Kanye West - Donda
Aug 6, 2021 (updated Aug 1, 2022)
"Donda" Kanye's Divine Dystopia

This is his 10th solo album and it was destined to be great as it’s named after his late mother Dr Donda West. People that follow Kanye closely, know how much she meant to him. From dedicating the incredible “Hey Mama” to her when she was still here, to crafting one of the most influential records of the century in “808s & Heartbreak” influenced by grief when she passed, his mother has influenced not only him as a person but also his music. “Donda” was first announced for July 24th 2020 and saw delay upon delay until now but something so important must be worked on to perfection

After the drama and backlash he got after running for president in 2020 Kanye maintained radio silence and covered his face with masks all throughout 2021 as the first time we saw his face was after the end of the 3rd listening party for the record

So what has Kanye prepared for us? If you answered greatness you would be right. The record is incredible. It’s easily one of the most personal albums in his catalogue while being a brand new style for him. I also love how every feature here performs at their best and shines without exception. The production is some of his best and that says a lot since its Ye and the deliveries are very passionate and beautiful

Although you would think this at first, this project although named after her is not about his mother
In "Donda" Kanye goes on a long journey through grief, family and faith with his mother's memory always on his side in order to leave the past behind and be "reborn". The album's narrative and listening parties draw many parallels to Dante's Divine Comedy as every listening party represented one of the 3 stages being Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. The sound of the record is minimalistic and very gospel influenced. There's a general lack of drums that are replaced by dark synths and organs, that together with the content of the tracks make "Donda" feel like some type of dystopian street gospel

Kanye dives head first in this divine abyss on the first of the 2 main acts of the record that represents a purgatorial state

"Donda Chant" represents Ye’s mindset after she passed, being always reminded that she’s gone but also works as an actual chant. He is basically summoning the spirit of his mother to help him in this journey as we start in purgatory in "Jail". And Donda obviously responds in the first sound you hear on the second track as the first two loud guitar explosions that also play all throughout the track are basically repeating "Donda"

Another important thing to note is that, it's very impressive that even though being 10 albums deep, Kanye is still able to put out something not only great but also extremely ambitious, innovative and avant garde. "Jail" is a rock anthem with blazing guitars having Kanye singing "I'll be honest we all liars" and "Guess who's going to jail tonight" at the top of his lungs with the help of a choir and although there is a lot going on you can still feel this sonic emptiness, which is a common theme for every single song here. The track even lacks one of the key elements of hip hop being drums, which are instead placed by their own at the end of the track. This first real song also marks the reunion of the throne with a fantastic Jay Z verse being the only sign of hip hop so far. "Jail" perfectly sets up the record and we only go deeper into the abyss from here

"God Breathed" is up next and this track is excellent and a favorite of mine. The obnoxious bass line demands your attention, Kanye sounds menacing repeating "I Know God Breathed On This" with intensity making the song feel bigger than life, the choir is haunting and Vory sounds amazing on this. On the second half of this track Kanye experiments with ambience something he's doesn't do often (only example I can think about is "Bad News" from "808s & Heartbreak")

"Off The Grid" is one of the hardest songs I've ever heard. The chorus is loud and very memorable and everybody without exception contributes to the track incredibly. Not only does this cut transcend trap but also drill having 2 of the biggest names from each genre featured. Carti sounds manic screaming at the top of his lungs over this incredible instrumental and delivers an energetic verse during which you can even hear his chains clinking. The beat immediately switches to drill after his verse with 808 slides and drill hi hats. Fivio raps his ass off, this man hasn't ever sounded this good. Finally Ye somehow tops everything that just happened with one of his best verses "First it go viral, then they get digital / Then they get critical, no, I'm not doin' no interview / Mask on my face, you can't see what I'm finna do"

"Hurricane" is one of the most well known and anticipated leaks of the decade. Originally created for the unreleased "Yandhi", this song has been remixed dozens of times and has probably featured at some point basically everyone in the industry but this version somehow manages to be the best yet. The sonic emptiness and this feel of a divine abyss is really apparent in this final version of the track while it features an artist that is currently also exploring similar purgatorial themes, The Weeknd. Lil Baby and Ye go in with great verses and The Weeknd kills the chorus with the assistance of the Sunday service choir

"Praise God" begins with a recording of one of Donda's speeches introducing an insane haunting trap beat. Travis and Kanye have amazing chemistry on the first half and the addition of Donda's vocals in the track's incredible chorus is genius. However, the highlight of "Praise God" is Baby Keem. This man comes in and steals the show with his always energetic delivery, switching about 8 flows and styles in the meantime and ends the track off with fireworks

