Donda is finally here.
After over a year of delays, teasing and announcements, Kanye West’s tenth studio album has been released at last. Donda, named after West’s late mother, was originally slated for a July 2020 release, but turned into frequent delays that saw it pushed further and further with no official tracks ever coming out. This led to a series of listening parties hosted by West throughout the summer, leading fans and listeners into what has been one of, if not the most anticipated album of the year.
Donda marks West’s first album since 2019’s JESUS IS KING, and continues to create sounds that bring together genres like gospel, rap, and ambient. However, the album falls short on listeners with its overbearing length. Coming in at a whopping 108 minutes of playtime, Donda is a difficult listen for one sitting, and is now the longest project in West’s discography.
Thematically, Donda is not much different from the artist’s last two bodies of work, ye and JESUS IS KING. West’s raps focus on his Christian faith and his family with the help of choirs, synths, and organs, leaving this album almost as a continuation of these older projects. Tracks like “Come to Life” and “Pure Souls” could just have easily come from JESUS IS KING.
Like any Kanye West album, Donda is ripe with features from a plethora of artists such as The Weeknd, Playboi Carti and Travis Scott, just to name a few. Throughout the 27-track project there are a great deal of highlights surrounded by moments that are questionable. While some features are incredibly compatible with their beats such as Jay-Z on “Jail,” there are also features whose verses simply lack a connection with the track, like the late Pop Smoke’s verse on “Tell The Vision.”
There are a great deal of homages to Donda West, such as West rapping “And if I talk to Christ, can I bring my mother back to life?” It’s moments like these that offer a glimpse into the love that West has for his mother and touch back to the idea of a tribute album. On the other hand there are insipid verses such as Baby Keem’s on “Praise God,” that seem to be nothing more than random words over a beat. While the diverse range of collaborators can draw in listeners of other fanbases, some end up souring the notion that this album is supposed to honour someone’s life.
Powerful tracks like “Hurricane” or the beautiful “Jesus Lord” are moments where this album excels, but they get lost in a sea of too many tracks on one record. As a result of this long and seemingly unending listen, Donda sounds like the work of a perfectionist who didn’t know where to stop — which is a shame for the casual listener that will not listen to almost 30 tracks straight.
At its core, Donda would have made for an incredible 12 to 15 track project if fewer songs made the final cut. With the amount of talent poured into the writing and production credits there is something to be said about West’s perfectionism, but at the same time the album is too long for its own good. As a work with multiple tracks that serve as multi-minute interludes and songs that have part ones and two, this album feels like it has too much going on to be a cohesive body of work.
Trial track: Come to Life
Graphic by James Fay