“Donda,” a divisive drop


Courtesy of GOOD Music

The all-black cover of “Donda” is stark and divisive, just like the album it represents.

Chris Heermann, Photo Editor

After weeks of agonizing delays, Kanye West’s long-anticipated album, “Donda,” was finally released to streaming services on Sunday, Aug. 29. With most new music dropping on Fridays, this is definitely not normal, but as most fans know, Kanye West is anything but normal. Starting in 2019, Kanye began to let his faith guide his life, combining his love for music and fashion in his Sunday Service choir and performance group. So releasing new music on a Sunday, especially one so connected to his faith, is not so surprising.

So it came as a shock to many fans when the artist tweeted out,  “Universal put my album out without my approval and they blocked Jail 2 from being on the album.”

Of course, this didn’t stop fans from listening to the album. After nearly two years without new music, they were longing to listen to songs they had only heard snippets of (unless they were lucky enough to attend one of the listening events Kanye had put on). But the wait is over, and avid listeners could finally rest from the constant refreshing of Spotify and feast their ears on the 27-track album.

“Donda” features an unusually high number of guest artists and producers, including some controversial characters such as DaBaby and Marilyn Manson. Other well-known artists featured include Francis and the Lights, JAY-Z, Playboi Carti, Fivio Foreign, The Weeknd, Baby Keem, Travis Scott, Lil Durk, Lil Yachty, Young Thug, Don Toliver, Kid Cudi, Jay Electronica, Rooga, Chris Brown, Pop Smoke, Roddy Ricch, Ariana Grande and Ty Dolla $ign. Many of these featured artists’ verses were added, dropped or rewritten within the past three weeks as the album was worked on around the clock. One of the featured producers, Mike Dean, had even become a sort of meme after joining Kanye in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta after the first listening event, where Kanye decided that he would remake the whole thing after a wave of inspiration crashed over him as he danced around by himself for an hour and a half while the original version of the album played. Mike Dean, a legendary producer and mixer, has worked on many of Kanye’s albums, but gave fans a scare when he sent out a series of tweets, with some believing that he was leaving the album because the environment around it was too toxic. But he persevered, and what fans awoke to on Sunday morning is undeniably some of Kanye’s most innovative work yet.

The album begins with a track named “Donda Chant.” If you’re looking for a chart-topping hit, this track is not for you. However, when listening to the album in its entirety, “Donda Chant” is unskippable. The track mimics the final heartbeats of Kanye’s mother, Donda West, for whom the album is named.

The next track, “Jail” (feat. Jay-Z), is a much more typical Kanye song. This is a momentous song, bringing back the duo that created the legendary “Watch the Throne” album. It also is the beginning to the story that Kanye tells with “Donda”—one of a man in the middle of a crisis, searching for answers. Throughout the album, Kanye returns to his faith for answers. I highly recommend listening to the entire tracklist, as each song flows beautifully from one to the next. However, if you are just looking for the Kanye bangers for which he is so well known, I have you covered.

“Off the Grid” is one of Kanye’s best songs on the album, and has incredible features from both Playboi Carti and Fivio Foreign. The beat transitions from a slower, more spiritual flow into a hard drill beat that Kanye and Fivio both kill. The track is a much longer one than fans are used to, but Kanye’s final verse is a must-listen.

“Hurricane” features The Weeknd in a beautiful chorus as well as Lil Baby in the first verse, giving one of his best features of the year. “Hurricane” along with “Moon” (feat. Kid Cudi) and “No Child Left Behind” (feat. Sunday Service Choir and Vory) are all hauntingly beautiful—and some of my favorite songs from the album—but are not for those who are searching for more hard-hitting songs like “Off the Grid” or “Junya.”

Kanye’s duality is to be expected, especially on an album dedicated to his late mother. But “Donda” brings more divisiveness to the music scene than expected, due in part to the many delays and versions of the album. For the first time, fans were able to listen to fully produced songs that did not make it onto the final version of the album, leaving many disappointed that their favorite rapper’s verse was cut, or that a song they liked didn’t make it to Apple Music or Spotify. These fans have every right to be upset, but at the end of the day it is Kanye’s album, and if I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that Kanye is going to do whatever he wants to do. Whether you believe he’s a hack or a visionary, the man produces good music, so give “Donda” a chance.