After months of pushback, several album leaks, and two shows in football arenas later, the fans finally got their hands on the official Donda project. Kanye, Ye, Yeezus, however you know the rapper from Chi-Town is one of the most inspirational and polarizing figures in the hip-hop culture today. In the two shows at the Mercedez-Benz Stadium in Atlanta and Soldier Field in Chicago, Kanye put on very dramatic and emphatic shows for the gigantic album listening parties. In the Chicago one, there were over-the-top moments where he set himself on fire, remarried Kim Kardashian, and had figures like Westside Gunn, DaBaby, and metal icon Marilyn Manson all outside of a church in the center of the field. Now that the smoke has cleared and the shows have stopped, we here at TheMSQShop are going to give two different perspectives on Donda.
Full Disclaimer: I made the decision early on not to listen to any of the leaks. Nor have I listened to any of the listening sessions. Given Kanye's history of album revisions, pre and post-release, I wanted my impression of the project to be free of all of the usual anticipation and theatrics. It isn't lost on me that half of the magic in the Kanye West experience is the transparency, the hype, the comparing (and scrutinizing) of revisions, etc. To each their own. My approach has been to remove expectations and any comparisons to any other projects (or earlier iterations of this project).
Donda. Donda. Don… da. There are several highly forgettable moments within the album. I'm sure there are reasons for songs that feel skippable to make it past the filter of our favorite perfectionist. I'm not sure what those reasons are. I've relieved myself of the duty of figuring out Kanye's thought process many albums ago. You should too!
Although lulls in excitement and impact are inevitable in a project spanning twenty-seven tracks, I simply expected to feel more when listening to a project that has undergone so many revisions, privately and publicly. Admittedly, I'm still working on checking my expectations of an artist who has, time and time again matched his monumental hype with undeniable classics.
In contrast, there are impactful moments in this song that have serious staying power from The Weeknd's performance on Hurricane to Don Toliver and Cudi's duet on Moon. While the most powerful elements in the most noteworthy songs have been the voices featured, I'd say that's a testament to Kanye's super producer abilities. In any event, there are quite a few pieces on here that will undoubtedly warp us back to this very chaotic and uncertain chapter in our lives. For that, I'm grateful. This isn't the Ye that I fell in love with. All I can do is receive his latest works with an open mind and keep the songs that do resonate on rotation. This brings me to my final conclusion on this project and Ye's body of work as a whole.
Kanye West has never given a rip about what his fans want. It's what makes him so polarizing. It's what makes his method of creating in public so ironic. It's what allows his body of work to shapeshift and transcend generations. It's what I like about him. Even if I don't like the end result.
Final words. I'm sure this will be impactful for some, I'm not here to argue with them. I liked the project, but I probably won't be in a rush to revisit it anytime soon. Don't take my word as gospel though. That's just my view on it.
Geronimo | @ScreamGeronimo (IG) / @ScreamGeronimoo (Twitter)
Jay Guevara's View
I was in the gym working on all chest, no legs at 7:30 in the morning on the Sunday Donda dropped. When I saw on the timeline from some verified account I can't recall saying "#Donda, 30 mins", I thought, "it's not going to drop."
Then, it did.
I play the album and all I hear for the first fifteen seconds were "Donda, Donda. Donda, Donda, Donda." I saw that the track was under a minute and thought that this shouldn't have been a whole track itself and that it could've been added as an intro to another song. Then Jail (Part 1) begins. I liked the production, but I wondered why Hov's verse didn't begin until two minutes into the song. Surprisingly enough, it was a Hov verse I hated. There are some verses of his in the past that I didn't like, but never said I hated, but this one I did. I was very surprised that Hov remained on the song Jail (before part two dropped later that day for whatever reason).
There were some certified bangers on this project like Hurricane featuring Lil Baby and The Weeknd and how I got hip towards the artistry of Baby Keem on Praise God. My favorite picks from the project would have to include the very upbeat song Believe What I Say where Kanye said he never questioned what people would ask him for and how he stepped back from the limelight to handle internal issues. I have a strong affinity for the Griselda collective so the Keep My Spirit Alive track featuring Westside Gunn and Conway The Machine. It was definitely refreshing to hear them on a production that has a lighter and less bass-heavy sound.
I'm honestly still somewhat lost on what the album is supposed to be about. If it wasn't for the prior shows mentioned in the introduction, it would've taken me longer to make some correlations to what the project revolves around. To me, this could be a sense of closure towards the pain of losing his mother and the need for therapy. The themes of finding God and giving praise for him even in dark situations always have been one concept in his discography going back as far as the mid-2000s. To use his previous projects as a sense of comparison, the sounds in Donda are a peculiar mesh of Jesus Is King and 808s and Heartbreak. I say 808s and Heartbreak because the darker undertones that 808s have can be related to songs like Keep My Spirit Alive and Off The Grid.
My final thoughts are simple: this is a good project. Not great. It lives to the hype for all the Kanye fanatics. Some of the songs feel bare-boned. To attempt to digest a two-hour-long project is much easier if you're doing things like working out rather than just sitting down with it. DaBaby got out of the pocket flow he's known to have on Jail Part 2 and did his thing on that verse.
@justinhisprime on all social media. Edited by Jay Guevara and Arianna Rackham @ariannarackham on Instagram.