Alec Compton 22
Arts & Culture Editor
Donda is the 10th studio album by rapper, singer, and fashion designer Kanye West. After three public listening parties held at various stadiums across the United States, Donda was released on August 29, 2021, sporting features from the likes of The Weeknd, Jay Z, and Travis Scott.
The record carries over the themes of faith from Kanye’s 9th album Jesus Is King, but delves into them in a much more tasteful fashion as opposed to the shallow and vapid handling of faith on Jesus Is King. Sonically, Donda is all over the place. However, the record consistently features choir vocals, giving the album it’s a uniform identity despite its eclectic stylistic choices.
The first real song on the record is “Jail,” a phenomenal tone-setter for the rest of the album. Harmonious choir vocals are paired with booming electric guitars. Jay Z’s contribution to the track is momentous in hip hop culture. Jay and Kanye haven’t collaborated since 2015, and it’s great to hear hip hop’s greatest brotherhood back on the same song.
The first leg of the album is fantastic. Kanye’s rapping is surprisingly consistent, shining especially on tracks like “Off the Grid.” On this track, Kanye flows effortlessly over a drill beat, following similarly great verses from Playboi Carti and Fiveo Foreign.
The albums biggest shortcoming is its length. Donda is nearly two hours long, with the last 20 minutes being made up of “Pt.2s.” Prior tracks are rerecorded with added features, one of which is DaBaby replacing Jay Z on “Jail.” In “Jail Pt. 2,” DaBaby raps about his recent controversies. His track, among the many other alternates, bogs down the record and could all have been cut.
There are also a few weak spots within the core track list. “Ok Ok” with Lil Yachty, “Jonah” with Lil Durk, and “Remote Control” with Young Thug all feature decent performances from their respective featured artists but the instrumental and Kanye’s lackluster performance don’t measure up.
There are some fantastic tracks on the record. “Hurricane” is as good as its 100 million Spotify streams make it out to be. With a killer hook from The Weeknd and a stellar Lil Baby verse, the track is a truly epic experience. “Come To Life” feels like the Kanye-only track this record needed, with a beautiful piano backed instrumental and an inspiring and powerful vocal performance from Kanye. The Lauryn Hill sample on “Believe What I Say” is incorporated perfectly and the track gives off this jubilant and summery vibe I just adore.
The online discussion around this album mainly centres around whether it is better than Drake’s Certified Lover Boy. As the editor of Arts and Culture which deals largely with music, I would like to put the nail in the coffin of this competition. Donda, despite not being Kanye’s best by a longshot, is far better than the auditory NyQuil which is Certified Lover Boy. Donda is a mixed bag, but I can really appreciate the sound Kanye was going for and the scope of the record and I do enjoy it even though it’s far from my favourite Kanye release.
Photo Credit: Spotify