Our Take: 3 Stars
Kanye West’s tenth studio album, “Donda,” named after his late mother, was finally released on Sunday, Aug. 29.
There has been a lot of hype regarding the album, but that is nothing new for West. From presenting a fashion show for the introduction of “Yeezus” to making an iMax film for “JESUS IS KING,” Kanye knows how to manufacture excitement. For “Donda,” he hosted three listening parties across two venues (Atlanta’s Mercedes Benz Stadium and Chicago’s Soldier Field Stadium) that gained millions of online viewers and several thousand in person.
West stated on Instagram that “Universal put my album out without my approval and they blocked Jail 2 from being on the album,” so it seems that he was not informed that “Donda” would be released on the 29th.
With a 27-song tracklist and an almost two-hour playtime, “Donda” lacks organization and structure. West explores different sounds from his previous albums, and ends up with a project less organized than 2016’s “The Life of Pablo.” Nevertheless, “Donda” has received a better reception than did the three albums since “The Life of Pablo.”
While working on 2010’s ”My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” reports stated he wouldn’t leave the studio in Hawaii for five days, taking power naps with his sound engineers always on hand.
West didn’t just go back to his old practices with “Donda;” he also returned to his experimental roots with the several artists featured on the album, including Jay-Z, Lil Durk and The Weeknd. “Donda” uses the same formula as for “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” to produce another solid album with many notable bangers, like “Jail” and “Hurricane.”
West has nothing to prove with “Donda”, and it feels like he takes the backseat in many tracks, stepping down to let younger artists like Lil Yachty shine.
With 30-some original features, West returned to his exploratory self.
He invited smaller artists in niche genres and chose to try new flows of himself, such as a drill on “Off the Grid.” He understands that he must develop as an artist to stay relevant and relevant he remains. By working with the next generation of musicians, he grows his listening population while finding new talent to develop.
Overall, “Donda” still feels rough, especially in comparison to the usual polished Kanye projects. Awkward self-censorship and a lack of high hats didn’t take away from the listening experience but were definitely missed.
But if you have ever been a West fan, there is at least one song on “Donda” that suits you, from the heavy drums in “God Breath” to “No Child Left Behind,” which sounds like a song from “JESUS IS KING” done correctly.
Although the album is titled “Donda,” West’s mother’s name, there is a clear lack of emotion present within this album.
He had a close relationship with his mother, who died in 2007 following a cosmetic surgery procedure. Her death and other experiences had pushed West to make “808s & Heartbreak.” In comparison to the deep conversations and strong emotions found in “808s,” “Donda” is a little flat.
Ultimately, “Donda” is an achievement of texture and logistics. From well-produced beats to several amazing featured artists, most of the songs are a good listen.
Yes, it may not have any absolute hits like past albums, but it is a breath of fresh air from West’s last three subpar albums.
Notable tracks include “Jail’’, “Off the grid,” “Moon,” “Pure Souls” and “Come to Life.”
The only busts are “Junya” and “Remote Control,” which have horrible courses and flat drumlines.
Yes, there are fillers, and yes there are long outros, but these are bound to happen when one publishes a 27-track album.
Though the album as a whole is confusing and struggles with the heavy drums, Donda’s individual parts are good enough to listen to its sum — all two hours of it.