Review: Donda

Ethan Woelbern, Staff Writer

4/5

With an album rollout like no other, listening parties spanning the last month and constant delays on the work’s release, Kanye fans have been fiending for the drop of Donda.

Although a tad eclectic, I think it’s safe to say that Kanye has done his part in delivering his promise of a powerful and beautiful album.

“Donda,” named after Kanye’s late mother, is a continuation of his foray into the Gospel Christian-centered music found on his last record “Jesus is King.” However, unlike that album, we now see Kanye finding himself in a much more solidified gospel sonic focus, making  the album’s egregious hour and 45 minute runtime much more bearable. This innovative combo of newer hip hop with traditional gospel helps return Kanye to his role as the boundary-pushing artist he has been in the past, and helps solidify his role as one of the biggest musical acts of the 2000s. 

Kanye finds a new sound early on in the record with an incredible three-track run of “Off the Grid,” “Hurricane’ and “Praise God.” 

“Off the Grid” serves as the record’s first exciting and intense song, following the haunting opener Donda Chant, with an accent feature by Playboi Carti using his trademark raspy delivery on the first half and a near perfect Fivo Foreign verse to top it off. 

“Hurricane” adds much more to the gospel sound of the album with ethereal vocals from The Weekend accented by beautiful choir melodies. 

“Praise God” is full of new experiential ideas with intertwining verses by Kanye and Travis Scott to introduce the track and a wavy high-pitched autotune delivery from Baby Keem to conclude. 

Each of these songs differs greatly in style, purpose, and sound, with atmospheric strings to create intensity and hype in “Off the Grid” to delicate organs in “Hurricane” to help bring forth the more obvious gospel influences  . Nevertheless, they are able to flow nicely from one another due to Kanye’s ability to consistently create to find sonic links between each song and tie them together.

We see Kanye search through sounds from his past records and update them to his new style as well. Tracks like “Jail” and “Ok Ok” feel reminiscent of his past record “Yeezus” with droning guitars and bouncing 808s, and others like “Believe What I Say’ and “Jesus Lord” feel much more old Kanye with repetitive vocal samples that get stuck in your ear and anthemic drums. Though these tracks may be similar to past records, they still serve as album-defining songs, each having the ability to transport  listeners into the creative and chaotic mind of Mr. West. 

The album is also packed with features seeing Kanye return to the curator role he has donned in his latest records. Newer generation artists like Roddy Rich, Fivo Foriegn, and Playboi Carti give some of the best performances of their career while older artists like Jay Z and Jay Electronica both leave a little to be desired with what they bring with their verses.

The biggest detriment to the album isn’t so much an abundance of bad songs as it is a sprinkling of mediocre and forgettable ones that serve to continue the hectic and messy feeling this album presents. Songs like “Remote Control” and “Junya” are okay in their own right and could serve as highlights in careers of other artists, but in Kanye’s excellent discography, these just fall short of the standard we have come to expect just due to lacking that earworm quality most Kanye tracks have. The song “Tell the Vision” feels out of place on the album with a horribly mastered glitchy audio that sounds as if it’s coming out of a $15 speaker. These songs, though bad, are more forgettable accents to the record than truly large problems.

With the release of “Donda,” Kanye has once again shown the world why he is known as the genre-bending, art-defining musician he is. The album, though not his magnum opus, does feel like Kanye performing once again in top form. It feels messy but beautiful, eclectic but creative. It feels, well, like Kanye.  ⅘ stars