Arts & Entertainment

DONDA by Kanye West: an album review

Photos of Kanye West first DONDA album listening party

by Max Mwaniki, web editor

Kanye West is an artist that has influenced multiple generations of hip-hop through albums like The College Dropout as well as 808s & Heartbreak, an album that would have to be in the running for most influential and iconic ever. Yet in the last three years, many people thought that Kanye would never drop music again. His religious devotion seemed to cut out all secular music. After he released Jesus is King, many fans really thought that there would be no more of the “Old Kanye,” classic Kanye. With his latest album Donda, not only did we get a sense of that old Kanye back, but we experienced him finding a balance between his music and his faith, resulting in a great album with incredible production.

One of Kanye’s defining features in his music is his high level of production on beats. This was especially proven on Donda with songs like “Heaven and Hell,” “Hurricane,” “Junya,” “Moon” and many more. In general, production is an extremely important aspect of an album. A below average album is good after the first listen, and a good album has a few key songs that maybe get better after the first two or three listens. What makes a fantastic album is the ability to consistently get better with each listen, to grow on the listener. Donda has that effect, and I am constantly finding new favorite songs on the album. The reason why I pointed out the production as a highlight is because I think repeat-playability can be credited to the production level of each song. With every track on Donda being masterfully produced, every song is worth listening to on repeat—except “Donda Chant,” unless you like listening to someone say “Donda” over and over for a minute. The featured artists on this album also contributed to its repeatability, with Kanye bringing the best out of other musicians like Fivo Foreign and Baby Keem who worked with the beat perfectly resulting in unique and memorable songs.

Though this is a great Kanye album, it is still not the best in his discography. One thing that I would criticize about Donda is the inclusion of part-twos at the end, alternative versions of songs already on the album. The part-two songs after “No Child Left Behind” felt super unnecessary, ruining the end of the album. It went back to songs we already heard with different verses instead of having the verses included in the originals. It is a small critique, but I feel like it would have just resulted in a better album overall if songs like “Junya” and “Juntapt2” were just one song.

Another unfortunate aspect of this album was the wait time. From when Donda was announced in May 2020 to when it was released on Aug. 29, 2021, Kanye West would announce a release date, then it would get pushed out, then his manager would announce a release date that was later confirmed by Kanye. It was overly complicated and honestly felt like the album was a myth with the only thing confirming its existence being leaks and snippets from fans or his elaborate listening parties. That being said, I only had two very minor critiques on a 23-song album. All things considered, that is really good. Donda was an amazing album and everything music-wise was not far from perfect. Overall, I would recommend this album; it’s definitely worth multiple listens. 

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