Behind the scenes to ‘Donda’ album review!

If you know anything about journalism, you know A LOT gets edited out, and MUCH GETS LOST IN TRANSLATION.

In honor of my debut music review, published on 9. 2. 2021, I felt it was only suitable to bring the exclusive thoughts here – my platform.

I must say it’s a blessing to be back writing on this platform. However, sharing my ‘unedited,’ ‘in depth’ thoughts of Kanye West’s Donda is even more surreal. 

It’s too much of a ‘full circle moment to ignore because, in 2018, I did a concert review on G Herbo’s Humble Beast Tour.

I could barely get folks to read “Man Now,” and now, three years later, my thoughts on Donda were published-published.

(Folks paid to consume my thoughts on something I’m deeply passionate about [that being music + culture] let that simmer).

So with that, let’s dive right into my notes for the “Donda‘ album fit for Kanye enthusiasts” review.

“Imagine being the wallpaper in Kanye West’s therapist office. Donda, the rap icon’s 10th studio album, unfolds like a regurgitation of truths and secreted spilled within,” – Bri’on Whiteside / The Blade

Six hours in total is the time I spent reviewing the album. Donda itself clocks in just under two hours and being the overachiever I am. Nevertheless, I took the time to handwrite 6 pages of notes (front +back) and then the following three hours processing the album’s sentiments.

In short, this album is not for the weak at heart.

I wish I could say there was a method to the madness (the three listening parties, posted and deleted tweets, etc.) leading up to the album.

But, I simply cannot. The stalled release dates set my anticipation high, and while I won’t lowball the album with a poor score, I will say it’s really for Ye enthusiasts to revel over.

I’ve heard many question the album’s message, and my answer is concise [unlike its orchestration].

This album is a safe space for YE to purge.

In my original draft, I noted :

“Kanye’s verses feel underwhelming compared to his features… however, he’s been know to orchestrate iconic moments, and Donda feels like just that. 

A moment of truth [returning to the wallpaper/therapy idea] for not just West but his featured peers.

The album is a confessional for rappers like Lil Baby, who deep dives into lingering doubts amid remarkable success in “Hurricane” [Track 5].

“Yeah, walkin’ on the bridge, I threw my sins over the deep end

Sippin’ ’til my stomach hurt, this month I done lost three friends

Early mornin’, brainstormin’, normally I can’t sleep in

Sometimes I just wanna restart it, but it all depends

If ima be that same young, hungry ***** from West End

Wrote my hardest wrongs and the crazy part, I ain’t have no pen”

– Lil Baby “Hurricane” Donda

The same rings true for Chicago-Rapper referred to as The Voice, Lil Durk’s.

On “Jonah” [Track 7]

 Durk confides in fans about the impact of his brother DThang’s death.

“Kanye and Jay still brothers, they both billionaires

And we ain’t see it, I lost my brother when we was millionaires

I wasn’t scared to die, but him, that was my biggest fear

I got you son and your daughter like you still here

Know how it feel to lose a brother, we got a bond still

Twenty-six years, pops got out to see his son killed,”

– Lil Durk “Jonah” Donda

My eyes watered when I heard his voice come on the track. Shortly after, my heart followed suit, sinking when “I lost my brother” played through my AirPods. 

I thought, ‘my God,’ this is the type of consciousness and transparency we look for in music.

[Sentiments from my original draft] 

“So much pain is humanized in this song. It truly humanizes the ‘darker moments of life, reminding listeners that we all endure suffering regardless of our tax bracket.

Call him crazy all you want, but West possesses this unique freedom to be fully present in whatever space he actively is in — to me, Donda was a gift for peers to tap into the same water well.

Although the album in one sitting is sapping, I walked away with a light heart and a sense of hope.

Engaging with this album in its totality is encountering the penitents of West and guest artists.

Aside from the weighted matters of the album, West’s decision to leave off names of featured artists is peculiar, to say the least.

Again, some will call it narcissism, and while I can’t speak to the root [as a consumer], I can say I didn’t mind.

It’s a maze-like approach testing the strength of the listener’s ear; we literally must decipher featured artists since the tracklist doesn’t mention a single name.”

– Bri’on Whiteside / The Blade

In my brain, it worked as an interactive component. Without a name on the tracklist, I had no preconceived notions [which appears messy if you’re viewing it from a business POV].

This tactic allowed me to assess my thoughts on each featured verse unbiased. By the way, each featured KILLED, in my opinion.

Vory’s — singer, rapper, songwriter hailing from Houston — voice lends itself as a landmark for the album.

His unique crooning is found sporadically throughout the album, serving almost as a compass amid the album’s meandering.

His sharp tones pierce through the chaos and lead listeners back to the focal point of redemption.

NOW, before I close out, I wanted to give my admirable moments [aka the stand-out tracks].

“Jesus Lord” [Track 17]

This song feels like the heart of the album. 

If I had to narrow down a single message from the album, I believe this song is it.

West addresses the winding road of his hope and will to live following the death of his mother.

It is ultimately lending itself to this overarching concept of triumph and salvation.

“You been down so much you don’t even know what’s upstairs (Jesus)

Suicidal thoughts got you wonderin’ what’s up there (Lord)

And while I introduce the party, you say it’s up there

Too many pills, so much potions, so much pain, too many emotions

And everything that you do good, it just go unnoticed (Jesus)

Kanye West. “Jesus Lord”, Donda

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 (Jesus)

That woman rode with me like a Harley (Lord)

– Kanye West, “Jesus Lord”, Donda 

The repetition of “Jesus”, “Lord” gives way to West’s full concept of redemption being available through Jesus Christ.

“Tell me if you know someone that needs (Jesus, Lord)

Now we’ve been through a lot of things

– Kanye West, “Jesus Lord”, Donda 

“Moon” [Track 13]

As a West and Kid Cudi fan, this felt deeply nostalgic.

Don Toliver’s voice entering the song sets the tone for a night drive, considering life’s wonders under a moon-lit sky.

However, the sounds of Cudi humming felt like a baptism. I felt dipped back into my adolescence and the sense of innocence I’ve since lost with age.

In my original draft, I jotted down:

Transmutation/ homecoming/ becoming/ ethereal/ otherworldly/ a sonical experience.

“…here we go strappin’ we up

Never forget all the memories

Sittin’, I sip out my cup

Thinkin’ I should be a better me

Truly I’m blessed from the start

So much to say in these melodies, oh

Stare at the sky, the moon singin’ sweet

Oh, my God, such a sweet moment

Angels, they say I’m not ever weak….”

– Kid Cudi, “Moon”, Donda

I can be biassed as a Cudi fan, but it’s always sweet to hear from Scott Mescudi.

His POV always resonates deeply with me, and I was thrilled to see West provided another collab, as I hoped.

This song, for me, is a casual yet whimsical trip to a daydream.

All in all, I’d say this album felt like West’s attempt to clean his slate. Whether he achieved that is genuinely between him and God.

However, as a fan of his genius, I am curious to see what he’ll offer us next?

BW also known as Wordsmithbri’.

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