Last night Kanye West played his tenth studio album Donda at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta. With roughly 30,000 people in attendance and millions more watching around the world, excitement for this record was at an all-time high and with everyone waiting to have a one on one experience with the album on its expected release date of July 23rd at midnight, there was an array of disappointment and confusion when in typical Kanye fashion, he released absolutely nothing.
While going into this album blindly, I would have been livid that Kanye once again pulled this shenanigan, but here I am quite relieved that he’s decided to hold this one back. Don’t get me wrong, Donda can be something special, but the state we heard it in last night was an absolute train wreck.
I’m really not sure why Kanye decided to run this far with the launch campaign of this LP because the album is barely 50% completed. From a vocal and lyrical standpoint, this has got to be Kanye’s weakest showing without question. Like most of the unreleased material from Yahndi and Turbo Grafx 16, Kanye’s verses here are compiled of inaudible mumbles and some of the worst lyrical schemes to ever be written on a page. Take his verse on “Hurricane,” the lines “Mm-mm-mm-mm-mm, a lot of people off the self, Mm-mm-mm-mm-mm, a lot of people oversell, Pull up like mm-mm-mm, a lot of people run and tell” are just flat out stupid, and feel like they were written by an actual child. Now not all of the tracks are this raw as moments like the album’s intro “Come To Life” showed off some of the best free-flowing bar-to-bar chemistry I’ve heard in a long time with Ye and Pusha T going on godlike tangent but still, these moments of truly polished lyrical monologues are faint and in between the worst penned verses Kanye’s ever shown to the public.
Vocally, I’m very mixed on Kanye’s performance, and I hate to even judge it off just a few listens, but between the over the top singing, heavy reliance on screechy autotune, and poor mixing between the vocals and their accompanying beats, a lot of these songs sound like their still in the demo phase. On the other hand, the raw, unedited portions of Kanye’s performance are quite amazing and some of the most heartfelt and passionate moments we’ve heard from him in a long time. Unfortunately, these showings of his excellence don’t occur as often as you wish, which once again leaves me with an overall bitter taste in my mouth.
On the production side of things, Donda sounds pretty much completed. Each track contains a pure and well-put-together sonic coating which overall masterfully scores what should be a soul-cleansing journey into Kanye’s mind. There’s a lot of different styles implemented here which range all the way from gospel, dive into territories like trap, and even return Kanye with his Yeezusesque industrial sound. For the first time, we see Kanye play in the waters of minimalist and abstract hip hop again, which overall makes this score quite the rollercoaster to listen to. While I can’t really go into depth on each track’s sound as most of the album has been pulled off the internet at this point, the sonic spectrum Donda offers gives Kanye the perfect backdrop to paint his vision over.
Whats created even more buzz around the record were the features we heard last night.Names like Lil Baby, Lil Durk, and Pusha T respectively all did their thing and who isn’t talking about Travis Scott and Baby Keem’s electrifying showings on “Praise God” right now. Roddy Rich, Don Tolliver, and Playboi Carti also contributed with energizing guest spots which goes to show that Kanye can get the best out of any artist, new or old. The only feature that wasn’t on the mark was the reused and rancidly mixed Pop Smoke vocals on the track “We Made it”. Out of all the features, the most exciting was Jay-Z’s on “Jail,” who rekindles his love for Ye while making a prolific verse that contains an array of well thought out biblical references and allusions. While a lot of Donda is still in the air, the features were something that was definitely done right.
Looking at Donda the way it is, the chips totally reside in Kanye’s hands to turn this promising mess into a respectable piece of art. If he can come up with a competent track flow and formidable lyrical and vocal performances, this album can easily be amongst the better releases of 2021 and Ye’s catalog as a whole. The idea behind the project is beautiful, and already implementing spoken-word interludes from his mother, Donda West, adds the perfect beam of warmth and power to the LP. Going forward, I can’t even predict when or if we ever receive this album but, I hope Kanye takes his time and turns Donda into the experience we’ve all been waiting for.
(This is based on the album heard in the live stream event on 7/23)
- Great production
- Heavenly atmosphere
- Kanye uses his mother’s legacy to empower the LP
- Great features
- Very versatile in its sound
- Kanye’s worst lyrical showing
- Mixed vocal performance
- Poor mixing and engineering
- Terrible track flow
- Songs sound clearly unfinished
Written By: Mr. Fantastic