After over a year of waiting and countless rumors, Kanye’s 10th studio album “Donda” has finally been released to the public. This album represents the crossover between his 2019 Gospel-focused album, “Jesus Is King,” and his more traditional hip-hop albums that preceded it. “Donda” seeks to fuse the two genres by delivering faith-based lyrics over drum and bass production.
Some tracks are able to achieve this combination perfectly. For example, the song “Hurricane” contains singing, rapping and choir vocals over an instrumental that blends hip-hop and gospel masterfully. “Pure Souls” and “Remote Control” are examples of more tracks that achieve this. However, this isn’t consistent across the album; tracks like “24” sound like pure gospel, while the track “Junya” has little to do with faith and is instead about an expensive designer watch. The tracks that lean more towards one side or the other aren’t necessarily bad, though, as they bring variety to the tracklist. Considering the album’s runtime of one hour and 48 minutes, this is needed.
Beyond just Kanye, “Donda” features some of the biggest names in the music industry, including JAY-Z, The Weeknd and Travis Scott, along with underground artists Vory, Rooga and KayCyy. The best feature performance on the album is easily from Brooklyn rapper Fivio Foreign, who delivers fast flows and brainy wordplay on track four, “Off The Grid.” Baby Keem elevates “Praise God” by going into his upper register and providing an amusing falsetto verse. Lil Baby and Lil Durk deliver solid verses on their respective songs, which is unsurprising, as they have done so on almost every major rap album release this year. On the album, most guest appearances match or exceed Kanye’s energy. There are no features here that are outright disappointing, which is impressive seeing as there are features on almost every song.
Being an album named after and dedicated to Kanye’s late mother, “Donda” successfully honors Dr. Donda West by sampling audio clips of her voice and containing lyrics such as “We gonna be okay … I know you’re alive, God’s not finished.” Moments such as these are genuinely touching and will resonate with any listener who has lost a close relative. As someone surrounded by numerous controversies, Kanye succeeds in reminding listeners that he is human and deserves empathy.
Where the album slips are production glitches and unnecessary parts. Many listeners have complained about the subpar mixing and static sounds on certain tracks. These definitely taint the experience, especially considering the long wait and Kanye’s reputation as a perfectionist. The tracks “Donda Chant” and “Tell The Vision” have no replay value. The former is Donda’s name being repeated 60 times. “Tell The Vision” is a poor repackaging of Pop Smoke’s song of the same name. Some tracks, most notably “God Breathed” and “Jail,” have unnecessary outros that could have easily been cut for a more concise listening experience. There is also the blank album cover to speak about; yes, the cover is just a black square with nothing else. Some say it is an artistic choice that fits the desolate tone of the album, but this could have been achieved with a more creative approach. The final cover choice seems like the product of indecisiveness and laziness more than anything else.
Despite these numerous faults, it’s not hard to look past them as “Donda” is still a one-of-a-kind beautiful album that appeals to both hip-hop heads and gospel listeners. Besides, Kanye has been known to edit and fix albums even after their initial release, which is a possibility for “Donda.” If the main concerns of the album were addressed, it could easily go down as a classic and one of the best records in Kanye’s discography. As it stands now, its fate is still unknown.