‘Donda’ Disappoints

West’s tenth album fails to meet my expectations


Daniel Gregory (Creative Commons)

Kanye West performs at a concert.

Kanye West released his tenth studio album, “Donda,” on Aug. 29. The album was named after his late mother, Donda West; who passed away soon after his second album “Graduation” back in 2007. In my opinion, “Donda” is just an okay album, but does not come close to the hype it received.

“Donda’s” release was announced more than a year ago, in July 2020, amidst his announcement that he was running for president in the 2020 election. However, West is known for not releasing his album on time; as his first album, “College Dropout,” was delayed By 193 days.

Before its release, West had three listening parties where a raw version of the album was played. The first one was in late July in the Mercedes Stadium found in Atlanta. After the first listening party, he began to live in the stadium until his next listening party, which was two weeks later. During that duration, he was mixing the album to get the album ready for release under Def Jam Records.

The second listening party was on Aug. 5; there were slight changes to the album, but it was hard to notice because simultaneously there was an intriguing performance. During the performance he stood in the middle of the stadium while a ring of people danced around him. It ended with a light-hitting West. He proceeded to rise to the top of the stadium. Some speculate it to be a religious metaphor. 

West finally had his third listening party on August 27. This was the most controversial of all the parties. Attending this performance was the rapper Da-Baby, who was recently canceled for his comments on AIDS, and rock star Marilyn Manson who was accused of abusing actress Evan Rachel Wood and other women. West’s point of bringing them on the stage was to “counter cancel culture.” But besides that, the performance was wild, as he built his childhood home in the middle of the stadium. In the same performance, he burnt it down and lit himself on fire. 

Now that I’ve talked about the making of West’s newest album, is “Donda” good? Well, in my opinion, the album is a strong 6 to 7 on a ranking of 10. Many people agree, as the album as of now is sitting at 53% on Metacritic.

Why I think the album’s ratings are that low is because of these reasons: The production, the features, and the genre.

Out of the 27 tracks, West produced them all… well with the help of Digital Nas, Mike Dean, and many others. But even though West had a producer who has worked with names such as Playboi Carti, and ASAP Rocky; the production falls flat, in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, there is some great production on the album like in “Believe what I say” that sampled Lauryn Hills 1998 song “do wop (That Thing).” But in tracks like “Hurricane (ft. The Weeknd and Lil Baby),” the beat sounds generic and not cared for. Sadly that’s how most of the album feels; not cared for and rushed.  

Let me get into the features. You got people like Jay Z, who previously had a collaboration album with West called “Watch The Throne.” You also have Young Thug, Chris Brown, and many more talented artists appearing on the album. I enjoyed hearing Jay Z on the track “Jail” but then you also got people like Da Baby, who don’t really fit into the album at all. Another feature is Travis Scott, who is on “Praise God.” I like some of Scott’s work, but his verse left no impression on me. So the conclusion of the features is that they all vary in quality. 

My final issue with the album was the gospel music. Now, I do not hate gospel music. I’m fond of artists like Little Richard, and Marvin Gaye. But West can NOT do it. West is a talented rapper/producer, but his gospel is irritating. On this album, he does an “ok” job at blending rap and gospel. An example of this is on the track “Pure Souls.” The track is a rap song; the only difference is that the instrumental has the classic Gospel organ, mixed with a bassy kick drum, and a light bass. It makes a decent mixture; best of both worlds. But there are still tracks like “Come to Life” which push the gospel side of Kanye a little too far for my taste. 

At the end of the day, “Donda” is an interesting project that didn’t stand up to everyone’s expectations. Especially my own. But it was still a fun listen. I’m glad it was released, and West tried his best. I’m excited to see what he does in the future if he continues his career. If you would like to listen to this album it is on all streaming platforms.