Album review: ‘Donda’


Jacob Baker/Northern Star

Assortment of rappers and musicians accompanying Kanye West on the porch of his recreated childhood home.

By Kyron Lewis, Lifestyle Writer

Kanye West’s 10th solo album “Donda” was released on Aug. 29 after much anticipation. The album had been delayed multiple times after it was originally set to be released on July 24. Various listening events were held leading up to the actual release at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, with the last listening event held at Soldier Field in Chicago, where West was raised. 

“Donda” is a hip-hop album that sprinkles in elements of West’s earlier works. These include heavy elements of gospel, rap and pop, as well as notable influences from the subgenres of hip-hop such as trap and drill, topped off with an electro-pop flare. As with a lot of West’s work, the beats evoke magnificence and sophistication. Attributed to West’s seemingly vigorous work ethic and musical production, the instrumentals are definitely noteworthy.

The album is named after West’s late mother, Donda West. With speculation that “Donda Chant,” the first track on the album, carries more significance in the grief expressed over his mother’s death. As the shortest song on the album, it is a repetitive chant of his mother’s first name and is bound to leave many to speculate about the purpose of the song’s presence in the project. 

“Donda Chant” is completely A cappella. However, the pacing fluctuates as if it is a human heartbeat in a distressed state. This could be West paying homage to the last heartbeats of his late mother. A gripping decision to make it the first track in remembrance. 

The album delves into themes ranging from systematic oppression and social issues to religious beliefs. With the assistance of many featured artists who are unlisted on the project, there is a lot being said about “Donda.” Tracks such as “Jail” and “Jail pt 2” can be interpreted as commentary on the American criminal justice system mixed with religious undertones. That is not too far-fetched for a project from West, but this album, in particular, seems to be searching for that spark found in his earlier projects, such as the acclaimed “The College Dropout.” 

Except this latest album is lacking in the unapologetic rhetoric that brings about social awareness to systematic issues. Instead, it focuses more on self-reflection, interpersonal struggles and growth. 

The song “Hurricane” is the definitive example of struggles and growth on the album. West speaks on the whirlwind of an experience he has had in the past few years. Topics including his marriage, fatherhood and mental health. These facets of life and the constant pressures of fame have undoubtedly taken a toll on the artist, yet he has persevered through the chaos. 

This may be due to some controversy during the album’s release, in which West has claimed the album was released without his approval. Despite the controversy, the album still reached No.1 on the U.S Billboard 200 charts.

Overall, the album is great but still falls short of what West is truly capable of.