In (somewhat but not fully) Defense of “AWnee-rOOd Pee-shuh-ROEdee”

Never Have I Ever: Said My Indian Name Correctly

Well…it has been quite an interesting and eventful 11-ish months since the last time I wrote something here. In the midst of all the fun and not-so-fun things I’ve had to do, those who know me well knew that I was still looking for something that I would have a unique enough take on to write about, as this page has become more of a “write when you feel it” situation. Despite my long break, personal life to attend to, and lack of inspiration…look at that, you still got a new soggz-blogs post before you got Winds of Winter.

To do the quick catch-up because I know you’re all curious (clearly the opinion of one brown nerd is the truth you were all waiting for):

  • No Way Home was everything I could’ve hoped for and more. As a “Tobey is MY Spider-Man” die-hard, everyone was phenomenal (yes, even Garfield who’s movies I’ve gone full “nerd rage” on before) and I think the moment that sealed it for me was when Tobey and Doc Ock were reunited. I could literally write an entire post on the line “trying to do better” just on its own, what it meant to me, and the beauty behind something seemingly so simple but I’ll move on.
  • I walked away from Multiverse of Madness thinking it was fine and had some fun moments, but the more I revisited it and more I thought about it…yeah I kinda hate it.
  • Love and Thunder was a rather unfortunate disappointment as someone who puts Thor: Ragnarok as his best MCU movie. Not enough room to breathe on any of the moments & way too many asinine goat jokes will do that to a guy I guess.
  • As a South Asian American, Ms. Marvel made me feel better than I deserve to feel. As a critic, I still think it was overall “good” but had way too few episodes which really screwed the pacing and development of characters. I’m not sure how the decisions are being made for how many episodes an MCU show gets, but I think eight or nine episodes instead of six would’ve really benefitted Ms. Marvel to give us more time with some of these characters, especially Kamran. Iman Vellani is a national treasure though and she’s the only queen I mean to bend my knee to.

That last one is the best segue I could find to move into what we’re talking about today, which is Never Have I Ever‘s third season. I don’t think its a shocker to anyone that’s been with me for a while that I thoroughly enjoy the show and adore the positive representation; In the sense that there exists a show about a Desi-American girl and other minorities having regular “high school problems” on top of the added layer of various cultural issues that every BIPOC deals with.

Obviously its a comedy-drama about a teenager and that’s not gonna be for everyone, but it stands where other pieces of media in that same lane have stood and says “Hey you uncultured morons, high schools in America aren’t just petri-dishes of white people, the rest of us exist”, and that in and of itself is a good thing. I think a lot of people forget that we don’t need every story from western media about diaspora Desis to be 100% solely about “the movement” or grand cultural explorations or generational trauma. Don’t get me wrong, all of that is extremely important (and for those of us that come from partition-families, Ms. Marvel was extra meaningful and I’m so thankful for that), but being able to just “have fun with a brown family” is a big part of positive representation too.

All that said, I’m not really here to unpack the show or its moments today (although for the record I will argue that season 3 was the best one yet). I’m a little more concerned with this video that has been circling desi-instagram for a minute now. If you’re too lazy to click we basically have the actor for one of the Indian-American characters, Anirudh Pisharody, introducing himself and presenting a pronunciation of his name that is laughably bad when heard by anyone from the diaspora (hence the title of this post). We as a community at large had a field day with this and have clowned the man in the comment sections everywhere that this video exists, and made our own video responses. Case(s) in point:

It’s understandably comical, especially when you account for the irony of him deciding to pronounce it like that in an interview about his name.

My first instinct, like many of my fellow browns, was to join in on the slander aka “he sounds like a damn fool”, “dude can’t even take pride in his culture”, etc. My second instinct was to go through a lot of these comments and see other people feeling the same way and making those feelings known. My third instinct was realizing the things that basically became the reasons for this piece.

