Kanye West presented his new album, “Donda,” Thursday night at a quintessentially lavish event held at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta and streamed live on Apple Music.
The 44-year-old rapper-producer-entrepreneur’s 10th solo studio LP, named after his late mother, Donda West, follows the 2019 Christian theme “Jesus Is King” (which had its own premiere at the Inglewood Forum) and comes after a tumultuous few years in West’s personal life that saw him launch his touring Sunday Service gospel series, embrace President Trump’s divisive politics – then mount a baffling campaign against Trump for the Oval Office – and stand down separate from his wife, Kim Kardashian, with whom West shares four young children.
Despite the ongoing divorce proceedings, Kardashian and the children are said to be in Atlanta.
“Donda” features guest appearances from Lil Baby, Pusha T, Playboi Carti, Roddy Ricch, and Travis Scott, among others, as well as a worm out of nowhere from Jay-Z, West’s longtime nemesis. Here are 13 instant takeouts from the album, set to release at 9 p.m. PT.
1. A sign that West and Jay-Z – former collaborators whose relationship had cooled off in recent years – may have reconciled comes at the start of the album in a line about the two being “Always brothers”. But few people probably expected Jay’s cameo in the album’s grandiose hard-rock-style closing track, where he raps, “Hova and Yeezus love Moses and Jesus.”
2. “Donda” intersects with a dozen tracks and more interludes of lyrics from the rapper’s mother, who died in 2007 following surgery. Among his thoughts: what his son “meant to a generation” and the importance of unconditional love.
3. Several tracks on the album appear to touch on West’s divorce, including one in which he refers to “attorney’s fees” and another in which the rapper sings “I’m losing my family” against a searing synth line. As those lines echoed through the speakers during Thursday’s play, West – who wore a bank robber-style mask all over his head – fell to his knees on the stadium floor.
4. West also continues to rap about his relationship with God in “Donda”. In one piece, he promises to “repent for everything I am going to do again”; In “No Child Left Behind,” which he previewed in an earlier Beats by Dre commercial in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday, West said, “He worked wonders on me.”
5. Speaking of the NBA Finals, West at one point refers to champion Milwaukee Bucks and their star player, Giannis Antetokounmpo – solid proof, as well as a tweet from Jay’s longtime engineer- Z, Young Guru, claiming Jay-Z recorded his verse Thursday at 4 p.m., that West finished the album very recently.
6. The Atlanta event was a lot darker than its rowdy, stage-filled event “The Life of Pablo” at Madison Square Garden in New York City in 2016. Yes, it was extremely late (and maybe even on the way). to complete the album on call time), but the crowd was patient and seemed to react similarly to the layers of grief that permeated this record. Kanye used “Donda” to understand his loneliness and bewilderment, and audiences met him where he was.
7. Although known for years for his inventive beats, West sometimes forgoes drums entirely on his new album, as in a stripped-down track that layers the gruff vocals of the late Pop Smoke on a thundering piano riff.
8. The production offered many breathtaking choices – remember the jokes about Kim getting custody of the 808s during divorce – but the overall mix of gospel church organ and brutal noise took its toll. truly breathtaking moments. On “Donda”, the catharsis and sexy nihilism of “Yeezus” successfully blend with the more heavenly aspirations of “Pablo” and his recent Christian records. Messy and aesthetically difficult to pin down, but very human and very, very Kanye.
9. Throughout the album, West’s vocals oscillate between extremely raw and extremely worked – an indication, perhaps, of his belligerent instincts to cry in public and reclaim his place in a woozy hip-hop ecosystem that ‘he helped create.
10. Despite its erratic, if not disgusting (to much of its audience) politics and behavior in recent years, “Donda” is loaded with top-notch features, even beyond Jay Z’s much-vaunted cameo – Travis Scott, Lil Baby, Playboi Carti, Roddy Ricch and Lil Durk among them (and lines of the late Pop Smoke). However, Kanye’s MAGA mastery may have affected his legacy, it didn’t dampen his peers’ enthusiasm to collaborate.
11. A runway repeats the name of Japanese fashion designer Junya Watanabe over and over again. Great time for Junya!
12. “No Child Left Behind”, a reminder to West’s George W. Bush’s years of disgust reframed by a divorce and the death of his mother, is both a fun and absolutely devastating title.
13. It was Kanye conscious enough to let Jay roast him in the album’s farewell verses. “Stop all that red beanie, we’re coming home,” Hov raps, referring to Kanye’s support for Trump with the soft but firm tone of an old friend who has enough history and authority to tell you that you’ve had enough and call yourself an Uber. No matter how arrogant Kanye was, he also never lost his self-critical streak: “He was a hero after Katrina but that dyke dried up,” he recalls in a song. Is it the record that puts things back in place?