REVIEW: 'Certified Lover Boy’ and ‘Donda’ Fight for Album of the Year”

Updated: Sep 15


(Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

By Stephanie Hyde | September 13, 2021


While we won’t remember 2021 as the return to a pre-pandemic way of living, we will remember the most anticipated albums of the year with “Certified Lover Boy” by Drake and “Donda” by Kanye West.


Before 2021, it had been three years since Drake had released his last album “Scorpion” and five years since Kanye released “The Life of Pablo,” which is often referred to as his last notable project release in 2016. The suspense paid off as Drake broke the all-time record of most single-day streams for an artist in Spotify history with over 175 million streams, according to Chart Data.


(Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

“Donda” is third all-time with the biggest first-day album debut in Spotify history with 95.1 million streams. In order to properly dissect each body of work, we have to look at the antics surrounding the rollout, each album’s features, and the rappers’ never-ending feud.


What Worked:


The Promotion:

In today’s era of music, it is more common for artists to promote a popular hit single rather than create a memorable promotional rollout for an album. The best way to sum up the rollout for “Certified Lover Boy” and “Donda” is a show-and-tell approach. Drake let his strategically placed billboards in each of the featured artists' hometowns drum up anticipation. A billboard in New York City read “Hey New York, The Goat is on CLB” which sparked the debate about who the goat of hip hop is for that region and whose verse would make the album. Besides the billboards, the album cover for “Certified Lover Boy” kept people talking, especially with companies such as Pepsi and KFC imitating the design on their Instagram pages. Compared to a black screen for the “Donda” album cover, Drake knew that people will always value his influence throughout the culture.


Kanye went all out for each of his three “Donda” listening parties in Atlanta and Chicago. With 71,000 fans packed into the first listening event in Atlanta, and a simultaneous livestream on Apple Music, there were more than enough people to create long-lasting buzz after the songs were played. What kept people captivated with each listening event was the “performance” aspect of getting an exclusive look at an entire album before the release. While Kanye let people know what to expect with his music, Drake continued to tease the element of surprise and left little room for criticism before the final product was released.


Features:

One of the distinctive factors of both albums is that they are feature-heavy. “Certified Lover Boy” has 15 features while “Donda” has 27. The artists who appeared on both albums signal who is the most in-demand as a feature right now. These names include Lil Baby, Travis Scott, 21 Savage, Lil Durk, Ty Dolla Sign, Young Thug, and Jay Z. The features on CLB supplemented each of the songs, adding to what Drake already had on each song with his individual verse. On “In the Bible,” Drake and Lil Durk know how to trade verses that work together as previously done on their other song “Laugh Now, Cry Later.” Adding Giveon’s soulful voice is a necessary finishing touch to the song. With “Donda,” the features were the backbone to each of the songs. On “Hurricane,” The Weeknd’s uplifting chorus mixed with Lil Baby’s vulnerability gave the track an addictive spiritual journey for the four-minute duration of the song. Kanye’s verse is easily the most forgettable part of the song. While “Donda” had more features, the quantity didn’t lead to quality.


Best Features on “Certified Lover Boy”:


1. Ty Dolla $ign on “Get Along Better":

Ty Dolla $ign is one of the most consistent features for his seamless fit into any song. He is at his best when he is deep in his R&B bag and conquers this track in his third collaboration with Drake.


2. Lil Wayne and Rick Ross on “You Only Live Twice":

This song gives off vintage Drake from his YMCMB days. The best collaboration from the Lil Wayne, Rick Ross , Drake trio is on “I’m on One” off of DJ Khaled’s 2011 album, “We The Best Forever.” A 2021 reunion between these three is nostalgic and hopefully the beginning of many more to come in the future.


3. Tems on “Fountains":

One of the hottest Nigerian artists right now, thanks to her collaboration with WizKid on the hit song “Essence,” it was a given she ended up on another big album. Drake isn’t a stranger to Afrobeats collaborations, as he has already worked with WizKid twice before. Now he is ushering in a new wave of Nigerian talent in giving Tems even more spotlight.\


Best Features on “Donda”:


Fivio Foreign on “Off the Grid":

This easily could have a track intended just for Fivio, without Playboi Carti or Kanye. The way Fivio seamlessly flowed verse after verse shines a light on his elevated lyricism.


The Weeknd and Lil Baby on “Hurricane:”

Kanye showed off his impressive skills as a producer with a successful pairing of The Weeknd and Lil Baby together. His producer abilities outshine his own verse on the track.


Jay-Z and Kanye on “Jail":

It has been long overdue since Kanye and Jay-Z were on a song together. Not only do we get a long-awaited reunion, but we also get a tease of the possibility of another Hov and Ye album, after the successful “Watch the Throne.” Jay-Z’s impeccable wordplay along with a Moses and Jesus comparison is one of the best moments on the album.


