Kanye West Does Donda the Best

To put it simply, Kanye West is one of the most influential artists of this generation with albums that have completely transformed the genre of rap and, in turn, the music produced by other artists as well. The same cannot be said for Drake. At just 33 years old, Kanye released My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, a shocking insightful comeback album that immediately highlighted his unbelievable talent as an artist. Meanwhile, at 34 years old, Drake released Certified Lover Boy; although this album had its moments of well-written verses and notable features, it still felt predictable and certainly is not even comparable to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The differences between these albums can also be extrapolated to the comparison between the rest of their discographies.

The contrast between Kanye and Drake boils down to a deviation in depth of content. As evidenced by a number of Kanye’s albums, he has the unique ability to truly self-reflect and examine his subconscious positive and negative. When listening to his history of works, they reveal a clear timeline of his mental health and all of his innermost thoughts. To add to that, he packages his strikingly honest and blunt ideas with beautiful production and witty lyricism, creating a transcendent experience for listeners.

Donda is an album of self-reflection for Kanye, giving the listener incomparable insight about Kanye’s personal history.

And he does it time and time again. 808s & Heartbreak revolutionized rap music by combining it with melodic singing and introductory ad-libs. Current music, such as Future, Kid Cudi and Young Thug, would be vastly different without the creation of this album. In a similar way, Kanye’s 2013 release, Yeezus, constructs a haunting atmosphere—one that is surprisingly similar to pop icons like Billie Eillish and Lorde. The use of synthesizers and electro-pop sounds are a common theme between them, adding to the bold, goth-like sounds. Then, in 2016, Kanye released The Life of Pablo, a more religious-centric album. It goes without saying that this album affected the industry as well. However, this album’s rollout was most interesting with its multiple re-releases—a testament to the perfectionist nature of Kanye.

This characteristic is yet another distinction between Kanye and Drake. When placing the two artists’ discographies side by side, it becomes clear that Kanye continues to push himself further and further with each body of art. On the other hand, Drake has remained mostly stagnant over the years, making his work good, not great. The work he has produced caused him to be a striking breakout artist, but he has grown to a level of fame for which his music should have grown with him. For as big of a musician Drake is, frankly, the quality of his recent releases has been disappointing,

As for Donda, although it may not be Kanye’s best work, it is still a strong LP providing insight into his feelings surrounding his divorce with wife Kim Kardashian-West and the death of his mother—whom the album is named after. Even on a 27-track album (four of which are alternate versions of previous tracks), Kanye manages to construct engaging transitions with standout features.

In fact, one of Kanye’s finer skills is his ability to bring the best of featured artists and mesh them with his vision. For example, Fivio Foreign surprisingly did an outstanding job with his lyricism over the beat change on “Off the Grid,” and as always, Kid Cudi and Kanye delivered on “Moon.” Much like their collaboration on Kids See Ghosts, they produced an ethereal tone that is timeless. Probably most anticipated, though, was the reunion of Kanye and Jay-Z, previous partners on Watch the Throne. On “Jail,” the pair introduces the narrative of Donda while Jay-Z utilizes genius wordplay to bring the track together.

However, Kanye not only plays to other artists’ strengths, but he also brought out some amazing work himself. “Jesus Lord” in particular embodies his strength in storytelling as he reconciles his faith with his mother’s death. Another remarkable track is “Heaven and Hell” with its upward progression from start to finish, and the moment of the song where the chorus enters is one the most incredible moments of the album.

While Certified Lover Boy contains its own high points such as “7am On Bridle Path,” “Champagne Poetry” and “Knife Talk,” it is not as strong of an overall album as Donda. Furthermore, Drake certainly is not as proficient of an artist as Kanye, as Kanye is in a league of his own.

Kanye spoke from the heart in Donda.

Hannah Ma ’22

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