Universal Music Group
Following multiple unfulfilled release dates, three listening parties and setting himself on fire, Kanye West finally dropped “Donda” on Aug. 29.
Named after his late mother, “Donda” is West’s longest album to date, clocking in at an insane 108 minutes long. Staying true to his promise, “Donda” features no explicit language and is a gospel-rap hybrid.
Many were concerned about West’s future in music after his previous album “Jesus is King” was a flop among critics and fans alike due to the preachy nature of the songs.
Those concerns can be laid to rest.
“Donda” met and exceeded all expectations I had for West’s 10th studio album. I was forced to hold onto my chair multiple times in fear that I might float away. Kanye once again proves why he is considered a Mount Rushmore figure of rap. In an era where rappers rely heavily on obscenities, “Donda” allows flow and production to be the highlights of the album. A majority of the songs include a featured artist to complement West’s unparalleled production talent, all while providing a touching tribute to his mother.
The album begins with the plainly titled “Donda Chant.” This intro is not a song, rather a sonic experience that introduces the focal point of the album, Donda West. “Donda Chant” repeats the word “Donda,” which is its only lyric, 58 times to represent the 58 years Donda West lived. At first glance, it can be written off as a redundant song with no deeper meaning, but the rhythm is set to the final heartbeats of Donda West. While this song may not be an instant classic by itself, it sets the theme for the album as a heartfelt tribute to a loved one.
The second track, “Jail,” features the long-awaited reunion of West and Jay-Z. The song sets up an angelic tone that continues to dominate the album. By laying religious overtones while still providing solid lyrics and fantastic beats, West is able to more effectively blend gospel and rap than he did in past ventures.
“Off the Grid” is the most conventional rap song in the album, with a familiar Pop Smoke-type beat. Playboi Carti and Fivo Foreign had the privilege of contributing to this song and did not disappoint. Carti provides his classic mumble style and makes the song more well rounded than it would have been without him. I foresee “Off the Grid” becoming one of the most popular songs on “Donda” as Kanye and Carti effectively blend their two vastly different styles into a certified banger.
“Hurricane” begins with the silky smooth vocals of global pop star The Weeknd. Prominent rapper Lil Baby provides a verse while The Weeknd and West continue to add on after. “Hurricane” is one of the best songs on this album. This song combines elements of multiple different styles all flowing together in a coherent song I see being played on the radio for years to come.
Skip forward a few songs to “Believe What I Say.” This is going to be the most underappreciated song on “Donda.” It contains the most upbeat tempo of the album and is one of the only songs that does not contain a feature.
This song is a vibe. It makes me want to smile and dance like nobody is watching. I pray that people will realize sooner than later that this song is one of, if not the best songs on this fantastic album.
Only one other song is in the conversation for the number one spot.
That song is “Moon.” It is one of those special songs that transcends auditory gratification to provide the listener with an experience unlike any other. If I died tonight, I would expect to hear this song as I’m lifted up to the pearly gates, it’s just that divine. I will be listening to this song for years to come and urge any potential listener to give it a chance. This reunion of Kid Cudi and West proved to be more than anyone could have anticipated.
However, this album is not without flaws.
After “Moon,” things take a slight turn in the wrong direction. The latter half of the album includes lots of filler songs that would not be very well suited for individual listens. To finish it off, West included four “pt 2” songs that were variations of songs previously on the album. “Jesus Lord pt 2” is a staggering 11 and a half minute version of an already nine-minute song. These fillers and duplicates can be distracting for some, but I see it as a part of the experience. That being said, the sheer amount of filler was still a bit overwhelming.
Kanye West often receives a bad rap from the public for being the typical egocentric celebrity. This album will enlighten people on the true nature of West’s motives. Kanye makes it very clear that the purpose of this album is to pay tribute to the most important person in his life. In his mind, it needed to be perfect for her. It nearly is.