative that CLB is incapable of. Kanye understood the music serves a purpose, to tell the story of his time on Earth, one that is completely foreign and also more alike to normal than expected. Drake does indeed tell a story in his album, just one that shows his shallowness.