A while ago, coincidentally on the advice of Hasan Minhaj himself, I basically had to take my mental health into consideration and I chose to limit my exposure to every single sociopolitical issue that we’re constantly slammed with all the time. The idea “having 50 tabs open in your mental browser” just became too real for me at some point, and I had to take a step back and just pick three “tabs to keep open” that I can be updated on and have a heated (or not, but who am I kidding) discussion on. I know where I stand on the other issues and can be supportive from the sidelines, but I’m not trying to be in-the-trenches on them anymore except for my personal three, and one of them is unsurprisingly “anything related to the South Asian community in America”, which (finally) brings me to the point.

Look…if you are a diaspora desi/South Asian American/whatever you want to call it (and I’m including everyone here: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, etc.), I 100% believe that you should pronounce your name properly and demand that everyone outside of our culture(s) pronounce it properly too. That is your name and you owe it to yourself and your people to take pride in it and command the respect that it deserves. That is unequivocally my stance on how we as a people should operate. Even if you pronounce it the wrong way, I will still say your name correctly.

At the same time, I also understand the choice that “aNy-rUde” made, because I’ve been there and I’m willing to bet that all (if not most) of you browns reading this and the ones that left all those comments have been there too. We’re going to get into this, and if this was a Sesame Street episode the word(s) of the day, aka the concept I’m going to be referring to, is none other than: Internalized Racism.

Not having the time to go super deep into what that means, I’ll link this for you and provide a summary in my own words: The belief by a minority in the lies told to them about their ethnicity by an inherently racist society, which manifests itself in deprecating behavior.

Its essentially a form of indoctrination; Pop-culture tells you one thing, the kids you’re in school with regurgitate it, you don’t get the proper support to take a stand against it, your brain gets rewired and you start to believe it, and before you know it you’re a young adult who is adjusting things about yourself to fit into an oppressive point of view. You basically end up going out of your way to “not be a stereotype” to the point where you forget to be yourself & end up adopting a negative view of your own culture (“Yeah bro I’m Indian but I’m not like one of THOSE Indians yknow?”).

I wasn’t going by & requesting the proper pronunciation of my name until 7th grade, and I know for a fact that a lot of you kept anglicizing your names for a lot longer. At this point in the piece, I want to ask every American Desi reading this to think about all the times you’ve taken part in it. For me in high school it was: going out of my way to smell good because “Indians are smelly”, not practicing the faith I’m so dedicated to now because “people make fun of weird religions”, and not eating my lunch in public if I had Indian food. In college I took some weird pride in the fact that I didn’t have Indian friends anymore (almost as if some weight was lifted off of my shoulders), let white people make their stupid jokes at the expense of my ethnicity, shaved my beard whenever I went to the airport, and went out of my way to dress/speak super white (the frat boy era was something else in hindsight). In my early 20’s, I constantly shot myself in the foot when it came to dating because “Indian guys are largely viewed as undesirable so what’s the point”.

With all of that out there, I asked myself if “anglicizing your name” is really something that deserves this much heat? Are there any of you that have NOT done this at some point in your lives? Even Hasan Minhaj used to go by Huh-SAHN Min-AHj until he decided not to, and are we all really going to ignore the full on name changes of “Mindy Kaling”, “Kal Penn”, “Jay Chandrasekhar”, “M. Night Shyamalan”, “Tan France”, and (my favorite one) “Ben Kingsley”?

I want to be clear that what happened with “Aah-knee-REWDT” (I swear that’s my last one) is inherently hilarious and easy to make fun of. My intention here is not to virtue signal or shame any of you for reacting to it the same way I did at first, I think I’ve put forward enough of my experiences in self-hate to communicate that. Internalized racism is a reality for many of us and often times we’re not even aware of it…so how do we beat it? Supporting each other through it. Call it cliche or easier said than done, but that is absolutely the right thing to do.

I think any desi reading this knows that, notwithstanding the racism you receive from non-browns, all of us also have to deal with the insanely judgmental environments that we call our “community” for whatever individuality, quirks, or personal problems we might have that doesn’t “fit the mold” or just “isn’t talked about”. In my humble opinion, it’s the combination of both phenomenons that creates internalized racism: conditional acceptance by everyone else & conditional acceptance by your own people. I believe that its our job as the first American-born generation of South Asian Americans to do better and create a more supportive environment as opposed to doing the literal opposite, which is what I saw with the Anirudh incident .

