By Nethan Crew
After much anticipation, Kanye West finally dropped studio album 10, “Donda.” Named after his mother, Donda West, West’s new album spans 27 tracks and has 30 featured artists including Kid Cudi, Playboi Carti and the late Pop Smoke. This album features 108 minutes of genre-bending ideas and masterful production that West has been known for over the last decade.
“Donda” released on Aug 29, over a year after it was first teased to fans.
The album starts with “Donda Chant,” a 52 second soundbite of a female voice repeating “Donda” repeatedly in different tempos, cadences and patterns. This album serves as a love letter to West’s mother, who passed away in 2007. This track has been speculated to serve as West’s psyche searching for his late mother. Fans and critics have also theorized that the female voice says her name to her heartbeat in her last moments of life.
“Jail” features a rock-based beat with a Jay-Z feature full of dialogue that everyone is flawed and that God is the only one that can help fix human brokenness. Religion is often referenced in this album in track titles and individual verses. Religion has been a central aspect in West’s work since “The Life of Pablo,” which released in 2016. This religious aspect makes itself even more apparent in the latter half of the album when West’s Sunday Service Choir makes an appearance on “24,” “Lord I Need You” and “No Child Left Behind.”
One great moment of this album is “Believe What I Say,” which samples Lauryn Hill’s “Doo-Wop (That Thing).” West speaks about attempting to not be burdened by the pains of fame. “Believe What I Say” is an upbeat soul track that is a definite change of pace for the album. Another nostalgic track is “New Again,” which starts with West making a joke, in this case a comical line about getting responses from women through text messages. The song then opens up to a synth-heavy song reminiscent of his “College Dropout” and “Graduation” releases from 2004 and 2007 respectively. West also shows off his producing capabilities in the track “No Child Left Behind,” which is outfitted with beautiful vocal melodies from Vory and West as well as powerful organ synth chords that convey a lot of emotion.
The album, before release, had three preview shows to promote the album. Each one of these events promised a release date that never materialized. Some fans and critics call West a genius capable of so much innovation in music, creating a theatre-like performance in these preview shows. Other critics and fans saw him as an emptyhanded artist trying to keep the hype of his album up until he could release it, such as The Guardian, saying “It’s hard to tell a billionaire what to do, and the lack of a self-edit means “Donda” often sags.”
Overall, West released a project that touches on his problems with mental health, his marriage, his faith and the mourning of his mother. “Donda” has its flaws, but the production and inventive ability that West puts into all his music more than covers for any problems in pacing or album structure. This album feels like a type of transition period or ending of sorts, where West could either stop releasing music altogether after this or change his approach drastically. Ultimately, West is a very unpredictable individual, and conveys that very well into this both diverse and cohesive project.