"Jonah" although being a more lowkey moment on the album is fantastic. It's a more introspective cut, slowing down the pace after the previous adrenaline rush. The chorus is catchy as hell and Vory, Lil Durk and Kanye all have great, passionate verses talking about loss as any type of drum is replaced with what sounds like heart beeps. "Ok Ok" immediately picks up the pace having Kanye using a very modern, melodic flow and pulling it off flawlessly. The instrumental is very dark and Lil Yachty delivers what might be his best verse ever

"Junya" with Carti is so damn fun! "Believe What I Say" is pure bliss. A snippet for this track was released about a year ago and ever since I was hoping it would see an official release and here we are and it's even better than I expected. This man sampled a Lauryn Hill classic and turned it into a Hip House summer jam. Loved the verses and Buju Banton's parts but the melody in this track is what got me replaying it constantly. The chorus is one of the best and catchiest in Kanye's discography and that's a very heavy statement

"24" is STUNNING my goodness! Kanye's vocals are very emotional, the pitched down choir sounds angelic and the whole song feels extremely cathartic and beautiful. The piano is light and especially the second part of this track is what gets me. When Kanye starts singing "I know you're alive and God's not finished" followed by the godly bridge is like heaven for the ears and one of the biggest emotional highs on the record. "24" is easily one of the best here and a top 10 Kanye song in my opinion

Up next is "Remote", a psychedelic, otherworldly trap cut featuring a very fun and catchy chorus and a great Young Thug feature. "Moon" is transcendent. Don Toliver, Kid Cudi and Kanye sound amazing together. Sonically this song is beyond words. The guitar is perfect and the part when they all sing together is jaw dropping. Not to mention the lyrics are heartbreaking "I wanna go to the moon / Don't leave so soon / How could I get through?"

"Heaven And Hell" is pure apocalypse. It's kind of the centrepiece transitioning the record into act 2. Kanye goes off once again rapping " Devil lay down, devil lay down, this that level make devils pray now" right before one of the most epic drops I've ever heard, as a choir is introduced singing "Heaven and Hell is on earth" over Kanye's voice. He even brings back the gun noises he used on "Feel The Love" near the end of the track to make everything even wilder. On the "Donda" interlude Kanye remembers Donda once again through a recording of one of her speeches. This interlude is dramatic as hell. The piano is haunting and the choir is grand. The part where Kanye harmonizes with a female voice always gets me feeling like a crash to reality. Ye after being hopeful that he will forever be with his mother, starts doubting he will ever see her again, almost like a loss of faith

"Keep My Spirit Alive" is genuinely a very pretty cut. Ye delivers a very soothing, passionate chorus and the verses from himself and Griselda's Westside Gunn and Conway The Machine are very personal. Hearing Westside Gunn making gun noises over this beautiful instrumental could never not put a smile on my face. "Jesus Lord" is already one of the best Kanye songs to date. The instrumental is extremely atmospheric and Kanye delivers what might be his best verse ever. The vocal delivery is awe inspiring as you can feel his pain through his voice. "Mama, you was the life of the party / I swear you brought life to the party / When you lost your life, it took the life out the party" and "And if I talk to Christ, can I bring my mother back to life? / And if I die tonight, will I see her in the afterlife?" are just some of the many heart wrenching lines Ye delivers on this masterpiece of a verse. Jay Electronica comes in next with what could be his own best verse. The rhyme schemes, flow and technicality here are crazy while Jay Elec spits bar after bar "Earthquakes will strike this nation for what Bush did to Rwanda / What the Clintons did to Haiti and Downing Street did to Ghana". The song ends with a spoken word interlude by Larry Hoover Jr thanking Kanye for taking his father's case to the Oval office

"New Again" marks a change of pace and theme for "Donda". This is a moment of realisation and catharsis as Kanye begs to be forgiven and reborn singing "Make me new again, make me new again" over luscious synths. This rebirth takes place in the outro as the Sunday service choir repeats "Make me new again" and closes off the track fantastically. "Tell The Vision" serves as a victory lap for the rebirth that took place on the previous track as Pop Smoke sings "We made it, thank god that I made it, look momma I made it". This works as Kanye speaking to Donda but is also very ironic because in Pop Smoke's case he was the one that passed away and left his mother behind contradicting Kanye's situation. Sonically the song is basically an alternate version of "Tell The Vision" off Pop's latest album but mostly works as an interlude with thematic purposes here

"Lord I Need You" is a beautiful cut. The parts where the choirs comes in are just lovely and Kanye raps about Kim and his family. My favorite moment of the track has to be the singing part near the end as Kanye's vocals sound better than ever. "Pure Souls" is the biggest bop here. Roddy Ricch delivers one of his best performances singing "The truth is only what you get away with" and "I cannot sell my soul". Kanye's verse is honestly fantastic! "It ain't how it used to be this the new me so get used to me" is infectious. From the happy beat to the melodic deliveries "Pure Souls" is the most easy going and danceable song on "Donda". Everything just gets even better on the jaw dropping outro by Shenseea

