By Jayden Presley
With only a black photo for the cover, rapper Kanye West’s album “Donda” allows the music to speak for itself.
West released “Donda” on Sunday, Aug. 29, an album religiously themed and named to memorialize his late mother Donda West. Fans anticipated the album for close to a year due to Kanye West teasing its release on now-deleted Instagram posts.
West grew up in Chicago and lived with his single mother after she divorced his father, Ray West. Donda West taught English at Chicago State University.
Kanye West’s career began in 2004 with the release of “The College Dropout”, the first of ten studio albums. He has won 22 Grammy Awards, received 70 Grammy nominations, created the record label GOOD Music, and collaborated with Adidas in 2015 for his fashion line YEEZY.
West is tied with long-time friend Jay-Z as most awarded hip-hop artist. West not only produces his music but also balances between singing and rapping his lyrics. Fourteen years after his mother’s death in 2007, West creates an album in her name.
Drew Roberts, a sophomore mass communication major, admitted he was not a big fan of “Donda” during its initial release. After giving it some time, Roberts said it grew on him.
“It’s not one of his best, but it is still a very good album. Songs like “Believe What I Say”, “Jail pt 2” and “Moon” stand out as the best on the album. The others range from good to forgettable,” said Roberts.
Sean Bloemetjie, a sophomore and communications studies and political science double major, thinks the album is good but is held back by inconsistency and by being a more bloated project than necessary.
“‘Donda’ is the best album Kanye’s released since Yeezus. That’s not that high of a bar,” said Bloemetjie. “But I will say that, while it doesn’t quite meet the quality of his best albums, it’s head and shoulders better than the recent solo projects that we’ve gotten from Kanye.”
Both Roberts and Bloemetjie felt that the track length of “Donda” is a factor in holding it back from being one of Kanye West’s better albums.
When ranking his favorite albums, Roberts placed “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” at his number one spot.
“After listening to “Donda,” I can comfortably place it in between “The College Dropout” and “The Life of Pablo”,” said Roberts. “It never reaches the heights of his best albums, but it is by no means bad. It has a few songs that I can see being played for years on end, but as a whole it doesn’t stand out like “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” does.”
West remains a cultural influence across multiple generations. His delayed release of “Donda” generated high demand from fans on social media but with the release came several controversies.
West held three listening parties to promote the album. During the final venue, West presented rapper Dababy and rock artist Marilyn Manson, two controversial figures in the music industry.
West is no stranger to controversy, but Manson is currently facing four lawsuits alleging sexual abuse. Dababy made divisive comments during a weekend festival concert regarding the LGBTQ+ community and those living with HIV and AIDS.
Even with West’s hot and cold reputation with the media, Roberts felt that it is possible to separate an artist’s actions from their career.
“Though I think art is more meaningful when you keep the artist in mind, it is not a requirement when experiencing it,” said Roberts. “In the case of Kanye, I feel like it’s a bit harder to separate the man from the music because of how big of a personality he is. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I personally find someone like Kanye to be refreshing in today’s world, but I can see how his abrasiveness can turn some people away from him.”
Bloemetjie agrees it is difficult to separate West from his music.
“In order to be an informed consumer of media, a person has to take into account who’s creating the art,” said Bloemetjie. “Kanye’s antics and scandals influence his art, and, as such, can’t be detached from the listening experience.”
On the day of the album’s release, West made now-deleted claims on Instagram that his parent label, Universal Music Group, released “Donda” without his permission. He also said they “blocked” his collaborative song with Dababy called “Jail pt 2” from being on the album, but it is now available on all streaming services.
On Apple Music, songs from “Donda” fill West’s top ten streamed list and continues to rake in high streaming numbers.