By | January 22, 2022

When “Donda” originally dropped I could not get past “Jail” like a game of Monopoly. That was the second song on the original tracklist and I was done. Months later with Kanye popping up all over the tabloids, I stumbled down the rabbit hole and found a deluxe edition of an album I originally vowed I would never listen to in it’s entirety. I’ve heard this man’s full solo discography until now. It was time to continue.

“Donda” is a bloated mess. 32 tracks with a handful being alternate takes of songs that Kanye could have easily marketed as singles. Every song has features that know no balance and clash with each other instead of working together in harmony. Kanye has turned his mother’s name into a synonym for cacophony. Breaking down the tracklist : the humorous “Donda Chant”, “Moon”, “Believe What I Say” and the guests on both “Blakkk Skinhead” re-tread “God Breathed” as well as “Jonah” should have been cut.

All the alternate takes had better mixes than their variants that preceded them on the tracklist but certain guests should have got canned such as: Da Baby doing his best T.I. impression on “Jail”, Young Thug’s nonsensical eccentricities on “Remote Control”, the forgettable Rooga on “Ok Ok” and Playboi Carti on “Junya”… Matter of fact, Playboi Carti should have been kicked off the entire album, whereas Fivio Foreign showed out on “Off The Grid”. That song could have easily been halved. Foreign continues to grow since I first heard of him on Nas’ “Spicy”, he can transcend BK drill, unlike the late Pop Smoke on the poorly mixed throwaway “Tell The Vision” : where Smoke struggles to rap about the same type of violence that eventually got him killed over distorted drill drums serving as a metronome and the most annoying piano roll I ever heard.

Almost as annoying was Baby Keem’s voice on “Praise God”, I almost turned off the album midway through his verse, but I trudged along. Kanye and 3 Stacks traded stories like Rick Ross’ “Sixteen” over some Biggie samples on “Life of the Party” starting the trend that all the tracks with Kanye allowing expletives were winners on such a losing album, but “24” was no “40 Hours” though both shared similar concepts; and though “Hurricane” was a much better intro than “Jail”, Kanye almost ruined a Weeknd feature by drowning out his crisp vocals with a stupid choir.
If Kanye would have taken the stripped down route like the acoustic guitar strums at the end of throwaway “Up From The Ashes”, this album would have been so much more with so much less.
For an album so focused on religiosity, putting a guest on every track really robbed this Kanye album of Kanye’s soul.

How could this album be called “Donda”? I got more information about Kanye’s relationship from his mom from the 2005 single “Hey Mama”. Is the god Kanye constantly refers to his mother (who’s speech should have been trimmed on the title track)? After the codependent lyrics in “Lord I Need You” is Kanye’s god his estranged wife? A great emcee is a fantastic autobiographical author. Kanye showcases shades of this by letting listeners in on the stresses of his separation from his wife and children on the safe sex PSA “Never Abandon Your Family” and piano key driven “Come To Life”. Pitifully as West sings his heart out, it’s sad to see Kanye have so many things from his “Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”(specifically “Hell of A Life” & “All of The Lights”) come to pass and now be recounted in the smoldering aftermath on this album.

Forgetting the alternates that cap the project, “New Again” takes “Graduation”-era synths to what could be a sequel to “Wolves”, and serves as the closest thing to an outro here.
For all the records , “No Child Left Behind” would have been an amazing instrumental intermission, but then Kanye’s vocals ruined the damn piece. Cudi & Kanye would have been great together as a Kids See Ghosts reunion without Young Thug’s stupidity. If only Kanye would have had the sense to leave newcomers KayCyy (“Keep My Spirit Alive”) & Shenseea (“Ok Ok”) on their respective songs the tracklist could have been well-trimmed and Kanye would have been rewarded for ushering in some fresh undiscovered voices in the game, but without this deluxe edition, KayCyy and Shenseea would have went unheard.

I love Royce 5″9 & Conway The Machine’s work, but they sounded so dialed in on “Keep My Spirit Alive” , one of the album highlights where … surprise : Kanye actually raps ! One Westside Gunn feature that is guaranteed to put a smile on faces and the best track “Jesus Lord” plays out with original recipe backpack Kanye spitting like an Eminem feature verse as Ye tries to smoke out top tier emcees known as “Written Testimony” Jay Electronica and a fully assembled Lox over a dark instrumental, storytelling like Slick Rick ghostwrote his verse for the price of a Sammy Davis glass eye. The only problem with that song was Larry Hoover’s son’s message on the outro ; again,this insert should have been cut down and of course a version without The Lox was thoughtlessly included on the same record.

“Pure Souls” (the discount “Favorite Bitch” by Eminem) could have done with just Roddy Rich on the hook as his verse was terrible, “Jail” just needed Marilyn Manson & Jay-Z only – another missed collaboration opportunity between the two not seen since DMX’s “Flesh of My Flesh”; and if Lil Yachty made Kanye want to rap so bad on “Ok Ok”, then why wasn’t he in every session?
This album is the poster child for why physical studio collaborations need to make a comeback, not this P2P sharing crap with no physical chemistry.

“Heaven And Hell” is one of the other rare standouts on the album, similar to “No Child Left Behind” , except it works – because the dark instrumental is approached with raps, not off-key caterwauling. Ty$ actually sounded good (for once) on “Junya” with his strange vocal inflections on the playful record, that sadly I don’t believe Kanye could have thought up himself without Playboi Carti’s help – and I cant stand Carti !

“Donda” is the Kanye & Friends compilation, more like “Cruel Summer” than anything else in the producer’s discography. The reason I believe this is because Kanye sounds scared of losing any friends after he lost all his family. His solution? Throw everybody that’s cool with him on the album, even if they don’t match sonically; subsequently, bringing the worst music out some of the most well-known musical acts of today.

“Donda” is Kanye at his weakest : a broke down momma’s boy simping over poor decisions in trying to replace the loss of the number one woman in his life with the institutions of religion and marriage. Then when that doesn’t work, it’s a 32 track lament where the DJ/MC uses his “friends” as a crutch, Shang Tsung-ing them in the process in an attempt to reclaim the soul he lost by putting his faith in everyone but himself. Too many cooks in the kitchen and too many yes-men. If only this album was just a handful of songs, wait “Ye” was only 9 tracks and that was pretty horrible too.

Score : 1/5