Admittedly, I’ve been lucky. My brown friends from high school never gave up on me despite all of the complicated feelings I had towards my racial identity, not staying in touch through college, and dealing with things that the “average brown” doesn’t deal with. I was really bitter yet they kept reaching out, and those dingbats are some of my best friends today. Recognizing my own good situation in that regard, I ask you to put everything aside for a second and think about the times you felt least supported when it came to your identity.

Let’s first realize that this guy actually did the damn thing. A very brown dude with a very brown name chose a career path that in many ways is a cacophony of white voices…and despite this he got a supporting role on a top-rated and highly viewed Netflix series, one that goes into the brown experience at that. That experience sets him up nicely for bigger and better roles & sets us up for seeing another talented brown face on our screens in the future.

Then he says his name in an interview in a way that he’s probably had to say it most of his life, just so that the (most likely) white casting directors can remember it and he can get called back instead of being forgotten…and instead of millions of brown fans of Never Have I Ever showing him a semblance of acceptance of those circumstances while letting him know that its okay for him to pronounce the name properly now…we went with the “shaming” route, because THAT always famously works out super well for everyone, right?

Look, I know what you might be thinking: “Its just a few internet comments, why take it so seriously”, “He’s old enough to know better”, “How can anyone confirm the potential reasons you cite here to even be true for his situation”, etc. I understand all of that and I’m not trying to say that my word on this is gold, rarely do I ever when it comes to my writing.

All I’m trying to say is that maybe we should take a minute to ask “why” one of our fellow South Asian Americans did something the way they did on a very public stage (especially if its something we’ve all done) instead of immediately jumping down their throats and making demands from them. No movement is ever going to go anywhere positive without the presence of some empathy, we can ask someone to do a better job at representing us while also being understanding of what they did in the first place.

As Hari Kondabolu once alluded to, we’re not in the “Pre-Aziz-and-Mindy” era anymore where no one cared about what any brown person in the media said. However, a lot of us still grew up in that era and lived through the confusing transition into where we are now. Either way, it’s a better situation now and we have the ability to keep that progress going by being a supportive audience of better fans.

I’ll leave you with these closing thoughts: Sir Ben Kingsley’s real name is KRISHNA PANDIT BHANJI. Isn’t that insane?!? Did YOU guys know that one? I just straight up thought the dude playing Gandhi was a white guy with a tan until like 7 years ago. Still better than “Bobby Jindal” though…then again anything is.

Kanye v Drake: Who Wins This Round? – Pt 2 of 2; Certified Lover Boy

“I’m gonna go tweet a Drake lyric like everyone else”

This post is part two in a series of two where I live react to two albums for the first time. If you want to read the setup/context then feel free to do so in the first part here. I will be skipping introductions on this one and going straight into the track list.

Champagne Poetry – This is…okay, wow this is a great introductory track. The first half of this was erring on the side of “okay, we get it, you’re Drake” in terms of lyrical content, but the second half where the beat changes and the subject matter takes a much more serious tone actually makes for something interesting. Interest is very much piqued, wonder where he’s going to go from here

Papi’s Home – I was a little confused as to who Drake was claiming that he was being…ugh…”Daddy” towards, until I realized about half way through that he’s basically saying he’s “sonned” other rappers and he’s their “Daddy”. Verse was pretty good, but the metaphor…really? Take you all day to come up with that one? Also, barf.

Girls Want Girls – Wait, wait, wait, WHAT? Did I hear this right? “Said you were a lesbian, girl me too”??? I’ve usually waited until after a track to jot down what I feel on these two pieces but I stopped this one 24 seconds in, I can’t just move past this, I genuinely don’t know what the fuck he means by this? Can anyone tell me?

Okay I looked it up, yeah that’s what he said. I…I just…I dont know. I’ll try to move on, let’s try this again.

