Kanye West’s 10th studio album, “Donda,” released on Aug. 31, is a strange, confusing collection of 27 songs that is weighed down by its large number of featured artists and seemingly random, cryptic references to Christianity.
The album is named after West’s late mother, Donda West, who died in 2007, according to BBC News. The first track “Donda Chant” features a woman repeating “Donda” in an unpredictable but loosely rhythmic manner.
It is not made clear what this is meant to represent, if anything, and is unsettling and annoying. It is a track that would be an instant skip on a playlist and does not function well even as an intro to the album. Presumably, it is meant to be a tribute to his mother, as is the whole album, but it comes off as a little cheesy and a little uncomfortable.
“Donda,” the album’s 15th track, features spoken word material from Donda West herself. This is a very creative way for West to incorporate his mother into his album and is emotional to listen to at first as you begin to realize who is speaking. However, the song ends with a chorus repeating, “and the kingdom, the power, the glory.” This religious reference seems very out of place in a song that is spoken by his mother about West.
With a whopping 27 songs, the album lacks direction and drags on. Four of the songs, “Jail,” “Ok Ok,” “Junya” and “Jesus Lord,” had two parts, with the second part of each track being listed at the end of the album. It is unclear why these songs need two parts. The second tracks are redundant of the first ones, although technically different in some aspects.
This strange repetition of music gives the impression that West couldn’t pick between the two slightly differing versions of the song, so he decided to include both on the album. A potential explanation for the length of the massive album is that it is so full of collaborators. The volume of featured artists on “Donda” takes away from the emotional energy of the album because it is unlikely that all the featured artists have had the exact same emotional traumas or difficulties.
This album follows in the footsteps of West’s “Jesus is King” album in that there are references to Christianity throughout. However, these references seem random and are only loosely related to the content of the songs. Additionally, none of the songs seem to really have a religious or moral meaning behind them; it is as if West just sprinkled in some religious terms and phrases where convenient.
One such example of a religious reference that does not really pertain to the subject matter of the song is in “Off the Grid.” The final stanza of the song reads, “Some say Adam could never be Black/'Cause a Black man'll never share his rib.” This line has really nothing to do with the song which (although still very scattered content-wise) mainly focuses on West’s closer relationship with God and how where he has come from has shaped him.
There are some songs which are overtly religious, like “Jesus Lord” and “No Child Left Behind,” but lyrically the songs still lack coherence. “No Child Left Behind” has one verse which basically states that West will only count on God and no one else. The song then concludes with West repeating “he’s done miracles on me” six times. The song leaves the listener questioning what the connection between these statements is.
Musically, the album is standard for what West’s music usually sounds like. Solid rhythmic beats that are characteristic of rap music dominate the album, although there are some tracks that have gospel music influences. These cases generally coincide with songs and moments that reference God.
Much of “Donda” is incoherent words and phrases strung together. Although musically, it is decent to listen to if one is a fan of rap but the lyrics are severely lacking. The religious messages are as incoherent as the lyrics themselves and do not seem to be very intentionally placed. Overall, the album is more confusing than enjoyable to listen to.
RATING: 2/5 STARS