In the last few weeks, the concurrent (dueling?) album rollouts of Kanye West’s Donda and Drake’s Certified Lover Boy have taken on a new sense of urgency. In fact, I like to think of it as the final road race scene in Grease, these two antagonists barreling down Thunder Road in their respective souped-up, death-trap vehicles, as clandestine razor-sharp spikes—perhaps lifted from a certain Balenciaga jacket—emerge from their tires to slash each other’s cars. (Obviously, Kim Kardashian in Balenciaga bridal couture is Sandy.) In the end, West’s 90-minute-long Donda arrived this past Sunday morning, and Drake’s Certified Lover Boy is slated to drop on Friday. But in true 2021 fashion—chicken or the egg, album or the merchandise?—we can already compare the merch for both releases.
Both Kanye and Drake are highly attuned to the power of putting out commemorative clothing for sale. Ye more or less revolutionized the merch business model during his Yeezus and Life of Pablo tours, and each of his three Donda listening events came with its own swarm-inducing wares. (Not to mention the crew-issued “Donda” tactical vest that recently fetched $20,000 on the resale market.)
The latest round, which was created in collaboration with Balenciaga designer and Donda stalwart Demna Gvasalia, is now available on West’s site. For $160, you can snag a 100% cotton full-face covering with gimp-mask-like zippered eyeholes, not unlike the ones Kanye’s been wearing lately. There are two long-sleeve tees—one features a childhood photo of West’s late mother Donda West, as well as a photo of West’s childhood Chicago home; the other seems to forebode another Kanye presidential run in 2024—that run $200 each. All of the above are ready to ship in an ominous 12-16 weeks.
The Certified Lover Boy merch has also had a prolonged rollout; the first round of Nike-branded album apparel dropped back in October 2020. Given that Drake is known for Instagram caption-ready lyrics, it’s not surprising that his merch is more meme-ready. (Thanks [?] to the artist Damien Hirst, the album cover, which features twelve pregnant-woman emojis, seems to have been created in the same vein.) This latest batch of all-black CLB tees reveal an array of new-yet-characteristic Drake-isms: “Something other than me has got to give,” “Should’ve said you loved me today because tomorrow is a new day,” “I don’t miss…let alone miss you.” The same lyrics appear on a set of billboards up now in Drake’s hometown of Toronto, where Drake’s friend and OVO affiliate Mark Robinson handed out CLB tees to passersby this week. There’s no official release merch date yet for the general public, but you might want to keep your eye out on Friday.