Kanye West's latest album suffers from ambition, but has its fair share of great moments.
The release of Donda is somehow probably the most controversial Kanye West has ever been (his The Life of Pablo antics do offer some competition, but let’s not pretend West will go silent now that Donda has finally released!), especially with his most recent listening party having the involvement of alleged sex offender Marilyn Manson and vocal homophobic DaBaby.
For a rapper with more controversies in the media than albums in his catalogue, it seems surprising that Kanye continues to bounce back to being one of the most beloved voices and producer in hip-hop history, but the musical power of Donda does make some of this clearer.
Having stayed blind to the leaks, the live events and a good amount of the Yandhi cuts in an attempt to maintain a blind eye, Donda seemed impossibly large. Clocking in at almost two hours long and running with 27 tracks, hosting features from Playboi Carti, Jay-Z, The Weeknd and Kid Cudi, Donda is Kanye’s largest outing to date. After speculation about whether the album would ever even exist, it’s almost amusing that such a colossal record dropped.
Following its bizarre introduction, the huge scale of the guitar on ‘Jail’ makes it clear what is happening in Kanye’s head. An amalgamation of his varied styles from the last ten years, mixing together parts of Yeezus and Jesus Is King most predominantly, Donda is a massive celebration of music and creativity – but it is also quite a mess.
Even going so far as to feature second versions of four different tracks, Donda can’t help but feel a little odd in some ways, and over-loaded in many more. The beats are great – ‘Moon’, ‘Believe What I Say’, ’No Child Left Behind’ and ‘Jesus Lord’ parts 1 and 2 are all beautiful – but there are just so many features that Kanye’s overall voice on the project feels somewhat lost. The previously mentioned ‘Jesus Lord’ is definitely the album’s highlight in both of its versions (though my personal preference is certainly the second, longer version) as it boasts the high energy and strong lyricism that the rest of the album lacked, but it isn’t enough to save the sinking ship.
That being said, having seen The Life of Pablo and the Kid Cudi collaboration album Kids See Ghosts both change post-release on streaming services, there’s no telling whether what we are seeing currently from Donda is a finished product. As it stands, though, it feels like a record that needs to be trimmed down in a number of ways – it is extremely long, a little repetitive and has far too many features, but the highlights really do show the remnants of West’s intensely unique musical vision, a part of him that seems to be slowly shrinking with time.
Donda is available now via Def Jam Recordings. Listen below on Spotify: