(UCR) - "I'm one of the few artists not on Kanye's album," Rundgren tells UCR. He says even went out of his way to make himself available for sessions. "I have three albums worth of Kanye stems on my computer. Because I kept getting called by Kanye to add vocals onto the record. When it got into the homestretch in July, I just said, 'That’s enough for me. I have no idea whether any of this is being used.'
Yet, he doesn't know for sure if maybe some of his contributions are buried in the final mixes. "There is a possibility that I’m actually in there somewhere. There’s so much junk in that record!"
Rundgren says he eventually came to the realization that West is "a shoe designer. ... He’s just a dilettante at this point. Nobody would regularly make records like that unless they had stupid money to throw around. Nobody rents a stadium to make a record in. Nobody flies in the entire world of hip-hop just to croak one syllable, just so you can say that everybody was on it.
"My involvement went on for a year, and in the end I realized why they hurriedly wrapped the whole thing up and put out what is obviously really raw, unprocessed stuff. It’s because Drake was running the whole process. He was too afraid that Drake would one-up him, so he hurried up and released the album the weekend before Drake could get his out. And in the end, Drake ate his lunch anyway."
The never-ending discourse surrounding "Donda" and "Certified Lover Boy" keeps on churning! Love that sweet, sweet discourse, baby. Oh hell yeah. Love when two industry titans drop within a week and the conversation has little to do with the music and everything to do with sour grapes.
That's how this blurb from Rundgren comes off, sour grapes, and given his personal recollection of working with Ye, I don't really blame him. Months and months of sending back and forth work and instrumentals and vocals over and over with little to no feedback only for the album to finally come out with no clue if you're even on the fucking thing. Yeah, I wouldn't have many nice things to say at this point in time either. But one point he made that I do feel pretty comfortable combating is the idea that this project was all the way rushed, jam-packed with nonsensical features. Let's focus on the standout track from DONDA, "Hurricane" featuring The Weeknd and Lil Baby.
Here is the original version that Kanye teased and subsequently leaked three years ago:
And here is the official album version from DONDA:
That doesn't feel "rushed" to me. That feels like a perfectly crafted song that took years to get right. Now, you want to point to his scrambling to add Da Baby, Marilyn Manson and D-Block fresh off their decisive Verzuz victory, yeah that definitely felt rushed. Rushed in an attempt to beat Drake? I can't call it. It feels more than fair to say their beef has some real meat on those bones given everything that has played out publicly over the last few years. And it also feels fair to say Drake can claim a victory in the form of first week streaming numbers, where Aubrey shattered his own records yet again. I don't know, I feel like there's a bit more to music than streaming numbers. Maybe I'm a dinosaur who cares slightly less about week one streaming numbers than I do the music on the records themselves. CERTIFIED LOVER BOY is good in its familiarity to other Drake records, but I don't see myself keeping more than a handful of tracks in rotation as the days, weeks, and months go on.
I remember 14 years ago, Rolling Stone had Kanye and 50 Cent on the cover because they were set to battle on September 11, 2007, with CURTIS taking on GRADUATION head to head. The discourse that played out over the next few weeks had little to do with album sales. That happened, of course, but Kanye won that battle decisively on wax, not on the charts. CURTIS stunk, simple and plain. Even with massive, chart-topping singles like "Ayo Technology" and "I Get Money," the album was a far drop from his first two pieces of work. GRADUATION was a special record that still gets front to back spins to this day. CERTIFIED LOVER BOY definitely caught the masses attention off the bat. But if we're going to break it down to who ate whose lunch, then Lupe Fiasco and Freddie Gibbs have entered the conversation - as they both have smoked Drake's "Champagne Poetry" instrumental.
This happens to Drake rather frequently, and it's sort of a credit to him. He sets it off, it happened with "0 to 100," it happened with "Pound Cake," it's been happening his whole career. This is where he comes off more as a vibe curator than an artist with any real depth. He puts out a track with an instrumental perfect for other, more skilled artists to hop on, and in the long run it only compounds the popularity of his song by giving the instrumental more life and longer runway in the public eye. But, if we're talking about the bars, the artistry, the rapping, Drake got his lunch ate. That's why it feels shortsighted to me to focus on streams and sales and popularity in the moment when these wins can take years to be clear. The fact that we're even comparing a gospel record to a pop album feels like a pretty big deal that is often left out of these debates, but I suppose time will tell. Drake is winning the early rounds without breaking much of a sweat. Even his backfires in this battle are somehow working in his favor.