NOTE: This is not an album review, and was written before the record’s release. However, I literally predicted the core theme of the album, so W to me.
In 2016, Kanye released a trailer for the video game Donda, with his mother rising through the clouds and ascending to heaven. This game never happened, likely because Nintendo, the only company Kanye was willing to work with, declined on the offer, and Kanye’s short lived video game era (along with the fabled Turbo Grafx 16) met its end.
However, the theme of family has always stuck with him. 2015’s Only One was originally set up for what became The Life of Pablo, a record that found Kanye in a tug-of-war between his public and personal lives, which comes to a climax on the album’s most conflicted songs: Real Friends and Wolves. 2018’s ye showed how Kanye’s internal conflicts affected the people closest to him. The intrusive thoughts of ITAKY cause his family panic on Yikes, and his lustful desires on All Mine cause marital strife on Wouldn’t Leave. And on 2019’s Jesus is King, Kanye celebrates how his father in Christ brought him closer to the father is his old family of childhood and while also molding himself, the father in his new family of adulthood. In this way, family is not just a reoccurring theme in the new records, it is THE defining factor of this later phase of Kanye.
Compared to previous rollouts, Donda has been relatively quiet; a few announcements and teasers have come out, but all in the past week. And on the news side, not much controversy has been brewing, compared to the the heavily divisive ye and Jesus is King eras. The only thing event of newsworthy importance has been his divorce with Kim Kardashian, but the two seemed to have split amicably, and not much has been discussed publicly by the two.
But don’t let the relative calm on the surface fool you, this is a major event. The family that Kanye has built up over the past decade and three albums has shattered, and along with it has gone Kanye’s core. The one who wouldn’t leave has left, and the family he proudly displayed in the Closed on Sunday video has been torn in half. Furthermore, after finally rebuilding his relationship with his single father, he is in danger of becoming that parent to his four children.
Kanye has always looked to his mother as a source of guidance, from the childhood support of Hey Mama to the post-mortem parental advice on Only One. And once again, Kanye looks to Donda for help. And like how his potential video game sought to join Donda with God, Kanye again looks at the two as a joined force. Before Kanye can repair his family, he must return to his roots, both religious and familial, and form a new family in spirit to guide his family on Earth. We wait for Friday to see if he succeeds.