Before I begin, I would like to say that I do not consider myself to be a rap fan by any means unless you count being an unapologetic Barb and Pitbull concertgoer a rap fan. If you were to stalk my Spotify, you would find a lot of Taylor Swift, Lorde, and Abba. However, I don’t totally live under a rock when it comes to the rap world. I’ve heard a smattering of songs by Kanye West throughout middle school, high school, and college, enough that I was mildly interested in the confusion surrounding Donda’s release date. I decided to listen to his album upon its release, and here are my thoughts.
The first song on Donda is the Donda Chant, and while I saw online (aka Tiktok) that this turned a lot of people off the album, further research leads me to believe that it represents his grief or his fixation on his mother’s passing. If this is the case, I think it’s actually a great start to an album that is named for his mother.
The second song, Jail has had the honor of going viral on Tiktok with the lyric “Guess who’s going to jail tonight”, and while it’s certainly catchy, the same repeated beat for three minutes is fairly repetitive. The lyrics by Jay Z are certainly worth the wait, however, because as any pop culture fan knows, this may signify the end of their “feud”. God Breathed on This is similar in style to Jail, but with more rapping. One thing I found interesting at this point is that Kanye did not note the feature by Jay Z or Vory in the title of either of his songs. This trend continued throughout the album.
I’m not going to lie, I was checking the clock on both of these songs waiting for them to end, but Off the Grid was a lot better in the overall listening experience, with a lot more going on than just Kanye singing the same lyrics over and over with a small interlude by a different artist.
Hurricane provided a nice change of pace with lyrics by the Weeknd at the beginning, and I can only imagine how the lyric “don’t let me down” would sound live. Praise God begins with lyrics written by his late mother and is the second song to mention God in the title, which is most likely a reference to West’s newfound religious fervor. Jonah is similar in this respect. Ok, ok is just like its name: simply ok, but the song fits in nicely with the rest of the album.
At this point, I had to take a listening break because this album clocks in at almost 2 hours.
Junya didn’t impress me too much, but I did enjoy listening to Believe What I Say. The song also features a lot of actual rapping by Kanye West himself, and some interludes by Buju Banton. 24 has an interesting piano piece, but the repeating riffs were a little obnoxious after a while. Remote Control has the same issue, but with the lyric “he got it remote control”.
Moon was hands down one of my favorite songs on the track, and was closely followed by Donda, which is definitely the emotional focal point of the album. These two songs were separated by Heaven and Hell, which isn’t too distinguishable from the other songs on the album and followed by Keep My Spirit Alive, which had the same issue.
The latter half of the Donda was not as strong as the first, with Jesus Lord being entirely too long, New Again is a little forgettable, and Tell the Vision having the same piano beat in the background for the whole minute and 44 seconds of the song. Lord, I Need You is a stand-out because of the lyrics aimed at Kim Kardashian, who interestingly enough was at the Donda listening parties. Pure Souls and Come to Life are two other examples of songs that most likely could have been cut short at 3 minutes. Finally, No Child Left Behind, while a good song on its own, isn’t exactly a satisfying conclusion to an album that had been so long-awaited by fans.
Technically the album ends with four additional part 2’s of Jail, Ok, ok, Junya, and Jesus Lord, but they’re more of an extended edition of the previous four songs and I would be lying if I said I listened to them.
Overall, I think Donda was a pretty good album, but a little overhyped. I understand why people refer to Kanye West as a musical genius…but I still maintain that I am not one of those people who particularly enjoys the gifts his genius bestows. However, I would like to restate that I am no Kanye expert, or rap expert, or even a music expert, and to take my opinion with a grain of salt.