Photo by Justin Greenzaid.
Within the last five months, four extremely sought after albums were released. J. Cole, Tyler, the Creator, Kanye West and Drake all released albums for the first time in well over a year. The last time they have all dropped albums in the same year: never. The groundbreaking supply of music was savored by music fans around the world. However, there has been a lot of disagreement about the albums, as debates on which one of them is the best have been raging on social media platforms such as TikTok. All in all, it is paramount to just enjoy each and every album for what it offers, as opportunities to indulge in new music like this don’t happen very often.
One of the most influential rappers of this generation, J. Cole, released “The Off-Season” on May 14, 2021. This was the first time he released an album in a whopping 1,120 days. 770 days after the release of his Grammy award-winning album “Igor,” Tyler, the Creator dropped a new album, titled “Call Me If You Get Lost.”
Then, deeper into the summer, the feud between Kanye West and Drake began, as both artists were anticipating dropping their albums at around the same time, which they did. Kanye West released “Donda” on August 29, just five days before Drake released “Certified Lover Boy.” Both artists have been foreshadowing these albums for a very long time so the eventual releases were monumental.
“All I thought about at times was when Donda was going to drop. It really could have happened at any second. I lost sleep over the album!” WCHS senior Spencer Nash said.
Cole was the first of the four sublime artists to release his album. His sixth studio album, “The Off-Season,” was released on May 14, 2021. The album was on the shorter side, with just 12 songs and a total run time of 39 minutes, but it sure was sweet. Cole is an artist known for avoiding features on his album, however this time he changed up his arsenal by including features from the likes of Lil Baby, 21 Savage and Bas.
“21 Savage speaking about his struggles as a young African American growing up in a low-income area where the system was built for him to not succeed on the song “m y . l i f e” truly touched my heart,” Nash said.
The bars on “The Off-Season” were superb, living up to the bar that Cole sets for himself on every work of art he creates. Cole digs deep in his lyrics, reflecting on his past and informing his fans on what he’s been going through in the shadows these past few years. The beats, partially produced by Cole himself, were very distinct and the flows he added over them really put the cherry on top.
“The characteristic I usually look for in songs is the instrumentals and the vibe. I love a good vocal and instrumental combo,” WCHS junior Kelly Tsai said.
Tyler, the Creator released “Call Me If You Get Lost,” his sixth studio album as well, on June 25, 2021. Tyler is known for creating themes for each one of his albums and dressing in different outfits to represent the albums. This time he dressed in a cardigan with a Russian winter hat and the accessory of two old school suitcases. The actual theme conveys the loss and romantic desire after a chaotic year filled with a pandemic, racial injustice and heartbreak for Tyler.
This album from Tyler had a combination of some of his original rap and his more recent singing, however it included features from multiple mainstream rappers which one would not typically expect to collaborate with him. Lil Uzi Vert, Youngboy Never Broke Again, Lil Wayne and 42 Dugg all had work within the album. The album also has commentary from DJ Drama from track to track which sets it apart from other albums. The songs flow into one another very well and tell a very good story altogether.
“I love Tyler. I’ve been a fan since ‘IGOR’ and ‘flower boy.’ This album was definitely more rap which is a bit out of my day-to-day music but I still really enjoyed it,” Tsai said. “My favorite characteristics of the album were Tyler rapping, the collabs, the 10 minute song ‘Sweet,’ and for some reason the clips of him just talking.”
Kanye West did what Kanye West does with his album “Donda.” Named after his late mother, the album eventually dropped on Aug. 29, after three live performances where he teased unfinished versions of his album. Kanye worked on his album inside of Mercedes Benz Stadium, home of the Atlanta Falcons. He rented a room there for an extreme $1 million a night. Kanye hosted his third and final listening party at Soldier Field in his hometown of Chicago where he grew up at his mother Donda’s house.
The album is quite long, containing 27 songs for a total duration of one hour, 48 minutes. The album could have done without a few songs, but still contains plenty of musical masterpieces. The production on this album was off the charts as Kanye brought in world class producers like Mike Dean to assist him in the album making process. There are a ton of catchy melodies and phenomenal features all around. Some songs that were absolutely perfect from the album include “Hurricane,” “Believe What I Say,” “Pure Souls,” “Keep My Spirit Alive” and “Praise God”. The features on all of these songs were perfectly picked and the beat sample on “Believe What I Say” from Lauryn Hill’s “Doo Woop” was glorious.
“I loved the experimental aspect of ‘Donda’ and truly enjoyed listening to it. My only complaint is how long it took to finally come out,” Nash said.
Finally, to cap off the album release spree, Drake released “Certified Lover Boy” on Sept. 3. This album was immediately placed under a comparative lens to that of “Donda,” but to be frank it is unethical to try and compare the two.
Drake’s “Certified Lover Boy” shattered the Spotify single day stream record and recorded 744 million streams in the first week, about 74,000 streams per minute. The album has tons of catchy songs and melodic beats along with a handful of features. There are a few slower songs that Drake uses to reflect on his past loves and heartbreak. Drake exhibited his lyrical versatility throughout the track while finding a way to really touch his audience, and even included a couple disses towards Kanye. The album can at times get a bit choppy as it does not have a general theme or storyline. The music in this album will definitely be played at all types of events in the future.
“I like how the album has many different moods. I like ‘Champagne Poetry,’ ‘In the Bible’,’ and ‘Fair Trade’ the most. ‘Girls Want Girls’ is also a vibe. I’ve already heard ‘Way 2 Sexy’ way too many times though,” Tsai said.
To reiterate, it would be extremely unfair to try and compare these four perplexing albums. Each one should be appreciated as its own work of art. All of their respective artists worked very hard on them and certainly did not disappoint. Even though some people may not like every single song, the albums will grow on people over time as does all music. One day these albums will be looked back on as historical masterpieces.
“I think Donda will age the best only because of how much hate it is getting now. People will realize in the future how good it is,” said Nash. “Kanye West makes music for the future.”