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Kendrick Lamar vs Drake

Kendrick’s discography versus Drake’s discography

This discussion hinges on your definition of “classic”. To me, an album/mixtape (project) can be considered classic if the quality of music is such that it can be replayed and enjoyed years from now and/or if the album impacted the culture in a strong manner. For example, if a project becomes so influential that it influences how other artists create (i.e. how Wayne’s Da Drought 3 pioneered how rappers approached mixtapes).

Definition: Classic – noun – the quality is so good that it can be replayed and enjoyed years from now and/or it impacted the culture in an strongly influential way 

Discography – a catalogue of musical recordings

Drake’s discography (9)

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Room For Improvement (2006)mediocre/decent

Comeback Season (2007)good mixtape; established a lot of his early style with this mixtape. Those “Weston Road Flows” and “9AM in Dallas” vibe-y introspective flows were birthed in this mixtape.

So Far Gone (2009) – classic. Drake’s coming out party and the often-proclaimed “first mixtape to feel like an album”.

Thank Me Later (2010) – classicThank Me Later was an album full of hits. There was Miss Me, Over, Show Me A Good Time, Find Your Love, Fancy…and a classic intro in “Fireworks“. Also impacted the culture in a huge way. The streets made a lot of money off of this album; it was the biggest debut rap album since The Documentary by The Game, which went on to sell 5 million copies.

Take Care (2011) – great album. The Weeknd’s presence helped mold a cohesive vibe throughout this album in a way not seen on Drake’s other projects. It’s my favorite Drake project, but time will tell whether or not this is a classic record. It didn’t touch the culture like So Far Gone and Thank Me Later did. I don’t know if I could call it a classic album.

Nothing Was The Same (2013)above average – good album. The album felt like the result of some heavy trend hopping. Great intro and a few great songs like “Too Much“, “Started From the Bottom and one of my favorite Drake songs, “Come Thru“.

If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late (2015) – good mixtape for Drake. Drake’s most rap heavy project. Nothing too mind blowing here. Some high highs like “10 Bands and a lot of filler. Overall a great rap mixtape.

What A Time To Be Alive (2015) – The beginning of a decline in Drake’s career in my opinion. He was mostly an accessory to Future this entire mixtape. Had a few moments like his “I’m The Plug” diss verse.

Views (2016) – below average album, very underwhelming. Drake’s least acclaimed album yet. Felt too long, almost a chore to listen to.

Must listen to Drake projects count: 5/9 (Comeback Season, So Far Gone, Thank Me Later, Take Care, IYRTITL)

Kendrick Lamar’s discography (6) (not counting any projects recorded under other aliases)

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The Kendrick Lamar EP (2009) – Great EP project and one of the longest EP’s I’ve seen. This is a project that could potentially be observed as a classic as Kendrick progresses in his career. Kendrick was really bucking the status quo when he released a 14-track EP with a bonus song. This has attributed to today’s current blur/confusion of mixtapes vs albums vs LPs vs projects vs etc.

(O)verly (D)edicated (2010) – great mixtape, one of the best mixtapes to come out that year at a time where the mixtape circuit was extremely saturated and competitive. This mixtape put a lot of people onto Kendrick with songs like “Ignorance is Bliss” and “P&P 1.5 (feat Ab-Soul)

Section.80 (2011) – classic. This was maybe the best project to come out in 2011 rivaled only by Big K.R.I.T’s Return of 4eva. One of the most interesting albums of its times with its abstract, imperfect drums. A grand display of Hip-Hop production from TDE staples Sounwave, THC, and Willie B. This project is home to one of Kendrick’s best songs, “HiiiPower“.

good kid, M.A.A.D City (2012) – classic. Paved the way for storytelling albums like YG’s Still Brazy and My Krazy Life and Tory Lanez’s I Told You and is the album where the West Coast officially anointed Kendrick as king.

To Pimp a Butterfly (2015) – classic. Brought a combination of live instrumentation, funk, and jazz to forefront in Hip-Hop for the first time in years and did it in a way not done before. Artistically ambitious and well-executed. Home to Kendrick’s most influential song, “Alright“. Because of the production and instrumentation quality and socially aware lyrics, this album will age well.

untitled, unmastered (2016) great compilation album, one of the all-time great rap compilation albums. Reminiscent of when Nas’s The Lost Tapes were discovered and they were full of prime-Nas slaps – such a pleasant surprise. This compilation gives you insight into Kendrick’s musical progression between gkMC to TPAB.

