Donda is Black American Culture summarised. It captures and takes us through a journey of Black American existence, past, present and future. It speaks on the conditions created by slavery that Kanye’s mother was preview to; these conditions are reflected in Larry Hoovers Jr’s Outro on “Jesus Lord”. Larry Hoover Senior being the founder of the Chicago Street Gang ‘The Gangster Disciples’, an existing post slavery condition created in Chicago.
These conditions are still reflected by the situation faced by the failed systemic cancellation of rapper “DaBaby” which is captured in the song ‘Jail Part 2′ (FREE DABABY verse on ‘Jail part 2’). The album brings us into current times where young black males like Kanye have explored Eurocentric culture in search for acceptance. This is depicted by some of the eclectic dance sounds used on the album. Artists like playboy Carti who have been immersed into Eurocentric gothic-like cultures feature on the album. In short, DONDA gives a historical context of the black experience in America from Kanye’s point of view.
In time, Donda might be considered an important piece of music literature within black culture. Time will tell if It stands next to “To Pimp A Butterfly” in importance.
Listening to a Kanye West Album is always an exposition in sound. Kanye always exhibits and pushes the boundaries on what we can do with sounds on his albums, Donda is no different. The first two songs after the ‘Donda Chant’ intro takes the listener through an array of electronic sounds synchronised by auto tuned harmonies. You’re brought into a futuristic world, almost like watching “no church in the wild” from the Throne Album. It’s a post apocalyptic world and once again Jay z is there to contribute to this narrative on ‘Jail’. It feels like we are in an apocalyptic world in the future where people have abandoned God and Kanye being a sole preacher delivers his ‘God Message’ in a Mad Max/ Book of Eli type world. Donda is sonically futuristic yet lyrically it touches on topics which have plagued black America for generations.
‘Off The Grid’ presents Fivio Foreign with a standout career moment. Lil baby, The Weeknd & Kanye have great chemistry on Hurricane. The Weeknd feels right at home with his harmonies merged with electro dance style beats. It’s like the album was perfectly set up for him to execute his vocal style. Vory is vocally adventerous on ‘Jonah’, while Durk pours out his profound pain of loss & Kanye rightfully takes a big homie stance in this song. In featuring Rooga on ‘OK OK’ Kanye is seemly attempting to bridge peace within Chicago’s gang culture. Let’s Pray it works, if anyone has the power to unite Chicago it’s Kanye, in the name of Jesus.
‘Believe What I Say’ is feel good music from Kanye, a nicely executed Lauryn Hill sample gives the song substance and texture. 24 has a healing soulful vibe, a Gospel negro spiritual feel with an uplifting message. Kanye is a musical genius who experienced loss at the height of his fame and on Donda he’s finally translating healing and helping others to heal. Empathy is high on this album.
Donda is not an album it’s an experience. Kanye once again expressed his feelings very well through music on this album. The Whistling on Remote Control is genius. The song itself feels like you’re in a space ship floating up a river of light. Kanye is seeking to bring every expression and facet of current Hiphop culture together, It works well at this stage of the Album. We are currently at the ‘moon music’ part of the album and Don Tolivers vocals beautifully elevates us there.
‘Keep My Spirit Alive’ & ‘Jesus Lord’ brings Hiphop to church. Ye has traditional hardcore rappers rapping to Gospel type beats. Jay Electronica does not disappoint he raps “Earthquakes will strike this nation for what Bush did to Rwanda, What the Clintons did to Haiti and Downing Street did to Ghana” on ‘Jesus Lord’. Electronica possibly delivered the best rap verse off the album.
‘New again’ captures the essence of Donda. It’s ‘Electro’ meets ‘Hiphop’ meets ‘Gospel’, an infusion of all those musical components.
‘Lord I Need You’ is reminiscent of old Kanye with his traditional braggadocio flow mildly tamed by his newly found God consciousness and maturity. ‘Pure Souls’ continues in a similar vain with Kanye in Kanye mode while still trying to tame the beast within. Roddy Ricch sets the tone and Shenseea compliments him with a touch of Caribbean finesse. Kanye takes us straight back to church with ‘Come to life’. This songs has a lovely switch of beats and the music is beautiful. ‘No Child’ left behind is now famously synonymous to Sha’Carri Richardson olympic ban, hearing it on the album still inspires an uplift, we in church!
‘Jail Part 2′ featuring DaBaby is muted on streaming platforms awaiting clearance. Interestingly this is a metaphorical illustrating of how cancel culture put DaBaby briefly in social jail (Update: song now live on all platforms). DaBaby delivers a powerful verse He raps “I know these people gon’ try to tell me how to talk, don’t know what I seen or what I was taught. My mama worked two or three jobs to take care of three of her kids, my uncles watched us, we was raised by the crack addicts, raised by the drug dealers and killers.”
Coming to the close of the album Kanye puts out all the ‘Part 2’s’ of songs already featured in the earlier parts of this lengthy album. This is a genius way for Kanye to remind us and highlight some of the songs we already heard with a different twist and also to increase streams. ‘OK OK Part 2’ presents the real Shenseea, the Jamaican born singer grabs the track by the neck in real Caribbean Dancehall style.
Although The Album took us through a lengthy journey (27 songs), strangely listeners might find themselves not wanting it to end. This is mainly because Ye brought us into the ‘Donda’ existential experience. It’s fitting that this album was released on a Sunday morning because Ye took us to the black church!
By Kwasi Addo