"Come To Life" is pure brilliance. It's the true outro of the record, as the final track "No Child Left Behind" serves more as an epilogue. I can't begin to describe what is happening here. "Come To Life" is one of the best songs I've ever heard. Some sort of church service is going on in the background with people thanking god and even speaking in tongues at some parts. This is not only the climax of "Donda" but also the sonic climax of Kanye's career so far. The vocal delivery is stunning and emotional and the song writing is perfect. Kanye talks about problems with himself, his family, death and more. He sings "Gotta make my mark 'fore I'm gone / I don't wanna die alone" and "Floatin' on a silver lining / Yeah, you know where to find me" on the first verse of the track over stunning grand synths. On the second part of the chorus the beautiful synths are now louder as a gorgeous piano joins in. The stunning and extremely cathartic piano solo continues with blazing synths as Kanye's final verse is introduced. This verse is some of the best writing he's ever done

"You know where to find me, they cannot define me
So they crucify me, how so fazed when I leave?
Come and purify me, come and sanctify me
You the air that I breathe, the ultra-ultralight beam
Brought a gift to Northie, all she want was Nikes
This is not about me, God is still alive, so I'm free
Floatin' on a silver lining, floatin' on a silver lining
So when I'm free, I'm free"

The whole song is pure genius. Sonically gorgeous and lyrically brilliant. Every single line is honestly worth mentioning. "Come To Life" is the most important song in Kanye's career and easily one of his best (if not his best). A true beacon of hope

I also have to mention the incredible music video for the song that basically is the live listening event that took place in Chicago's Soldier Field, as a replica of Kanye's childhood home is built in the center of the stadium with a cross placed on the roof in which house's basement het gets caught on fire in the middle of the video. I also recommend watching the videos for "24" and "Heaven and Hell" are even better and serious contenders for this best music video with the second being a visual explanation of the way I described the record and that is a divine dystopia

"No Child Left Behind" is the final track on "Donda" and it's a stunner. Vory sounds angelic once again and Kanye ends the record of with fireworks singing "He's done miracles on me" continued by an ambient outro that will forever be tied with the second listening party in Mercedes Benz Stadium where at the start of the song Ye started ascending in the stadium

Now the 3 deluxe tracks unfortunately weren't placed somewhere in the original tracklist but randomly so we don't know in which part of the record they belong. Nevertheless, all 3 are fantastic. "Up From The Ashes" although the weaker of the bunch in my opinion is just fantastic. The underwater-like strings give the track a really aquatic, calm aesthetic, Kanye's singing is beautiful and the choir is also amazing making the song feel like a very strong "Jesus Is King" song. "Never Abandon Your Family" could be the saddest song in Kanye's discography and he has many great sad songs. Not only are the lyrics heartbreaking, but mixing that with Donda's speech, the high pitched electric guitar and the almost cry-like delivery make "Never Abandon Your Family" a Kanye masterclass and a prime example of why Kanye has some of the best deliveries in modern music and that's raw, uncensored passion. Lastly, "Life Of The Party" needs no introduction at this point. The most hyped track of the year, a collaboration between Ye and Andre 3000 and although it couldn't go wrong it had no right being this good. The instrumental is dreamy and haunting at the same time and that 3 stacks verse is so so special. Especially that first half hits like a damn truck. Kanye's verse is incredible as well as since I heard the original leak of the track without Andre the line "Straight From Shibuya on some zen / we back ramped up we on ten" has been embedded in my brain. The leaked version was a big disappointment considering this had somehow been turned into a diss track but I'm super grateful it was finished and made into its best version

Kanye West has done it again and I couldn’t be happier. “Donda” is another trophy to add to his already very decorated discography and a record his mother would be proud to be named after

Favorites—> Everything

Track Ratings
1Donda Chant / 100
2Jail / 100
3God Breathed / 100
4Off The Grid / 100
5Hurricane / 100
6Praise God / 100
7Jonah / 90
8Ok Ok / 95
9Junya / 85
10Believe What I Say / 100
1124 / 100
12Remote Control / 90
13Moon / 100
14Heaven and Hell / 100
15Donda / 100
16Keep My Spirit Alive / 95
17Jesus Lord / 100
18New Again / 95
20Lord I Need You / 95
21Pure Souls / 100
22Come to Life / 100
23No Child Left Behind / 100
1 Comment
Gamato review file akoma kai an den mou erese toso to album oso esena
Sign in to comment.
More Reviews by Manos
Kanye West - VULTURES 1
Mar 1, 2024
Rate and review albums along with the AOTY community. Create an account today.
Become a Donor
Donor badge, no ads + more benefits.
More Reviews

February Playlist