A short Donda review
1 September 2021-
Kanye West's 10th studio album Donda has been out since Sunday. Plenty enough time for everyone to listen to the artist's work, or is it?
If you don’t know that Kanye West‘s Donda is finally out, you must be living under a rock. That clearly has not internet connection whatsoever. Must be a pretty dull rock. Either way, for everyone else with a connection, who is therefore able to check out this beautiful blog of ours, you must know about this already — Kanye West surprise-released his 10th studio album this past Sunday, right on time for church. When we say “release”, there actually is a degree of controversy about that as well: the artist claims his parent label (that would be the biggest out there, Universal Music) actually did the dead without his approval. He also claimed there was a clearance issue with a track featuring DaBaby, “Jail Pt 2”, which sounds somewhat paradoxical, seeing as the aforementioned rapper could very much do with a West featuring right now… The point is — the album is here.
Or is it? For starters, the track listing boasts a whooping 27 songs, featuring dozens of guest MC’s and producers alike: everyone from superstars Jay-Z, The Weeknd or Travis Scott, to rising superstars Lil Durk, Playboi Carty or Pop Smoke, to rappers’ rappers including Kid Cudi, The Lox, Jay Electronica… Believe us when we say that the list goes on. The result amounts to a 1 hour and 48 minute total length of always interesting, sometimes thrilling, gradually tiring compositions. To be fair, any piece that long is bound to exhaust listeners, even if W. A. Mozart himself wrote every note…
Is Kanye West the new Mozart? The jury’s still out. What we can say is — songs like “Hurricane” (by all accounts, the album’s leading track), “Jesus Lord” or “No Child Left Behind” are epic pieces of production, no matter where you come at them from. And many of the other songs will appeal to the listener for one thing or other — that Lauryn Hill sample on “Believe What I Say”, Shenseea‘s extremely fresh featuring on “OK OK Pt 2”, all sorts of interesting beats, drum sections, cameos… Not to mention “Jesus Lord Pt 2”, the 11+ minute-long final track that features in no particular order The Lox (i.e. Jadakiss, Sheek Louch & Styles P), Jay Electronica, a Larry Hoover Jr. recording, production by Swizz Beatz and rising French DJ Gesaffelstein… Enough credits for a full album, if you don’t mind us noting!
Is Donda Kanye West’s masterpiece, at least? That also is unclear. For our money, 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy remains Mr West’s most accomplished work to date. ‘Accomplished’ being the operative word here: although everyone at this point essentially agrees that there is greatness in this latest release, it is however surrounded by arguably less scintillating bits, and bundled-in together in an objectively sprawling ensemble. Put simply, Donda has great bits, but it is not great as a packaged product.
Will West come back and update said package? Given who we’re talking about here, that’s entirely possible. In the meantime, Donda is clearly worth a listen, if only to know what everyone else is gonna be talking about for weeks (months?) to come…