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Kanye West - Donda Music Album Reviews

Kanye West - Donda Music Album Reviews
Kanye’s tenth album arrives barely finished and with a lot of baggage. Its 27 tracks include euphoric highs that lack connective tissue, a data dump of songs searching for a higher calling.

Contending with Kanye used to be so thrilling. There was sport in watching a rapper go toe-to-toe with their own ego the way he did, all in service of passionate pop music that lived on the knife-edge of spectacle and solipsism. He was a tightrope walker in shutter shades and Louis Vuitton stockings. Now, something has dulled in his kingdom and the thrill of watching man vs. art has turned into a rote acceptance of Kanye and his stadium-sized album release events, shelved projects, billion-dollar sneaker empire, public grappling with bipolar disorder, devotion to Christianity and non-secular music, MAGA tryst with former President Donald Trump, and presidential run of his own. The subordinate clauses that are now required to contextualize the artist himself loom large over everything he does. The music of Kanye—who once said 400 years of slavery was a choice, who once tweeted that Bill Cosby was innocent, who revolutionized rap and has not made a truly great album in five years—sounds like an afterthought, some extra sounds to have as a treat.

Donda, his tenth studio album, named after his late mother Dr. Donda C. West, came to life across three listening events held in two of the biggest stadiums in the country. Thousands of people in-person and millions more online watched as songs about God, family, divorce, and “throat coat for the throat GOATs” blasted through speakers while a masked Kanye did push-ups and frolicked with DaBaby, who recently spouted homophobic remarks, and Marilyn Manson, who is currently facing multiple lawsuits for sexual assault. Each session felt like market-testing disguised as performance art, and was somehow worse than both 2016’s Life of Pablo event at Madison Square Garden and his infamous Jackson Hole gathering for ye. Like any album put on to streaming services without the artist’s approval, Donda arrived barely finished and with a lot of baggage. Its 1 hour and 48-minute runtime includes euphoric highs that lack connective tissue, a data dump of songs searching for a higher calling.

On the surface, the themes Kanye’s ready to explore are obvious: the ways in which his mother and his faith have molded him. Christianity has played a role in his music since at least “Jesus Walks,” but now it seems to fuel every aspect of his creativity. Pablo’s concept was built around his attempt to connect Paul the Apostle to drug kingpin Pablo Escobar to revolutionary artist Pablo Picasso. He founded the Sunday Service Choir in 2019 and re-recorded clean versions of his classic songs. Shortly after, West declared that he would stop cursing in his music altogether, which might explain why the clean version of Donda is the only one currently available to stream. It’s easy to be evangelical when you’re selective about what parts of a religion to follow.

On Donda, West’s relationship with God does push him in a slightly more thoughtful direction. The closing verse on “Off the Grid” homes in on the Tao of Kanye by laying out his religious mission statement: “I ain’t delivering heavenly messages just for the hell of it/Don’t try to test me; I keep it clean, but it can get messy.” The opening verse on “Jesus Lord” is the most focused and raw Kanye’s been in years, a swirling mass of pent-up anxiety, drug addiction, and memories of his mother. There are lines about talking to, finding power in, relying on, and needing only God—which make moments like Kanye asking a hookup to text him “heyyyyy with a bunch of y’s” and sneaky odes to getting head curdle under the somber, youth pastor vibe around it. Outbursts about delayed croissants and references to The Waterboy on Yeezus were low comedy inside high art. With all the listlessness and confusion happening on Donda, Kanye’s infamous joke bars land with a thud.

An inherent flaw to beta testing your album in full public view is that everyone becomes a tiny little executive producer, each with their own thoughts on sequencing, versions, features. Here’s my piece: Apart from the title track missing its somber verse from G.O.O.D. Music President Pusha-T, Donda herself is missing from a good chunk of this album. The first two iterations of Donda featured more vocal clips of Kanye’s mother, a guiding light and platonic ideal for he and his guests to strive for. (The grounding advice found on the cut track “Never Abandon Your Family” is a felt void on this final version). Though she makes a few appearances, her truncated presence here robs the album of its initial tribute to confiding in maternal love and wisdom. The reverence he’s at least performatively after doesn’t land, exposed by the lack of women on the 27-song tracklist, the inclusion of a parade of men accused of sexual abuse—including Chris Brown and Manson—and others with a history of homophobia, like DaBaby and Buju Banton.

The guests, however, are Donda’s clear highlights. Roddy Ricch and Baby Keem croon and shout their way to owning their respective songs, but Texas vocalist Vory shines, his wavy melodies lingering like a ghostly presence on his handful of features. Veterans Jay Electronica and Yonkers trio the Lox match West’s contemplative poise on the great “Jesus Lord pt 2.” The sheer amount of guests and jumps in production from trap and drill to boom-bap and gospel invoke the 2012 G.O.O.D. Music album Cruel Summer, but that at least gave us “Clique” and “Mercy.” “Off the Grid” and “Junya” come the closest to bottling that manic energy, but neither will tear down a Summer Jam stage anytime soon. 

Kanye is great at A&R, and that’s part of the frustration here. We already know he can corral some of the best artists around on a charcuterie board’s worth of beats, even if Drake, Kenny Beats, and West’s own protege Travis Scott have since better wielded this mantle. Donda standouts like the soulful “Jonah” or the soaring “Pure Souls” work because they tap into the energy of the 2021 zeitgeist, but these moments are few and far between, set adrift in a confusing sea of post-marital anxiety and surface-level religious ideation. Strip Donda of most of its context—the constant editing, the laundry list of guests with real-life cases both alleged and confirmed, the last two decades of hip-hop’s largest ego—and a significant portion of this album still sounds incomplete, searching for meaning everywhere and coming up impressively short.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Kanye West - Donda Music Album Reviews Kanye West - Donda Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Tuesday, September 07, 2021 Rating: 5

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