In his highly anticipated “Donda,” Kanye delivers a commendable, but underwhelming album.
Love him or hate him, Kanye is back. The hype surrounding the return of Mr. West has been circulating for a while at this point and after multiple delays, Kanye’s 10th studio album has arrived. I’m not writing this to tell you what to think or how to feel about the album, rather to give an objective take from someone who is indifferent toward Kanye as a whole. I am not a Kanye fan and I have never been a Kanye fan, so take my perspective for what it’s worth.
Although I am not a fan, I cannot deny the incredible impact of his genius on music. In fact, I consider “Graduation,” “808’s and Heartbreak,” “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” and “The Life of Pablo” classic albums. Kanye West will go down as one of the most innovative and influential voices in music during our generation. He’s brilliant, there’s no way around it.
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely “Donda” will make that list. I hate to say it, especially because of the emotional pull attached to the naming of the album. Donda is the name of Kanye’s deceased mother who was one of his biggest fans and obviously had a lasting impact on his life and career. He loved her dearly. This album is dedicated to her and pays homage to that impact.
Personally, I struggled to get through this album. In preparation to write this article, I forced myself to get through it three times in order to give it a fair shot. Usually Kanye albums are intoxicating and you can’t help
but be immersed in the experience that is his masterful technique and production. While it is true that some albums can grow on you over time, causing you not to understand it’s true value until months or even years after
it’s release, I would venture to say “Donda” will not be one of those albums.
My first time through was incredibly disappointing. The only reconcilable parts were the incredible featured performances from some heavy hitters in the music industry. These ranged from iconic names like Jay-Z, whose verse on “Jail” is iconic and made fans excited at the potential return of the Throne and Jay Electronica as well as
recent stars The Weeknd, Lil Durk and Lil Baby who carried songs like “Hurricane.”
After my second listen, there were a few stand outs and songs I could see myself listening to again and added to some playlists like “Jail,” “Hurricane,” “Heaven and Hell,” “Come to Life,” “No Child Left Behind” and “Believe What I Say.” I’ll give him credit, when Kanye puts his mind to making music, there are few people melodically
better and this album does have some quality. Although these songs may not have been the best lyrically, they made up for it with the tone of the music and the overall production. There are few others whose tone can match the hypnotic synth of Kanye’s melodic production. The level of production is simply sensational, as Kanye can make
you feel something musically that few others can, I just would have hoped for some more relatable and aspirational lyrics. My final listen cemented my previous take with the addition of the song “Pure Souls.”
Even with the unexpected rollout on a Sunday morning, Kanye continued to break records. “Donda” rose to #1 in 152 countries on the Apple Music charts and the album was streamed over 60 million times on it’s first day in the United States alone. His marketing is masterful, his execution is irrefutable and his tact to come out and claim
the studio dropped the album without his permission was an incredible way to silence
the backlash from artists like Soulja Boy and Chris Brown who came at Kanye for leaving certain verses off the album.
Without getting into the Drake/Kanye beef in detail as I’d like to keep the focus on Kanye for as long as possible (I know he’d appreciate it), the announcement of the release of Drake’s “Certified Lover Boy” on September 3 added embers to the flame. This was only followed up by the marketing teams buying up billboards across the country, promoting the release of the rival projects. The marketing ploy is simply brilliant. By pitting these two albums against each other, both artists’ fans will listen to the rival album in order to be able to explain why their favorite artist’s project is better. Well done. I tip my hat to all parties involved. I’m curious to see what Drake brings to the table in this highly anticipated project and who fans side with.
You’re likely to disagree with my final take depending on your stance, as Kanye fans are loyal to the core. I respect it, you should ride or die for those you love! But my overall conclusion is to say this album is underwhelming. For an up and coming artist, this album would have made their career and put them on the charts as it has some musically brilliant moments! But for someone who has aligned their genius with Jesus and Steve Jobs, this project is average at best. For anyone who is just a casual Kanye fan, it’s unlikely you will ever go back and
listen to more than one or two songs in a few weeks or months. Personally, as soon as this album is off my “recently added” page on Apple Music, it’s highly unlikely I’ll listen to it again.