I genuinely don’t understand what’s going on here. I mean if I had to guess, he’s going for “girl on girl is hot” but then adding this whole layer of him allegedly speaking to a lesbian and…I guess “relating” to her because he likes girls too? Look as someone who lives in Los Angeles and has met one too many “Omg the gays love me” straight women…this kind of gives me the same vibe. Except worse because I guess the implication here is that he’s trying to sleep with the aforementioned lesbian…and their “common ground” is “we’re both sexually attracted to women”? Dude I don’t know, I’ve spent too much time on this ONE track, but honestly moments like this, where he spits out some ridiculous thing that you find yourself thinking “he can’t be serious”, have defined recent Drake projects for me. This might be worse than the “I wasn’t hiding my kid from the world, I was hiding the world from my kid” bullshit he managed to come up with.

In The Bible – Musically it’s not bad, in terms of the subject matter this thing takes a weird turn. The premise seemed to be about Drake feeling judged for having too many casual relationships…but then he turns it around on this hypothetical girl who is judging him with the oh so mature response of “well what about you”? Even if this wasn’t about two parties essentially slut shaming each other, not sure why he had to bring the Bible into this…did I miss when Drake suddenly got a say on what a Christian Woman should be like?

Love All – I feel “back on track” after this one, this seems like classic Drake to me. The vibe is really moody, he’s in his feelings, he’s questioning his relationships with friends/former romances/fans, he even manages to say one or two things of substance (He raps “People never care ’til it’s R.I.P.” and that definitely is understandable coming from someone of his level of fame, seeing talented people in hip-hop not be as appreciated until they pass away). So there’s something here, along with a nice JAY-Z verse to make this my favorite track on the album so far.

Fair Trade – Never mind what I just said about my favorite so far, this one is even better. Drake is here coming hard at his “fake friends”, not like that’s anything novel for him but he drops some decent bars with a solid flow, and I actually really like the melody on the hook. Travis also comes in with a solid verse where he’s actually rapping more than his usual auto-crooning, this is a good track.

Way 2 Sexy – Wow…this…happened. He really built a whole song around the hook from Right Said Fred’s “Im Too Sexy”. Yeah this one’s gonna be a “no” from me man. I feel like there may be a version of this concept that I can enjoy somewhere out there, but this just got strange. I tend to really like Future and Young Thug, but Future phoned it in hard here and Thug’s verse was pretty mid too.

TSU – Okay, I need to take a moment here and put into words/try to figure out why I can’t deal with Drake’s songs directed at seemingly random women anymore…because this is the 3rd time on this album that I’ve felt grossed out, and honestly that doesn’t happen to me often.

Drake has always had rather “intense” feelings towards the girls in his songs, but I’ve always just kind of taken those things with a grain of salt. I used to think “Drake talking about his failed relationships” would be one of those tropes I never really get tired of, but I don’t know why its just not working for me here. Maybe it’s just gotten stupider? Like think of the vibe on the songs “Take Care”, “Too Good”, “Passionfruit”…there’s something there, right? He actually takes time to unpack what went wrong in the relationship, takes his own blame, etc, so maybe it’s gotten more immature lately? Actually I don’t think thats necessarily correct, even on the Take Care album, songs like “Shot For Me” and “Marvin’s Room” are ugly if you take a real look at it, but I don’t seem to mind even if I heard them now. So what gives? Why have “Girls Want Girls”, “In the Bible”, and “TSU” just made me feel like I need a shower? I’m going to try to wrap up this train of thought at the end, this tangent has already gone on a while.

N 2 Deep – I like it. It’s definitely embodying some really toxic energy, but it’s being done in a way that actually has something to say, and it looks like remorse and covered-up-feelings are both really at play in the way he’s structured it. The beat switch up is nice, still not a great Future verse but much better than “Way 2 Sexy”.

Pipe Down – I think after the last track and this one, I may have come closer to finding the answer to the tangent I went off on in the “TSU” section. More to come, but just as far as the track goes, I like it.

Yebba’s Heartbreak – Solid interlude

No Friends In The Industry – Goes pretty hard, but at some point we’re going to have too many songs on this album about Drake having mistrust of people around him & doubting everyone’s loyalty. I’m not sure if that’s supposed to relate thematically to these failed relationships/casual sexual encounters he’s talked about so far. Maybe it is, but it’s not connecting too well.

Knife Talk – Okay this is hot, 21 Savage bodied this one. No surprise that Metro Boomin has production credits on this one.

