Discussing the politics surrounding Kanye West’s Donda

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@kanyewest (via twitter)

One of Kanye West’s multiple options for the cover of his new album, Donda.

Early on August 29, 2021, Donda, Kanye West’s tenth studio album, claimed its spot as the second biggest album debut on Spotify. With the constant change of titles and tracklists throughout the initial production of the album, many of which were announced and quickly retracted by West himself via Twitter, and his history of missing release dates for previous albums, Donda caught the public eye through the intrigue of the project.

Through West’s utilization of pre-release “listening events,” taking place in Atlanta and Chicago, he grew the mystique around the album. Part of the reason for the anticipation of the release was simply the sheer strangeness of the live events. One Atlanta show, consisting of an absent West, left fans in the dark for hours as they either sat idly by in stadium seats or tuned in from the comfort of their own homes to witness an underwhelming and frankly, quite odd performance.

Nonetheless, the artist’s performance in Chicago was polarizing; it was a show consisting of a replica of West’s childhood home, alongside the artist himself being lit on fire. Besides the outlandish happenings of the physical performances themselves, each live listening event held a different version of Donda—including different mixes, scrambling of track orders and their lengths, as well as different features.

Through West’s utilization of pre-release “listening events,” taking place in Atlanta and Chicago, he grew the mystique around the album.”

Even further throughout the Chicago live listening event, Kim Kardashian made an appearance on stage in a wedding gown. Although the couple’s divorce is not yet finalized, the two estranged as West’s battle with his mental health, recent political involvement, and public controversy came to a head.

To further prove the buzz that the circumstances of and around the album have created, conspiracies surrounding the intention and purpose of Donda have grown popular on the internet since the first live event in Atlanta. TikTok has joined the conversation by storm, some fans even claiming to have experienced strange “dreams” that consist vividly of West stealing souls. Although this is an extreme example, many of the conversations being had seem to be feeding into a larger concept that the live listening events act as some sort of “ritual” or way for West to contact his late mother.

Besides the controversy fueled by West’s listeners, the artist himself briefly posted an angry message on his Instagram, claiming that Universal Music Group released Donda without his consent. Whether this is true or not remains to be seen, but the means of the release are knowledgeable curious. As West mentioned in his post, it was proven that “Jail Pt. 2” was not included in the initial 8 A.M. release of the album, while other listeners were claiming that, shortly after West’s statement, the album disappeared entirely, only to show up later on with all the tracks listed and available.

Not only has the release of Donda sparked a multitude of ideas, feelings, and questions in the hearts of fans and critics alike, but it has also fueled the flames of an old fight involving Drake and West. Drake’s new album, Certified Lover Boy, was announced to be released on September 3, 2021—the exact same day that West had yet again pushed his release date onto.

It remains to be seen whether or not Donda’s release was rushed by Universal Music Group to beat out Drake’s project, or if it may have even been a decision made by West himself, but it all goes to show the impact this album has had as it has taken on a life of its own once placed in the public’s hands. Opinions of the quality and flow of the music overall and together vary, but one thing remains for certain: Donda has influenced a cultural shift with its enigmatic yet impactful effects on the music industry.