Album Review: Donda


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After nearly a year and a half of previews, leaks and listening parties, Kanye West’s 10th studio album, Donda, was finally released on Sunday, Aug. 29.

After a highly anticipated and bewildering series of events, 21-time Grammy winner Kanye West released his 10th studio album Donda on Sunday, Aug. 29. West had been teasing the album since July of 2020 with a series of tweets that revealed the album cover and tentative tracklist. However, it seemed like West forgot about his music as he focused on his unsuccessful campaign for the presidential election.

News about Donda slowly disappeared from the media until July 18 of this year when speculations broke on Twitter that the rapper was planning to drop Donda that week. This news was followed by West announcing a listening party in Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta set for July 22.

Despite the short notice, West sold out the stadium and, dressed in all red, paraded around the Mercedes Benz Stadium field by himself. It would take two more listening parties and several revisions until the album was finally released to streaming platforms at 8 a.m. last Sunday.

Questions still remained about the album, after a cryptic message posted on West’s Instagram in which he said he did not approve the release of the album. That being said, after over a year of waiting and one of the most untraditional album rollouts of all time, Donda is here, hopefully to stay.

Coming in at 1 hour, 48 minutes, Donda is West’s longest project by far. After his comeback into the industry with the critically acclaimed My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye started to show his own expressionism. Much of what has defined the second half of his career has been his ability to create genre-defining albums and songs as a producer, rather than himself as the sole artist.

Donda’s tracklist includes elements of his 2019 gospel-influenced album, Jesus is King and his 2018 collaboration with Kid Cudi, Kids See Ghosts. The core of the album celebrates his late mother, Donda West, who tragically passed away from heart failure after a botched plastic surgery in 2007. The album is non-explicit or clean and includes many religious references, which according to West himself, is something that his mother would have respected and desired.

The album opens with “Donda Chant,” which honors his mother. The chant has a woman’s voice repeatedly say, “Donda”, changing in rhythm according to Donda West’s last heartbeats before her eventual death. On “Come to Life”, West finally opens up about his emotional state in the years following his mother’s untimely passing – which is enhanced by the touching piano and synth beat.

Throughout West’s career both as an artist and producer, he has dived deeper into his genre-defining usage of sampling. One of the opening tracks, “God Breathed,” includes samples from the underground, but highly influential, New York City band Liquid Liquid. Elsewhere, like on “Believe What I Say,” West uses the chorus of Ms. Lauryn Hill’s “Doo-Wop (That Thing)” for the entirety of the beat. West’s unique usage of sampling is reminiscent of his previous 2007 classic, “Graduation.”

It is not just his sampling that stands out in this project. Some of the most surprising features on this album include Fivio Foreign on “Off The Grid,” who performs a career-defining verse as well as Roddy Rich who sings the intro and chorus to the inspiring “Pure Souls.”

Our personal favorites are “Moon,” “Pure Souls,” “Hurricane” and “Come to Life,” but there is something to be said for every track because of the exemplary production and usage of features. “Moon”, featuring Don Toliver and Kid Cudi sounds angelic and “Hurricane”, featuring The Weeknd and Lil Baby was leaked several times with changes in each version since early 2020, so hearing the finished product was incredible.

Every album throughout West’s career has proven to be influential in some regard and Donda has kept that trend alive. West has shown his new style as an artist. Donda diverged away from some of the lower points in his recent career, tying his Christian values, unique sampling and intelligent use of features together to create a beautiful final product.