Hip-hop fans are eating right now. Over the last two weeks—and following what felt like an infinite limbo of mid-pandemic releases that got delayed—rap juggernauts Drake and Kanye West finally dropped their highly anticipated albums, Certified Lover Boy and Donda, respectively. Both artists, thoroughbred in their musicality, called on a number of talented peers to help with the vision of these new projects, rivaling a Marvel vs. Capcom type of showdown that seemingly plays into their alleged beef.
Drizzy’s project leaned on the shield of acts like the Afrobeats princess Tems, his OVOFBG half Future, plus the Slaughter Gang general 21 Savage among many others that were revealed in the form of billboards across various cities earlier this week. ’Ye drafted the likes of rappers like Kendrick Lamar’s cousin Baby Keem, drill artists Pop Smoke and Fivio Foreign, the self-proclaimed narcissist Playboi Carti and more whose voices filled the stadiums of Yeezy’s listening sessions in Chicago and Atlanta. A number of the features did crossover into both albums. Lil Baby, Ty Dolla $ign, Young Thug, Kid Cudi, Travis Scott, Lil Durk and Jay-Z appeared on what will likely be No. 1 albums for both Drizzy and Yeezy. But who got the best out of the artists both Drake and ’Ye recruited?
There are a number of factors that go into making that decision. The flows and cadences must be acknowledged, production styles are analyzed to see which beats fit the artists best, the execution of bars with substance and not filler must not be overlooked and, of course, the chemistry between the artists comes in to play to determine if the released songs are cohesive gems or just two good verses copied and pasted together. No need to hurt your brain or spend hours of your day trying to figure out these answers. XXL did it for you and breaks down who won this recent battle of Avengers-style guest verses.
Take a look at the battle of the best guest verses between Drake’s Certified Lover Boy and Kanye West’s Donda Albums below and weigh in with your picks.
On top of the production laced with a dark rhythm and defibrillator-like 808s that shock a pulse into the foundation, Lil Baby follows The Weeknd’s celestial chorus on “Hurricane” by taking his time and delivering meditative bars about moving his life from 0 to 100 through the pain and the gains. Unlike his verse on Drake’s “Girls Want Girls,” which is still a gem but no “Yes Indeed,” here, Baby sounds like he’s absent from overthinking about the effect he wants to create and more concerned with putting words together. His heart runs free on the beat.
At the end of bars like, “Yeah, walkin’ on the bridge, I threw my sins over the deep end/Sippin’ ’til my stomach hurt, this month, I done lost three friends,” he notably uses pitch inflections to emphasize the thoroughness of his lyrics. He’s determined to let his story do the talking, as if “Hurricane” was a lost My Turn cut. And that’s when he sounds the most polished.
Ty Dolla $ign is by far one of the most talented musicians in hip-hop. His ability to sauce up any song leans on the fact that he knows exactly what to do, in any pocket, in any genre. That thought is further evidenced in his verse on Drake’s “Get Along Better.” Ty is clean when it comes to rapping, as heard on tracks like the platinum-selling “Blase” and more recently, ’Ye’s “Junya, Pt. 2.” But as a true seed of the legends Jodeci, Ty’s bread and butter is in the realm of R&B.
On “Get Along Better,” Ty delivers a more fitting verse by coming through with a possessive harmony first to match Drake’s seasoned caroling. He then ends the track with an exercise of vocal acrobatics. Bearing his soul on the mic and bouncing around from note to note like a Subway Surfer, he rivals the breakthrough days of his projects $ign Language and Beach House 2, again stamping his position as a torch-bearer of trap blues.
Kanye West’s Donda track “Remote Control” feels like an ascension into the exosphere. From the seance-esqe beat, to the whistling punch-ins to The Globglogabgalab sample that stems from the 2012 animated film Strawinsky and the Mysterious House, this foundation is perfect for Thugger to glide through. Upstaging Kanye, respectfully, Thug croons lyrics like, “Oh woah, told the… fold my clothes (Fold my clothes)/Take it to the light like a strobe/Taking me to court like O (Taking me to court like OJ),” twisting through different tempos and accentuations like has a slime-colored Rubik’s Cube in his hands—Gunna would’ve floated on this, too.
On Drake’s Certified Lover Boy banger “Way 2 Sexy,” Thug offers up another catchy feature, though his pace is much snappier. It’s cool. However, melodic Thug rises above here and, honestly, in a lot of cases, throughout his influential and spesh career.