7am On Bridle Path – Guess its safe to say that if its a Drake song with a time and place in it, its going to be a pretty hard, observational, personal declaration with some decent bars. In this one its pretty obvious he’s addressing the Kanye beef.

Race My Mind – I appreciate the Rick James interpolation, but that might be the only thing making this one not totally mid.

Fountains – It’s okay

Get Along Better – The vibe on this track is what I expected from Drake on an album called “Certified Lover Boy”, I liked this a lot until I remembered that I’ve definitely heard something like this from Drake before…and I think in that, we discover this album’s biggest weakness (aside from calling himself a lesbian). To be elaborated on at the wrap-up section.

You Only Live Twice – Rick Ross and Lil Wayne went off, but I got barely anything from Drake himself here. I know its funny that he popularized YOLO and now has a song called “You Only Live Twice”, and this one is fine, just didn’t feel anything that particularly stood out on his end.

IMY2 – Cool that he had Kid Cudi take the lead on this one, its fine overall.

Fucking Fans – Aaaaaand I’m back to feeling gross. God, Drake sounds like a giant egomaniac on this one…which I didn’t think was possible after I just finished a fucking KANYE album.

The Remorse – I think he was trying to end this album that’s about people who have been disloyal to him with a track giving some love to those who did stay around…but he manages to make it more so about him. Not the strongest note to end on, especially after the last one.

Well…it’s better than Scorpion at least, but that’s not a very high bar so lets actually get into this one. In the reaction section, I went on two tangents that I can wrap up now that tie into what I feel overall.

The first was why almost all the songs he’s directed towards women he’s interested in or are ex-lovers/partners in this album have felt wrong to me. Think about a song like “Take Care” or “Passionfruit” for a second, let it play back in your head. On these tracks, Drake put a lot of emotion behind his words, and through his delivery it just feels way more real and substantive. I mentioned even uglier songs from his earlier discography didn’t make me feel as bad as recent ones have, and that’s because of the delivery again. In my opinion, in tracks like “Marvin’s Room”, he was very well aware that the macho-act he was putting on was fake. The way he wrote and delivered those songs, there was some self-awareness there. He knew he was being kind of pathetic…and in that feeling is where he became oddly compelling. He was being honest about how he felt, masked it by talking about how great he is, but also gave off the impression that he knows he’s in the wrong, that his obsession with his grandeur is a crutch, and that he secretly wishes he could trade it all in for some honest experiences with girl he’s singing about.

At some point, though, the delivery started feeling like less of an act and more of Drake actually having these delusions where he’s in the right with these women he’s wronging. The douchebaggery started taking the place of any actual vulnerability or feeling, and then at that point it was just “guy passive-aggressively being a dick”. Think of “Child’s Play” from Views; I know we all joke about the “Cheesecake” line, but this whole song’s premise is really messed up. The whole “I’m rich and successful and you should feel lucky that I’m dating a girl like you who isn’t accustomed to this life, but if you don’t stop ‘acting up’ then I’m going to send you back to the hood” is so wildly absurd, and is so devoid of anything genuine because of how “reality TV” it sounds. After years of sounding like a young guy trying, failing, regretting, and learning from love…instead he managed to sound like a rich asshole who targets a certain kind of woman in hopes that she could be more subservient to him.

THAT’s the kind of disgusting feeling I got on certain tracks on this album. Others sounded a lot more genuine which you can see from my live reactions, and its not like this is happening EVERY single time Drake talks about a girl. Its just that the bad vibes have been coming up more often the more music he puts out, and Drake’s delivery is getting more stale, which brings me to a good segue into wrapping up the other tangent I went on.

There’s nothing particularly novel about this album compared to his work since Views. Even though I may have liked tracks on this album, the project overall seems uninspired. Does there need to be constant pressure on artists, especially ones as successful as Drake, to push the envelope with every project? No, I think that’s being a little too idealistic. Did he accomplish what he marketed, a “return to form” after Scorpion? Sure, in a way I feel like he did.

All of that is fine, but when you give a listener the same overall blend of atmospheric elements as your last two major releases (Views and Scorpion), more of the flaws in the formula tend to be revealed, and this is already the third time in a row that I’ve walked away with the same general feeling from a major Drake release.