Vory on “No Child Left Behind":

Vory’s melodic lyrics about perseverance along with the background organs give this track a life of its own. Also, Kanye is giving Vory a platform on one of the biggest albums of the year to gain more recognition to bolster his career.


Underwhelming:


Both albums were over the normal length of an album, which usually averages around 15 or 16 songs. “Donda” has 27 songs altogether while “Certified Lover Boy” has 21 songs. Kanye added repeat tracks that worked as extensions of songs by adding a “Part 2” to four songs on the album. The longest song on “Donda” is “Jesus Lord pt 2” at 11 minutes 30 seconds, which feels like the duration of a short video without the visuals. Both albums lacked a cohesive flow between tracks that is more present on a succinct album with fewer tracks because it takes longer to become familiarized with all the content.


“Way 2 Sexy” is the frontrunner for the hit single off of “Certified Lover Boy” from Drake, Future, and Young Thug who have worked together before. “Dark Lane Demo Tapes” has a song called “D4L” starring this same trio. “D4L” outshines “Way 2 Sexy” because it showcases all three of the artists. Young Thug’s verse on “Way 2 Sexy” fell flat compared to Drake and Future’s. Since “D4L” is considered a “throwaway record,” it will never be as big as “Way 2 Sexy,” even though it is a better record.


Reigniting a Never-Ending Feud:


Whether each one will ever admit it, both Drake and Kanye had each other in mind when making their respective albums. Iron sharpens iron or, in this case, ego reignites an ongoing feud between these two. Drake’s verse on Trippie Redd’s “Betrayal.” this year reignited the decade-long fall out. Drake raps “Ye ain’t change s*** for me, it’s set in stone” as he addresses the release date for “Certified Lover Boy.” Shortly after, there is a screenshot floating around of a group chat message where Kanye sends a picture of a Joker and claims someone (mostly likely Drake) will never recover from their feud.


Unfortunately, the feud got in the way of quality music because we missed out on a heartfelt verse from Andre 3000 that never made Kanye’s album. Drake actually released the Kanye and Andre 3000 song on his own radio show on SiriusXM called “Certifry Friday.” Whether these two will move past their respective differences to work together again is hard to say, but hopefully, both artists can forgo sacrificing quality music for petty hearsay.


The Quotables:


“Certified Lover Boy” Lyrics


Drake on “Fair Trade:”

“I’ve been losing friends and finding peace/ Honestly, that sounds like a fair trade to me.”

As everyone claims to always be working on a better version of themselves, cutting out unnecessary people is the first step of self-care.

Jay-Z on “Love All:”

“You know the price of everything but the value of nothing” -Jay Z”

Jay-Z always knows exactly what to say in a thought-provoking way. With this lyric, he perfectly captures the current state of our capitalist society.

Drake on “Champagne Poetry:”

“Under me, I see all the people that claim they over me/And above me I see nobody”

There is a thin line between cockiness and confidence and this lyric is the line separating the two from the self-proclaimed greatest rapper of this generation.


Drake on “7am on Bridle Path:”

“Could at least keep it a buck like Antetokounmpo”

It may have seemed like a daunting task at first, but Drake successfully incorporated the Milwaukee Bucks NBA champion Giannis Antetokounmpo into a song and that deserves recognition.

“Donda” Lyrics

Jay-Z on “Jail":

“Not me with all the sins castin’ stones/ This might be the return of The Throne.”

This may be the tease of another classic album between Jay-Z and Kanye. But don’t count on this collab album anytime soon after how long it took for Kanye to release “Donda.”

Roddy Ricch and Kanye on “Pure Souls":

“The truth is only what you get away with huh.”

With a lot of untrustworthy posts on social media, it can be difficult to know what the truth is anymore. Unfortunately, people can get away with anything nowadays based on one’s perception of the truth.

Kanye West on “Heaven and Hell":

“When we survive, know that we blessed/Save my people through the music.”

Since Kanye already has a lot of ventures like his GAP and Adidas partnership, it is understandable of music takes a backseat to business. But it seems like Kanye has a plan to continue to allow his music to help people.

Conway the Machine on “Keep My Spirit Alive":

“No weapon formed against me ‘cause I’m covered in the blood/ Layin’ in the hospital when I got shot fam/ Mama said she left it in God’s hands yeah/ So I’ma leave it in God’s hands yeah/ Everything I’m doin’ now is God’s plan/ Doctor said I wouldn’t walk no more, now I stand”


Conway the Machine has faced many challenges to get to where he is today. It is inspiring to hear how much faith played a part in his journey to one of the authentic rappers who always deliver hard-hitting lyrics over distinctive beats.


Listen to our 'Certified Lover Boy' versus 'Donda' playlist here

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