Travis Scott is a current king of Auto-Tune and also wears the crown when it comes to the canorous vibes that are painted all over the music industry these days. His overall musicality takes precedence in most cases. Don’t get it twisted though: When he wants to, he can spit like his noted influence and unofficial brother-in-law Kanye West. This time, it comes in the form of the opposition on Drake’s track “Fair Trade.” The tag team of Trav and Drizzy add to their already solid track record that includes the diamond-selling “Sicko Mode,” “Company” and “Portland.”
La Flame gets jiggy on the beat, squeezing bars into the atmospheric production that samples Charlotte Day Wilson’s “Mountains.” “Worry sick, I’m sick of worryin’/It’s just a worryin’, I’d rather bury them/I’m talkin’ fake friends and skeletons,” he rhymes nattily.
Travis sounds amazing on Donda, too, setting the pace for Baby Keem to go dummy with his flow on “Praise God.” But Trav spits like he has a ruger to his head on “Fair Trade,” with his signature humming and ad-libs bouncing from headphone to headphone to create the ultimate sonic experience like Astroworld did.
After putting their disagreements to the side, Drake and Kid Cudi are on a song together for the first time since Kanye West’s “All of the Lights” over a decade ago. “IMY2” is a track reminiscent of the blog era, fortified by the voice and words of the fallen prophet Juice Wrld at the top of it. The Drizzy song finds Cudi in his usual Birkin, quavering as he ricochets through the muses of his mind. The Cleveland-bred rapper elevates his verse with “la-la-las” and “woah-woah-woahs” that are potent enough to vaccinate a sick human. It can’t be denied but neither can what came before it.
On the most recent Kids See Ghost collab “Moon,” from Kanye’s Donda LP, Cudi and Don Toliver supply top-tier verses that appear to be laced with the rocky narcotic that Franklin Saint was moving in the 1980s. Cudi’s serenading words are emotional, spawning YouTube comments like, “If this doesn’t make you cry you have no soul…” It’s the most reminiscent of his Man on the Moon days, which skyrocketed his career back when G-Shocks were the new Richard Milles. The comparison between the two tracks can easily be a tie. However, if one election has to be made when discussing the best, what Cudi does on “Moon” takes the cake.
Lil Durk is on one hell of a run right now. With the most Billboard Hot 100 entries of any artist in 2021, at 35, he’s been showing and proving that no beat formed against him shall prosper. He could truthfully rack up a number of felony charges from the lyrical murders he’s committed in the booth, whether he’s pouring his pain into the mic or creating hype music for spinning the block. ’Ye—dubbed the OG legend of Chicago—invites Durkio—the young blood who arguably later swiped the title—to craft chilling verses of triumph on “Jonah” that double as bittersweet sentiments, all with the help of Vory.
However, with lighter and spacier production on Drake’s joint “In The Bible” also featuring Giveon, Durk’s sophomore collaboration with Drizzy is an even bigger W. Shouting out his girl India, slain brother King Von and the trenches, of course, he spits, “OK, OK, OK, trenches bitch, I got her a salon/Gucci and Pucci, it’s deep in her budget/She hittin’ up Virgil for Louis Vuitton” with the precise cadence of a Sheila E. drum solo. Entrenched with the finesse of Auto-Tune and raspy mumbling to end the verse, the soul-tickling production on “In The Bible” allows The Voice’s artistry to level up a notch.
Jay-Z’s appearance on both Donda and Certified Lover Boy confirms that he’s not choosing sides when it comes to his longtime friends and collaborators. Well, on a personal level that is. He blessed both superstars with cold verses over the last few months, but his performance was the dopest alongside his Roc-A-Fella family Kanye on “Jail.” On what sounds like it could be a deep cut from Watch The Throne 2, Kanye’s polished singing serves as an audible alley-oop for Jay to come in and brag about how special it still is for two rap gods to join forces over a guitar-slashing beat.
“Not me with all of these sins, castin’ stones/This might be the return of The Throne, Throne/Hova and Yeezus, like Moses and Jesus/You are not in control of my thesis/You already know what I think ’bout think pieces,” Hov raps with an intermediate flow as if he’s rhyming on the block of Marcy Avenue in Brooklyn for his homies.
On the previously leaked Certified Lover Boy record “Love All,” which people once knew as “Need Me (Lotta 42),” Hov does help up the ante, offering an honest look at how justifiably unfriendly he’s become. Though knowing the expectation for a Throne linkup, it seems like Jay’s pen bleeds more on “Jail” in terms of being memorable. And rightfully so, considering how it’s been almost a decade since we’ve heard new music from ’Ye and Jay together.