For that reasoning alone…I feel like Kanye wins this round. I know I started this whole thing with the premise of pitting the two projects together, but in reality you should just listen to what you prefer, and they can both just be “good albums”.

I set out to make my decision as an objective music fan, but even me arguing that the themes and tracks on Donda leave me with more than Certified Lover Boy does can still be seen as subjective. I don’t think its a “crime against humanity” if you prefer Drake here, if that’s your thing, then go for it. However, when it comes to the official Soggz-Blogs decision, Donda was the better album and the one I’ll be revisiting a lot more.

Kanye v Drake: Who Wins This Round? – Pt 1 of 2; Donda

Donda Donda Donda Donda Donda Donda Donda Donda Donda Donda Donda

This post is part one in a series of two where I live react to two albums for the first time. If you want to skip the setup/context then feel free to do so, it will start after the bolded paragraph.

In any conversation about the music of the 2010’s, it is impossible to speak on this subject without the mention of certain artists that released great projects that not only charted well, but influenced the landscape, sounds, and trends of popular music that can still be easily identified today. The 2010’s had some really heavy hitters in pop music (and their respective genres): Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga…and of course, the two that I will be focusing on in these next two pieces, Kanye West and Drake.

For those who have better things to do with their lives than keeping up with this shit, you should know these two have been on each other’s cases for years now. Before I dive into the music of it all, I thought it’d be important to briefly touch on where these artists started vs where they are now, and a little of my personal history with them.

I’ve been a “constantly apologizing” Kanye West fan for years now, and he likely is one of my top 3 artists of all time, sharing that title with The Weeknd and Kid Cudi. Look, I can’t deal with his antics in the public eye either, and I definitely don’t support what he says and does as a person. I do, however, constantly find myself hoping he gets the help he so clearly needs. With that disclaimer out of the way, yeah, he’s one of the greatest artists that music has ever had and I genuinely don’t see how there is any debating that. Pre-2010, the man already put out an incredible body of work with his “college trilogy”, permanently raising the bar for production (especially in regards to sampling and interpolation) & lyricism (looking at you, Late Registration fans) in hip-hop, and non-hip-hop fans were still Kanye fans. Then he released an album (808’s & Heartbreak) that wasn’t met with much public approval during a tumultuous time in his life that ended up being “ahead of its time” because almost all pop music a few years later tried to emulate the same sound. Then (in 2010 now) he puts out an album (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy) that he later called “a backhanded apology” because he was in trouble with the public (VMA-gate) but also wanted to basically tell everyone “you need me because I’m too damn good at this”…and it worked, ending up on almost every major music publication’s “Top 5 Albums of the Decade” list. Something something Yeezus, Watch the Throne, The Life of Pablo…albeit definitely a few missteps afterwards like “Lift Yourself” and Jesus is King (I personally think “you my chic-fil-a” might be his biggest lowlight, worse than “scoop-di-poop”, but that’s just me)…we’ve ended up with one of the most impressive discographies out there.

Personally for me, MBDTF gave me what little confidence I had as an adolescent to get through the hell of being a teenager. To this day, “Gorgeous” will never fail to give me that boost of energy and belief in myself before doing something seemingly daunting.

On the flip-side of this, we have Drake…aka Mr. Champagne Papi aka the 6 God aka every Indian fuckboy’s personal idol. He also happens to be another artist whose public antics I can’t stand either, but it’s hard to imagine the genre of Pop Rap becoming as huge as it has without directly attributing that to Drake’s success. Starting off as a “Lil Wayne prodige” and quickly artistically surpassing everyone from the Young Money camp, Drake is one of the most commercially successful rappers to ever exist. This shouldn’t imply that he wasn’t critically successful either, as Take Care was one of the first instances of the dark & moody R&B sounds that ended up taking over the genre for about a decade and influenced a lot of projects that came afterwards (this is also heavily attributed to The Weeknd’s House of Balloons, but he also had a huge hand in Take Care and that album was what introduced me and many other to The Weeknd anyway). He then went on to continue to give us quality work with Nothing Was the Same and If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, giving listeners a ton of quotable bars (and memes) in the process. By the time we got to Views in 2016, trying to avoid Drake became like trying to avoid Usher’s “Yeah!” in 2004, it was damn near impossible. Views sat atop the Billboard 200 for 13 nonconsecutive weeks, becoming the first album by a male solo artist to do so in over a decade. He continued onward to keep accomplishing feats like this and always being a huge part of internet culture, with stuff like the “In My Feelings Challenge” and “Toosie Slide” always being on people’s screens when they found themselves idly scrolling.

