“Donda”: One of Kanye West’s Most Creative Albums Despite Troubled Production History


Photo by Evan Agostini, Invision, AP

Kanye West’s Donda finally releases despite troubled development.

Jason Piccolomini, Staff Writer

After 401 days and three listening parties, Kanye West released his highly anticipated 10th studio album, “Donda.” The album, named after his late mother Donda West, was initially scheduled to release on July 24, 2020. However, plans for the release were derailed following Kanye’s failed presidential campaign, mental health issues and divorce from longtime wife Kim Kardashian. Eventually, “Donda” was released to the public on August 29, 2021.   


The album itself is 27 tracks long spanning one hour and 48 minutes, making it the longest album Kanye has ever released. It starts off with “Donda Chant,” a 52-second song that features the name “Donda” being repeated at various tempos. Although never confirmed, it is theorized that the differing tempos are supposed to represent his mom’s last heartbeats. The first actual song on the album is “Jail”, which features Jay-Z, and it is the first time the former best friends have collaborated since 2016. The song explores a theme that appears throughout the album – Kanye relying on God to save him from his downward spirals. 


The buildup to the album was the most enticing part of the journey. Kanye had two listening parties in Atlanta which took place in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It was revealed that Kanye had been living there to finish up his album. The last listening party took place in his hometown of Chicago in Soldier Field featuring a replica of his childhood home. These listening parties showcased the upcoming songs as well as the album’s features, and each listening party saw both the songs and features being altered. It was a live, front-row seat into Kanye’s ever-changing creative process. He would not stop changing the songs until he found them to be “perfect.” 


Personally, I have 21 of the 27 songs liked on my Spotify. Features from several musicians such as Kid Cudi, Travis Scott, The Weeknd, Lil Baby, the aforementioned Jay-Z and many more artists add star power to the album. The production on the album is some of Kanye’s best work and the creativity makes it stand out. 


My main critique of “Donda”  is that it seems to be unfinished. I believe Kanye when he says Universal released it without his approval. Some songs go on for far too long such as both parts of “Jesus Lord,” combining for a total of 20 minutes and 28 seconds. The songs also don’t seem to be listed in the right order on the tracklist as well. The storytelling on the album is nice but many fans have released their own versions of Donda with songs in a different order so that it follows the path of a more cohesive story. It’s odd that the songs with “pt. 2” on them all appear at the end of the album while those songs all sound like their first parts. The only difference between the first and second parts of the songs are the features, which leads me to believe Kanye was still deciding which part he wanted to appear on the album.   


I would say that “Donda” is currently one of my favorite Kanye West albums. Some of the tracks have become my favorite all-time Kanye songs, and the album is only a week old, so as time goes on I could see it moving up my list as well. It’ll be worth waiting to see if Kanye goes back and makes more changes to the album like he has done to other albums in the past.