Must listen to Kendrick projects count: 5/6 ((O)verly (D)edicated, Section.80, good kid, M.A.A.D City, To Pimp a Butterfly, untitled unmastered)

Verdict

Kendrick has the better discography.

Kendrick’s best album (between S.80, gkMC, or TPAB) is stronger than Drake’s best album (Take Care). Drake wins from the record sales aspect, but Kendrick’s music is more well put together and executed than Drake’s, in my opinion. Kendrick as an artist on these albums – as whole cohesive projects – is more ambitious, interesting, compelling, thought-provoking, and executes better and proportionately more often.

Kendrick is a better rapper, and what do I mean by that? If we count technical skill as part of being a “good rapper”, then Kendrick is the better wordsmith. His rhymes are better – he executes internal and multisyllabic rhymes at a higher frequency than Drake. If we’re talking about them as musicians using their voices as instrumentation, I feel that Kendrick crafts his melodies, flows, rhymes, and syllables more intricately and at a more advanced level than Drake does. That’s why I feel that Kendrick is a better rapper.

Drake has more sales. Drake fans will commonly use this rebuttal in a Kendrick/Drake discussion:

“Drake has sold more records. Which means that more people are listening. Which means that his music is better.”

But there’s an inherent disconnect in this argument; it’s a false equivalence. Just because one has more sales, doesn’t mean they have higher quality. The sales numbers don’t speak to quality. McDonalds isn’t the best burger spot around just because they sling the most burgers per year.

The idea that high sales does not equal quality isn’t something that typically needed to be reinforced in Hip-Hop, but the newer wave of Hip-Hop fans seem to be lost on this. And that’s okay. They’re allowed to have their own opinions.

Drake has more hit records and more records that pushed pop culture. Drake has more records that resonate with the culture – when you turn his records on people will recite the songs sometimes word for word. Songs like “Hold On We’re Going On”, Hotline Bling”, Best I Ever Had“, and Drake’s “Versace” feature with Migos. But Kendrick also has a number of hit records too and has been featured on a number of hits like A$AP Rocky’s “Fuckin Problems“. Also, Drake also has a larger volume of songs, so non-surprisingly he has more error. When you listen to Kendrick, he’s not usually a hit or miss type of artist. Drake on the other hand can be very hit or miss at times like on the Views album.

As an artist Kendrick has a better collection of art. What do I mean by this? Allow me to use an art medium aside from music to illustrate my viewpoint:

Kendrick and Drake’s discographies are like museums, they are displays of art.

Kendrick has the better museum.

The patterns, the color hues, the silhouettes, the designs and angles in his museum are more interesting.

There are more objects, patterns, and more shades of color in his museum that make you stop and really observe and appreciate. There is depth in his art. There are more details and better execution.

Kendrick has a better collection of art than Drake.

Drake has a great museum too though, but the art in Kendrick’s museum is simply of higher quality. 

Kendrick discography > Drake’s

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2 replies »

  1. This is a simple queston of preference. Drake has great club hits, songs that you can dance too. get in your feels to. He’s great at conveying different emotions. I’ve heard people say they actually cried when they heard marvins room. I know people that know the words to one dance, controlla, 0-100, energy, etc. he grabs a larger audience because he can conveys emotions really well. Kendrick is a great lyricist and is one of the only mainstream rappers in years to use his mainstream platform to promote concience subjects. He has a unique style infusing jazz and rap which has been done in rap for years dating back to illmatic and guru and even recently with chance. I personally prefer kendrick because he shows more energy in his music and put actual thought into everything he says. Untitled unmasterd was his throw away songs and it made a better album that 90% of rap this year. TPAB had a great combination of radio friendly tracks such as I and deep tracks such as the blacker the berry. GKMC arguably is a top 10 album this decade. Kendricks past three projets have all been great while drake still has songs talking about being mad at his girl for using his car to buy tampons.

  2. I’ve never heard anyone name classic Drake albums and not name Take Care, it DEFINITELY impacted Pop Culture in a bigger way than the other two! That album popularized the phrase “YOLO”. I do agree that Kendrick is the better MC, but just on him having a bigger reach/audience, Drake has impacted Pop culture on a higher level than him.

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