I cannot stress enough how much I love Take Care as a complete album, and Drake’s reign of hits is nothing to ignore at all. He has the most top 10 placements and most charted songs ever on the Billboard Hot 100, and even though I’ve found myself unimpressed or straight up annoyed with his recent work (you can’t convince me that Scorpion wasn’t a bloated dumpster fire), there’s no denying that there will always be room on any playlist for Drizzy.

So this brings us to now, where these two are beefing again. We can sit here and go through the entire history and both of their flaws, give props and/or make fun of them all day long…but I’m of the belief that the winner of any beef can only be decided by the tunes. Since they both have album releases coming out within a week of each other, I will be doing track-by-track reactions, a summary of my feelings on the overall project, and eventually determine the winner of this round between Kanye West’s Donda & Drake’s Certified Lover Boy.

So without further ado (after this incredibly messy album rollout) it’s time to do my first listen of Donda and live-blog it. Off we go!

Donda Chant – Stupid. Yeah it makes for funny memes and I laugh at them too but cmon, actually starting an album like this is not a good first impression.

Jail – Can we consider this the actual start of the album? Because this is good. I think Jay-Z could’ve maybe gone a little harder on his bars, especially considering his is the only lyrical section of this song, but this track is a good indication of where Kanye is spiritually & personally before going into the album, I’m cool with it. Pretty funny that Hov called him out for the MAGA hat.

God Breathed – The fact that this could’ve been 2 minutes shorter and still had the same effect in the track listing is really annoying.

Off The Grid – Good Lord, what gave Fivio Foreign the right to go this hard?? This is great, its only the 4th track but this is a highlight for sure, really good track all around.

Its clear Kanye has a lot to say about his personal relationship with God, his family, the divorce, etc. Based on his verse on this track, I’m curious to see what direction this goes & if its what holds the album together in terms of an overarching theme.

Hurricane – Abel, you absolute king. I think I have to publicly eat my words about Lil Baby, I 100% didn’t “get it” at first but I think he’s really been growing creatively and I’m here for it. I will say though, Kanye’s verse sounds a bit unfinished just in terms of the audio/mix…lyrically it was good. Another good track.

Praise God – Maybe on a later listen I’ll understand why Baby Keem showed up on this…but as of now, the track takes a noticeable nosedive for me when his verse starts…especially after some great Kanye & Travis Scott chemistry, and ESPECIALLY after Kanye put actual sound-bytes of his mother, the late Dr. Donda West, on the track.

Jonah – Meh.

Ok Ok – Wait, it took me this long to realize, is…is this censored? Why?? Is this whole album like this? I mean I was going to talk about how I appreciated this track emotionally and I liked Lil Yachty’s verse, but now I’m distracted. This is an odd decision but okay I’ll move on, I’m a fan of what this one has to say.

Junya – The “I won with the Bucks, boy, let me be Giannis” bar made me smile, but kind of a meh track otherwise.

Believe What I Say – Thematically we’re back to what I’ve been most interested in with this album 10 tracks in, and boy did this one deliver musically as well. Maybe I’m not remembering off the top of my head, but it’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed Kanye’s lyricism this much.

24 – I like the exploration of his faith in relation to the broader concepts of mortality & the afterlife here, appropriately supplemented by the Sunday Service Choir.

Remote Control – Not sure if I understand what he’s going for here with the “remote control” thing or that outro, but I’ll take a cool Young Thug verse.

Moon – Holy shit. This is incredible. Maybe one day Kid Cudi wont get me automatically emotional, but it’s not today.

Heaven and Hell – I appreciate his perspective on his personal relationship with faith here too. Not sure if the ending firearm sounds was meant to be a KIDS SEE GHOSTS callback, but I’ll take it.

