Alternative | Hip-Hop | Rap
Disclaimer: By reviewing this record, I am in no way endorsing or supporting the actions of Kanye West, namely in recent light of his publicity stunt involving DaBaby and Marilyn Manson. I am reviewing this album with its musical content as the primary focus.
For some of you reading this, I really don’t blame you for not keeping Kanye West in your good books. The recent events, controversies, and delays spiralling around the hype-storm that was Donda’s pre-release period, puts the Atlanta-born song artist and shoe designer in a position that many might argue he doesn’t deserve.
However, there is no denying that the vast majority of Kanye’s creations are light-years ahead of the curve. And by the sounds of it, the rapper’s tenth studio album is no exception.
In recent years, Kanye’s life seemed to be developing a slippery slope of sorts. It felt as if hope that he would bounce back with another masterpiece, just like the old days, was becoming more and more futile. But as we learned from 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, the obstacle might just be the only way for somebody like Ye.
I must admit. Up until 2021, West’s seventh studio album, 2016’s The Life of Pablo, was the last time I saw Kanye as the phenomenally creative artist he is deep down (that is if you discount his collaborative effort with Kid Cudi on KIDS SEE GHOSTS). In terms of solo material however, namely his previous effort Jesus Is King, it felt like his creativity was being compromised.
It should be obvious to anyone that fame has not been kind to Kanye West, but that’s what makes the larger chunk of his discography so mesmerising. Listeners are able to spectate as Kanye locks himself in a battle of wits against his greatest ally, and his greatest enemy; the celebrity lifestyle.
But covering this subject matter is nothing new for Kanye. Instead, he decides to juggle a few other topics on Donda. These include his run-ins with cancel culture, his mental health, and of course, his mothers, to which he owes the title of the album to.
Going back slightly to some of the projects Kanye has release in recent years, Donda feels like yet another return to form (that is, at least musically). Even though this album carries a whopping 27 tracks, the vast majority of the tracks hit the mark.
And while I wish that I could say that this rebirth is entirely down to the lyrical fire once again being lit inside the belly of Ye, that isn’t the full picture. I feel that the other two thirds of Donda’s iconic value lend themselves to the awe-inspiring production (which had a vast range of people behind it), as well as the festival line-up’s worth of features (discounting the likes of DaBaby and Chris Brown, and Marilyn Manson (who’s apparently credited on Jail?) and, um, the globglogabgalab?). Nevertheless, Donda sees featured artists like Jay Z, The Weeknd, Playboi Carti, Conway the Machine, Kid Cudi, Don Toliver, Westside Gunn, and many more. Some of those artists even make it on to multiple tracks.
Stylistically, this album borrows from many of Kanye’s previous works. It kind of feels like a similar situation to Tyler, the Creator’s Call Me If You Get Lost in the sense that it celebrates each of his stylistic focuses.
As a result, that of course means that the heavily christian themes of Jesus Is King still have a few claws latched on to this project. However, it all feels far less polarising.
It truly is a shame then, that this album is so incredible musically, as the overthinking, messy release schedule, and a few poor choices when it comes to some of the people involved, leave a stain that just doesn’t wash off. Donda feels like a long-awaited family reunion, ruined by a massive argument midway through (this is solely for metaphorical context; the mid-point of the album is actually one of the highlight points).
I was also left confused about the “part ii” versions of various tracks. Going into them, I thought that they would be a little more different than they actually were. They are essentially just more patience-testing versions of tracks I was already satisfied with, another excuse to use more features, and a symbol of Kanye refusing to tidy up his album, even though he’s had an extra month to do it.
In a nutshell, I feel like Donda is a marvellous creation, held back only by the uncertainty and cognitive dissonance of its creator.
Favourite Tracks: Off The Grid | Hurricane | Junya | Believe What I Say | Moon | Jesus Lord
Least Favourite Tracks: Jonah | New Again
Getting Out Our Dreams II | Def Jam | UMG Recordings
Enjoyment: 7/10 | Memorability: 10/10 | Atmosphere: 10/10
Uniqueness: 8/10 | Satisfaction: 7/10 | Narrative: 8/10