Donda - Kanye West
One of the most prolific artists of all time, Kanye West, dropped his 10th studio album, Donda, which he dedicated to his late mother, Dr. Donda West.
At this point in time Kanye's reputation supersedes him, in and out of the music. Jesus Is King was the most recent project by Ye and it was a disappointment to say the least. Since then he has been all over headlines from his billionaire status to a divorce with his wife Kim Kardashian West and has been a source of controversy for years now. With several delays as well as live performances of the album in the months leading up to the release it was seeming as if the album was really up in the air. I personally did not view any of the listening parties so it was all new to me.
Jail is a powerful and moving introduction into the album. The electric guitar riffs create such a dreamy yet intense environment where Ye delivers a beautiful hook and a great verse, followed up by Hovs' verse which was also great. An intro so grand left a lot to be desired in the incoming hour and forty minutes. God Breathed followed up a slower, more passionate opener with a high tempo instrumental and on the bridges Vory delivers some of the best sung performances on the album but outside of him there is not much else interesting on this track. Off The Grid is one of few high energy moments on the album. I never would have imagined not only Kanye producing a drill beat, but him flowing over it effortlessly. Fivio Foreign gave a stunning feature that brought out the best in him, except for his usual high velocity charisma, not to mention Playboi Carti could've been worse. Hurricane is yet another great moment on the LP so far. The Weeknd delivers an angelic performance throughout the song as well as Lil Baby who raps his ass off in an Emotionally Scarred type fashion. Kanye however, was lacking here in comparison to his guests.
Praise God features a grand and luxurious beat that is home to pretty great features from Baby Keem and Travis Scott but once again Kanye is out performed due to his inability to flow on this instrumental. Jonah is another track where Vory is the only real redeemable quality. Not that Lil Durk and Ye are bad, just average, and the underproduced, bland beat is not doing much in the way of helping them. Ok Ok is another track that is a slightly boring moment on the track list, as the beat builds like it's progressive to a large, extravagant climax, and it just does not. Lil Yachty and Kanye both give unmemorable verses where they are again not inherently bad, just not that interesting, while Rooga outshines both of them without having to give a high caliber performance. Junya with Playboi Carti is the weakest moment on the whole album. Kanye and his instrumental are both grating on this track, and Carti's verse on the latter half is one of the worst things I've heard all day.
Believe What I Say is a large step up from Junya, but most tracks would be. There's nothing particularly special about this track; it just features good rapping, a good instrumental and some great singing. 24 is another drab moment on the album where Ye manages to make a three minute song feel long with his weak lyricism and spaces of just emptiness. Remote Control is nothing but a good track. The instrumental is underproduced and a great Young Thug performance saves this song from being a skip. Moon with Don Toliver and Kid Cudi may very well be the most beautiful moment on the album. The whole trio gives stunning and emotional performances where this track makes it feel like you're floating while listening. My only issue is that it's just a moment, it feels like a two minute outro to what could've been a long, thematic, emotional and amazingly sung song and it just leaves you wanting more. On Heaven And Hell Kanye is flowing like his life depends on it but like Moon this feels incomplete and like just part of a great idea. Again it's great but just leaves you thinking about what could've been.
Donda is a track that I consider to be an interlude but for what it provides it is a welcome addition. Keep My Spirit Alive offers standout lyrical performances from heavyweights Westside Gunn and Conway the Machine, both of which deliver amazing verses. Kanye isn't necessarily bad but just feels out of place with those two. Jesus Lord is the only track on this album that I find to be reminiscent of classic Kanye. The sample use on this track is great, the gospel influence is not only felt but adds a lot to the track not to mention Kanye gives his best lyrical and storytelling based verses in years which is followed by a Jay Electronica verse that keeps up with the tone Ye set. New Again is another track where Kanye drops a standout verse, but other than that the only other strong point this track has is the instrumental, certainly a great track just not one of the best ones. Tell The Vision is derivative and serves no purpose being here. It would've worked better if the whole song from Faith was there in place of this weak and pointless interlude. Lord I Need You is a good song but is completely forgettable.
Pure Souls with Roddy Ricch is a moment of immaculate beauty on the album. Roddy gives arguably the best guest appearance with his angelic singing throughout the track, on an instrumental that sounds catered to him, with a grand gospel twist. Kanye is also solid on this track but it's another moment where he is severely out performed. Come To Life as a whole is forgettable. Nothing really occurs as the beat feels as if it should build to something greater, and it just doesn't. No Child Left Behind, like Moon, is another great moment but feels like part of something greater. It is a moment highly reminiscent of the outro of Ghost Town, so of course it's enjoyable, it just feels unfinished. The Part 2's for the most part add nothing to the album, as all are not as good as the original ones on the album with all of them doing nothing but wasting time on an already long record.
Donda is definitely not at the top of Ye's discography, but it is certainly a step up from Jesus Is King. I find this album to be a testament to Kanye's artistic decline that started after the release of Yeezus. Donda feels like a good mix of Jesus Is King and The Life of Pablo, but it definitely works better than both of them separately. A lot of this record feels like a rushed mess, with a lot of songs just feeling like parts of a bigger picture that does not come to fruition on this album. With age Ye also seems to be declining in terms of his rapping ability, with his lyrics and flow on this album being more often unimpressive than good. Despite its flaws the one hundred and eight minute track list has a lot of great songs and moments to offer.
But for everyone wondering, Donda is better than Certified Lover Boy.