“Donda” shows Kanye’s return to musical consistency

Owen Reimer, Entertainment Editor

Following an album announcement over a year ago, multiple pushbacks, and three stadium listening party livestreams, Kanye West’s 12th album “Donda” was released August 29. The 27 track long, epic–while disjointed, insensitive, and roughly mixed–is easily the best West has sounded in a decade. 

Featured artists are important on “Donda.” Every artist who contributes gives their peak performance, with some artists sounding better than they ever have. Fivio Foreign, someone who has consistently released lackluster music, drops one of the best verses of the album on “Off The Grid,” where he goes for almost three minutes, every line better than the last. Playboi Carti’s intro on this track sets it up perfectly as well, delivering his normal style over an instrumental he normally wouldn’t be on, which works surprisingly well. Jay Z, Vory, Lil Yachty, Jay Electronica, Westside Gunn, and Kid Cudi, among many others, murder their features as well, with everyone bringing their unique energy  and styles to whatever Kanye is doing. 

On some occasions, Kanye is even outshined by others. Roddy Rich and Shenseea on “Pure Souls” both perform emotional verses while West sounds almost out of place. On “Praise God” he is barely present at all, letting Travis Scott and Baby Keem shine. While it works for the song, a Kanye song without Kanye isn’t ideal. 

That being said, Kanye proves on “Donda” that he is still a fully capable rapper, singer, and songwriter. His verse on “Off The Grid” is easily his best verse in years, with classic lines like “Holy water, that’s my beverage” and “They playin’ soccer in my backyard. I think I see Messi.” This moment, along with “Heaven And Hell,” “Hurricane,” “Ok Ok,” and “Believe What I Say” prove that at 44 years old, he can still rap as well as anyone in the industry. 

His singing has improved as well. On “Come To Life”, arguably the best song on the album, he taps into a vocal range I had no clue existed. He sounds emotionally vulnerable and passionate, and the mind-blowing piano in the instrumental adds to the beauty of the track. On “Lord I Need You” he sings about his relationship with Kim Kardashian with an incredibly strong tone and warmth to his voice. It’s a vast change from his auto-tune crooning best defined by “808s & Heartbreak.”

However, the tracklist can be bloated at times. “Donda” has at least five tracks that could have been cut. The worst one is easily “Jail pt 2” where Kanye decided it would be a wonderful idea to give Marilyn Manson (following several sexual assault allegations) and Dababy (who made several homophobic comments recently) a platform perhaps in an attempt to make some sort of grand statement about forgiveness. This choice leaves a sour taste for pretty much anyone who would listen to it. Thankfully, they are relegated to a small portion of a bonus track, so the majority of the album doesn’t suffer. Still, this should have been left off the cut.

Along with this some other tracks just come off as filler. “Tell The Vision” takes vocals from late rapper Pop Smoke, and places them on a beat that doesn’t fit his style at all. It’s poorly mixed, weirdly placed, and doesn’t make sense within the tracklist. “Remote Control” features a strong appearance from Young Thug, but a weak hook from Kanye. The outro features a Globglogabgalab sample as well, which just ruins the rest of the track. These kinds of ideas may have sounded great in West’s head, but translate poorly when applied.

When “Donda” is at it’s best, it’s a powerful statement about grief, a strong testament to Kanye’s ability, and a unique endeavor. Luckily it stays there for the majority of the long runtime, but there are definitely some glaring flaws present. Even with that, the project is wildly better than almost everything Kanye has released as of recent.