Kanye West’s “Donda” Album Review


G.O.O.D. Music

This is the album cover for Kanye West’s “Donda.” The black cover represents letting go of grief and recovering and in West’s case, it is in reference to his mother’s death.

Keelin Davis, Executive Editor

Praise through new eyes.

Aug. 29, 2021, Kanye West released his long-awaited, highly anticipated tenth studio album, “Donda,” named after his late mother

The album followed a drawn-out rollout consisting of three public listening parties and lots of controversy. The project consists of a variety of feature artists, powerful lyrics and diverse production. The “Donda,” era of West is not complete and there are still songs that could be added or tweaked in the 27-track album

The initial rollout began in late 2018 when West posted the snippet to the lead single of “Donda,” named “Hurricane.” At the time, the album was titled, “Yandhi,” serving as a sequel to the 2013 album, “Yeezus.” The album was eventually delayed and never released. Eventually, the nearly finished album was leaked completely and caused it to be scrapped and left fans empty and hungry for new music.

There were bits and pieces of information coming from many people in West’s camp since then but there was no real confirmation from West until 2020. During the summer of 2020, West returned to Twitter to advertise for the rebranded, “Donda,” and the so-called, “West Day Ever.” He made announcements about Yeezy, music, a cartoon he had been producing and more. He shortly disappeared from the internet after this following his run for presidency

As July 2021 rolled around, there was swirling conversation that someone big in the industry was gearing up for an album release. Shortly after, West announced that he would be holding a listening event in Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. The event rolled around and the album sounded unfinished but filled with many open ideas with great potential. West and his team stayed at the stadium for nearly two weeks to complete the album and at the end of that period, another event was hosted. The album sounded much more complete and a variety of collaborators were added to produce the best album possible. 

The rollout was finally completed with the final listening event held in West’s hometown, Chicago, Illinois. He recreated his childhood home as the stage in the center of Soldier Field. Many variations of songs were played and features were swapped, leaving fans scared for the final product of the album. 

The project finally released at 8 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 29. It was released as a censored album and the features that were swapped were reversed back to their original state. Fans woke up surprised and relieved that the stress of the rollout was over. 

The album opens up with, “Donda Chant,” which features Syleena Johnson repeating West’s late mothers name, “Donda,” a total of 58 times. It is an odd but captivating introduction that has caused lots of speculation and theorizing in fans. The true introduction track to the album is titled, “Jail,” and includes a surprise feature from JAY-Z. The track tackles themes of being in a mental “jail,” and breaking free from your demons. It is one of the most abstract tracks on the record and is a strong opener.

The third track, “God Breathed,” has a similar sonic theme of the songs from “Yeezus.” The hard hitting 808’s with dark melodies serve for a decent track but it is one of the weakest tracks on the album and sounds a bit unfinished. Following this, the album opens up into its strongest run. 

“Off The Grid,” is the fan-favorite track from the album and features Playboi Carti and Fivio Foreign. It features an abstract trap beat for Playboi Carti’s verse and transitions into a New York Drill beat for the remainder of the track. All three verses tackle themes of family, perseverance and their life experiences that made them who they are today. It is the strongest track on the project and will hold up in the long term. 

“Hurricane,” and “Praise God,” keep the theme and tempo of the album up and include capturing features from The Weeknd, Lil Baby, Travis Scott and Baby Keem. All of the collaborators, especially in the opening run of the album, bring their best to the tracks and West seems to have fit these tracks to the strengths of these artists. 

After the first third of the album, there is a small dip in quality but strong tracks still peer through. “Jonah,” “Ok Ok,” and “Junya,” all feature strong but seemingly unfinished ideas. These tracks are missing some elements that could be included to create stronger themes and memorable moments. 

The album picks the pace back up with another strong run of tracks. “Believe What I Say,” which features a Lauryn Hill feature and “24,” an ode to the late Kobe Bryant both feature progressive production that serve as uplifting and emotional tracks. “Remote Control,” follows which is one of the weakest tracks on the album but it does feature a strong Young Thug verse. 

Perhaps one of the most anticipated tracks on the album, “Moon,” appears with features from Don Toliver and Kid Cudi. Cudi was taken off the track during the third listening party and left fans angry but in the official release, the song returned to its original state. It is made up of an angelic melody performed by Toliver and a strong, uplifting verse from Cudi. 

The most rap-heavy tracks arrive after a quick melodic run. There are a series of more structured tracks such as “Keep My Spirit Alive,” and “Jesus Lord,” that include collaborations from the Buffalo rap group Griselda and Jay Electronica. They serve as strong transitions into the final act of the project.

From track 18 to track 23, the true outro of the album, there is only one weak track, “Tell The Vision.” While it is a tribute to the late Pop Smoke, it is a terribly mixed track that includes one of Smoke’s worst verses. This is one of the few low points of the project but easily forgettable. 

The songs, “Lord I Need You,” “Pure Souls,” and “Come to Life,” include some of West’s most reflective verses of his career. They all include gospel sonic themes but feature strong hip-hop elements that remain true to West’s past works. They are strong tracks to finish the album and they solidify the legendary status of the release.

While the album is released in its entirety, there are still talks of a deluxe and more tracks being released. Drake recently leaked a West track with an Andre 3000 feature and there are still talks of it having an official release. The “Donda,” era is not over as of yet and is still completing its arc in West’s career.