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Album Review: After Tumultuous Rollout, Kanye Delivers 10th Studio Album in ‘Donda’

by Noah Soria on September 03, 2021

Kanye West is a man with many titles. He’s a rapper, producer,sneaker/fashion baron, creative, but he’s also a marketing genius. With how crowded hip-hop is these days, the only way to be noticed is how you market yourself, this isn’t news. An important part of that marketing prior to releasing an album is the rollout, an artform that Kanye and his team have mastered over the years. His 10th studio album, the highly anticipated ‘Donda’, might be one of the best rollouts in hip-hop history. 

There were so many variables over the last couple of months that generated buzz for this album. From the face masks, to the announced divorce to Kim Kardashian, to the amped up beef with Drake, to the three bigger than life listening parties in two different NFL stadiums, with Kanye living in one of them for about a month to finish the album (which resulted in hilarious Mike Dean memes). Kanye, known for being one of the most outspoken figures in pop culture, did not speak a work publicly in the months leading up to the release. With no tweets & no interviews, Kanye let the people of the music community have the conversations for him. 

Kanye’s tenth studio album ‘Donda’, is named after the artist’s late mother who passed away back in 2007. When the project was finally released on Sunday morning, August 29, most hip-hop lovers had heard most of the project from the three listening/streaming  parties. The album is 27-tracks long, his most songs on an album ever. This is a big difference from the days of “Ye '' which was a concise seven tracks long. Instead of the precision Kanye demonstrated back in 2018, he’s emptying the clip with pretty much everything he’s worked on the last year. 

After the intro “Donda Chants” is “Jail” featuring Kanye’s mentor Jay-Z. The subpar verse was well overshadowed by the fact that the two artists are working together again, and that Hov hinted at a ‘Watch The Throne’ sequel. One of the most valuable featured artists on the album is Vory. The Louisville rapper/singer was featured on four tracks which include: “God Breathed”, “Jonah”, “24”, and “No Child Left Behind” which was featured in a Beats by Dre promo video starring record-breaking sprinter, Sha’Carri Richardson.

“Off the Grid” features Playboi Carti, who’s vampire-esque adlibs (which are just as dark as the album cover) can be heard all throughout the album, as well as New York drill artist Fivio Foreign. Kanye & Fivio were able to tap into each other’s sonic worlds. Fivio had one of the strongest verses on the album, and Kanye on a drill beat was able to find a pocket for one of his best verses in the last couple of years. “Praised God” features the best Travis Scott verse since he released ‘Astroworld’. It also features rising star Baby Keem who at times sounds reminiscent of 645AR. 

“Hurricane” was a demo track that surfaced the internet in 2018 titled “80 Degrees” which was supposed to be on the album ‘Yandhi’ that never happened. The track had Kanye singing the hook, but he showed self-awareness and had The Weeknd record it instead. It also features Lil Baby, who Kanye said was his favorite rapper. Fivio Foreign, Lil Yachty, and Rooga are featured on “Ok Ok”, a track that was recorded just in the last couple weeks. “Believe What I Say" is only one of four songs that have no featured artists, and Kanye samples Lauryn Hill’s "Doo Wop (That Thing)". 

“Remote Control” was allegedly supposed to feature a verse from Soulja Boy, who felt some type of way that he was left off. Instead it features Young Thug.

A track that has been getting a positive response since the album came out is “Moon” that features Don Toliver & Kid Cudi for the psychedelia sounding track. “Keep My Spirit Alive” features Kanye’s protege KayCyy Pluto who sings the hook. It also features Westside Gunn and Conway The Machine of Griselda Records,and a brief cameo appearance in the third verse by Royce da 5'9". On “Pure Souls”' Compton, CA’s Roddy Ricch puts on for the west coast as his melodic tone makes the hook of the track stick in your head. The outro features UK rising star Shenseea.

“Jail pt 2” is most likely the most controversial track on the album as it features both DaBaby & Marilyn Manson. DaBaby’s verse touches base on being cancelled after his remarks he made at Rolling Loud Miami. DaBaby, who is scrutinized for repeating flows, switched it up, and it paid off. 

The final track “Jesus Lord pt 2” is eleven minutes, but it doesn’t feel that way. It features New York bar spitter Jay Electronica, as well as verses from The Lox, who are still riding high off their obliteration of Dipset in the Garden. The track ends with a powerful statement from Larry Hoover Jr. who talks about his father’s imprisonment. With Swizz Beatz on adlibs/production and verses from Jadakiss, Styles P, & Sheek Louch, the track is the best of the the 2000s grittiness mixed with where Kanye is now present day. 

Despite ‘Donda’ being oversaturated, Kanye was able to have tracks for every type of hip-hop fan. The range of the features on this album is very interesting. Who would have ever thought that The Lox & Marilyn Manson would ever be on the same piece of work. Only Kanye could do something like this. Like any music Kanye West touches, the production is always very well executed. The only question is if Kanye can match production with wordplay, flow, cadence, etc. ‘Donda’ seems like an accumulation of pieces from all of Kanye’s work the last couple of years. The ensemble star-studded feature lineup similar to ‘The Life of Pablo’, the rawness of ‘Yeezus’, the choir enhanced production of ‘Jesus is King’, and the lo-fi/emo rap of ‘ye’. Your opinion of the aspects of the albums listed above will most likely determine your opinion of ‘Donda’. Despite what you may think of the music, this moment in hip-hop will likely never be forgotten. 


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