Jack’s Tracks: “Donda”

Jack Trimmer and Vince Melucci

Kanye West’s tribute to his mother, “Donda”, has been long anticipated for many years. West wore a full-face mask during three live-streamed listening parties prior to the release of his album. During this, he kept quiet, not saying a word or anything on social media. West has a history of making changes to albums up to the last minute, and “Donda” was not an exception. After being delayed from its initial release date of 2020, and again almost a year later, we were surprised when it was released on August 29th.  West’s Instagram claimed that he did not intend for the album to release on that morning and that Universal Studios pushed it through without his approval. Unfinished or not, the 27 tracks and 1 hour and 47-minute runtime of “Donda” do not disappoint.

The first track on West’s 10th studio album is just his mother’s name repeated over and over. Immediately after we get “Jail” featuring Jay Z. After this track comes one of the top hits from the album, “Hurricane” with The Weekend. Other notable features include Playboi Carti, Baby Keem, Travis Scott, Lil Durk, Lil Yachty, Young Thug, Don Toliver, Kid Cudi, Ariana Grande and Da Baby. Other favorite tracks of ours include “Ok Ok”, “Off the Grid” and “Moon.”

This multitude of features is reminiscent of his anticipated 2016 release, “The Life of Pablo,” “Donda” is like a movie with a superstar cast, with everyone playing their role perfectly. With a long run time, it certainly feels like one. West is known for his inventive, maximalist approach to hip hop, yet with this release, it seems like he’s breaking past a new barrier. With Donda, the instrumentals are stripped back, most of them lacking any type of energetic hi-hats or claps. This simplicity is something we haven’t seen anywhere else in his career. Even “The College Dropout.” If you told someone back in 2004 that West would become one of the most influential figures in hip-hop history, constantly incorporating other genres, and samples, they wouldn’t believe you. “Donda” almost feels like West’s career coming full circle. It’s like he’s exclaiming he can rap on any beat you give him, no matter how simple. He kicked off his career with “Hey Mama,” and now he seemingly ends it by saying goodbye to her. “Donda” seems like a perfect send-off to one of the most fruitful hip-hop careers ever. We’re not expecting another release anytime soon, or ever for that matter, but with the sporadic nature of West, you can never be certain.