Donda – Hearing Dr. Donda West on this one really contextualizes the kind of person she was, within Kanye’s life and just by herself as well. I would imagine hearing “Only One” after this would increase the emotional impact of that track, which already hits really hard for me. So this feels like a tasteful inclusion.

Keep My Spirit Alive – Its okay.

Jesus Lord – Well the 9 minute runtime definitely had me nervous going into this, and I’m not sure if I’ll be revisiting this track much, but I do see that its pretty pivotal to the album and is luckily a good enough song to not feel like its that long. This probably would’ve hit on a more emotional level if I understood all the Biblical references. Jay Electronica’s verse on this alone was better than his entire last album.

New Again – Ugh…look, I wanted to do my best to JUST focus on the tunes and not go “looking too much into it” when going into these albums/pieces…but something SPECIFICALLY about a song that’s about forgiveness, mercy, and feeling “new again” that features Chris Brown, one of the most habitual & consistent of garbage human beings, just rubs me the wrong way. Can’t put my finger on why though.

Tell The Vision – Oh good God, censored Pop Smoke just sounds awkward and categorically incorrect. Wait, this is just Pop’s “We Made It”…except not as good. I actually have no idea why this is here, other than the fact that Kanye is a credited feature on the actual song off the Pop Smoke album. In this context though, I don’t see what this is adding.

Lord I Need You – I know this is supposed to be a really revealing and vulnerable moment on this album about his failed relationship, but the “Taco Bell & KFC” bar…I mean I know at this point in his career I should expect at least one or two corny bars but wow. Luckily he salvages this and it becomes a poignant moment on the album

Pure Souls – Damn, I feel like I have yet to hear Roddy Rich miss. It wouldn’t be a Kanye album without some kind of examination of success & his come up, so this feels like it belongs. The outro feels a bit odd in terms of the mixing and may have ran 45 seconds too long, but I like this one mainly due to Roddy.

Come to Life – Also may have ran a little longer needlessly, but it’s fine.

No Child Left Behind – Really solid interlude to kick off (what feels like) the home stretch. I’m interested to see how this closes out.

Jail pt 2 – Wait, it’s just the same thing as “Jail” except with different features? I mean admittedly the DaBaby feature is pretty damn good, but couldn’t we have just picked one of these versions and stuck with it?

Also find myself thinking again, because of the specific subject matter of the track: Kanye…my dude…feels like you could’ve asked Justin Vernon what he was doing instead of getting Marilyn Manson on this. Remember how good Vernon was on Yeezus? I mean…bruh.

Ok Ok pt 2 – Same thing…feels like one version could’ve been the album version and one version could’ve been on a deluxe, and it feels like I’m gonna feel like that about these next two as well.

Junya pt 2 – Yup, I was right. I will say that so far I think these part 2’s have been a little more fleshed out, and maybe better, than the first ones for me. Never going to say “no” to a Ty Dolla Sign feature.

Jesus Lord pt 2 – Eh…the features from The LOX are pretty cool, but 11 and a half minutes is just a bit much. Also kind of feel like it diminishes the meaning of this particular song a bit when you have a few too many cooks in the kitchen, I’d prefer the part 1 on this one.

OKAY wow, almost two hours later. So on a first listen, its definitely flawed, most notably because of some legitimately horrendous choices of featured artists & how it could’ve been condensed/cut to form a much tighter project. That being said, it’s really nice to hear so fleshed out of a project from him again, especially after his most recent ones have been no longer than 30 minutes & a few tracks. I think its oddly comforting to hear Kanye take creative risks again even if all of them don’t land for me. I find it somewhat reflective of where he is personally at the moment, and Kanye’s music has always had a very personal touch so this ends up feeling like somewhat of a true “rebirth” for him as an artist. In fact I think it works better as a follow up to 2016’s The Life of Pablo than Ye or Jesus is King did.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I liked it, definitely more than I thought I would after the ridiculous rollout and daunting runtime. I’m definitely going to spend more time on this one, but it’ll likely be after the next piece, where I do the same thing for Drake’s Certified Lover Boy. Thanks for reading my silly opinions, and I hope to see you next time!