Review: Donda or CLB?


Liv Allen

Donda left, Certified Lover Boy right.

by Liv Allen, ID Magazine Editor-in-Chief

If you consider yourself a music fan (rap music, specifically), you’ve most likely seen the hot-button debate between Kanye’s 10th studio album, Donda, and Drake’s sixth studio album, Certified Lover Boy. 

The release of albums from two top-tier artists only six days apart will naturally give way to some debate about which project is better. The contest has since intensified with the recent revival of beef between Kanye and Drake after the latter dissed Ye in a Trippie Redd track on Aug. 21. 

Both of these albums were long-awaited—Donda was previewed at three large-scale listening events before its actual release (two in Atlanta and one in Chicago) and CLB emerged as Drake’s first studio album since 2018. 

The coupling of anticipation and feuding begs the question:

Which album is better? 

That’s a great question, but it’s an incredibly subjective one. It’s a question I truly don’t feel can be answered off numbers alone, either (when judging the quality and artistry of music, numbers aren’t inherently representative). 

I’ll admit that I’m quite biased in my take on the issue (ah, a journalist admitting to their bias). I went to the third Donda listening event in Chicago on Aug. 26 and I’ve listened to Kanye since I was young, so it may come as no surprise that I think Donda lands heads and tails above CLB. 

This is an opinion piece, so I’m going to share my opinion (sorry Drake stans). All things considered, I feel Donda is just a far-superior album overall. Kanye took many creative risks with this album–far more than even Drake even attempted to do with CLB. 

You can tell Kanye put in a lot of time and energy into making this album (this is even more evident considering the fact that it’s a tribute to his mother, who died in 2007). There are several layers to Donda, and I think Kanye was able to strike a balance between all of them. The album is consistent in many areas: gospel undertones, intense and thematic production and a laundry list of features while including hard, stadium-rap verses, moments of vulnerability and spirituality and switching up the vibe between songs. 

The overall experience of Donda is a lot to live up to, and I don’t think CLB came close. That’s not to say Drake can’t produce an album that stands with Kanye’s artistry, production and lyricism, either. Drake’s 2013 studio album Nothing Was the Same is one of my favorite albums and – in my opinion – beautifully constructed and produced. 

With CLB, however, it seems like Drake released the album just to release an album. Nothing particularly “wowed” me from CLB. There are a few good tracks for sure—to me, though, it was just regular Drake sh*t. In my opinion, Drake has stuck to a similar formula for making music since 2016. The dude knows how to pump out hits that his stans will eat up and often crosses over to pop and/or R&B. I think the song “Way 2 Sexy” perfectly illustrates that; it’s quickly grown to be a hit and Drake stans love it. 

I would have really liked to see Drake take more creative risks with this album. I’m not saying he should have released his version of 808’s & Heartbreaks or Yeezus, but it’d be nice to see Drake put more creativity and substance into his work as he’s done previously. I’m the type that likes albums that give me an experience—and CLB didn’t quite get me there. 

Also (Drake stans plug your ears), I think Drake has grown far too comfortable with his corniness. This dude really said, “It’s gettin’ real oppy outside.” Don’t even get me started on the chorus of “Girls Want Girls.” 

Now that I’ve said what I needed to say, I’m going to backtrack a bit and introduce some more food for thought: 

Have Kanye and Drake ever really been comparable? 

I’d say no. 

“But Liv, you literally just compared them.” I know I did, but I also know that, with the nature of pop culture and the rap game, it’s going to happen. That still doesn’t mean I think we should. 

We all know the colloquialism “apples to oranges,” which I think perfectly applies to this comparison (as it does for most artists). The reality of the matter is that Kanye and Drake are so incredibly different. They always have been, and I think they always will be. 

Kanye has a standing reputation for his stellar and experimental production, his creative and often intense flow, his unique use of sampling and his frequent use of vintage soul and gospel while consistently producing stadium rap and/or trap tracks. 

Drake often incorporates slower, tame and emotional R&B tracks while also producing hits in areas like pop, trap and dancehall. Drake has bolstered his talents in both rap and singing, adding to his broad appeal. Drake shows a mastery of making catchy hooks and melodic love songs. Drake is much more consistent throughout his discography, taking less creative risks and ventures. Nonetheless, Drake rarely strays far from the top of the charts. 

The point I’m trying to make is that top-tier art (in this case, artists) is so subjective. In my opinion, it’s a huge waste of time griping about who is better when we can just appreciate both artists, their differences, and ultimately, their music. 

But alas, the divisiveness in society trickles down to the pop-culture atmosphere. Fans will defend their faves, which is completely fine. I do it sometimes, and you probably do too. I just hope fans remember that their faves are also humans (often problematic and deeply flawed ones, at that) and really shouldn’t be idolized. So don’t waste too much time and energy arguing about music. 

Just sit back and enjoy the show.