40 Kanye West: Donda

2019 #64, 2019 #72, 2018 #12, 2016 #36, 2013 #4 (solo) 2018 #8 (Kids See Ghosts)

Seriously, wake up Mr. West.

Some people really rate ‘The Life of Pablo’. Not me, personally. I think it has cheeky splashes of genius amongst its giant conceptual mess, but if we were to compare it to an actual Picasso it would be a part way beautiful Les Demoiselles d’Avignon only with each of the women’s faces replaced by flaming poo emojis, some pencil sketchings still unfilled and a blank canvas for the unfinished bottom third. I did and do really rate ‘Ye’, which is a wonderfully concise and incisive record concerning West’s mental struggles and his first emotionally raw and conscious presentation of his bipolar disorder. But not everyone agrees. Few people agree. And it was largely ignored at the end of year back slapping events, with it still today scoffed at as a undercooked and uninspired minor addition to his canon. Everyone hated ‘Jesus is King’ because that was a fetid pile of donkey faeces. We all agree on that. It’ll soon be nine years since West released a largely agreed upon classic record. Apart from everyone loved 2018’s amazing ‘Kids See Ghosts’ album, but let’s ignore that or lay it 100% at the feet of Kid Cudi, because otherwise my snappy and incisive introductory paragraph doesn’t make sense.

(these are all fan made versions of the ‘Donda’ album cover, by the way, because I thought you all deserved to see what a bit of fucking effort looked like)

Well, you people who hated ‘Ye’ have a lot to answer for, because ‘Donda’ is pretty much a complete revocation of everything that album stood for – the new album’ is long, it’s slippery and unfocused, it frustratingly ducks away from any clear personal meanings, and it’s all over the fucking place. Ah, but don’t think you’re innocent of any crimes by association here, ‘Life of Pablo’ fans, you applauded Kanye when he released his last behemoth of unfocused ideas, creative messes and unfocused splattergun of reference points. Oh you like that shit, huh?? Says West. How’d you like it if I increased the size of that haystack tenfold and pained all of those needles of ingenuity straw coloured so they’re even harder to find!? Oh, and I’ll also fill this haystack with homophobics, domestic abusers and sex offenders. Just for the lolz. Also, I’ll denounce Trump, but make you yearn for the days when wearing a MAGA hate on top of an especially gormless face was the most problematic thing about me you needed to defend. No, this has little to do with either liking ‘Life of Pablo’ or that elaborate haystack metaphor, because fuck you all if you ever start to think you’re beginning to think you’ve started to get any sort of explanation for me! Not you ‘Ye’ lovers though, you alright.

Or maybe not. Perhaps this was more Kanye’s attempt to reclaim the fire and magic of the ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy‘ album, his absolute creative zenith. There’s a feeling that a lot of these songs were envisioned being far bigger sounding than they eventually turned out. There at least spaces where bells and whistles might be. There might not be that record’s highs but, goodness me, the breadth! Never mind the quality, feel the weight! Kanye even attempts to assemble a wider cast to rival ‘MBDTF’s star studded cameos. Young Thug! Playboy Carti! The Weeknd! Jay-Z! Jay Electronica! Ty Dolla $ign! You’ve heard of these people! Imagine what how famous this album would be! KayCyy! Francis and the Lights! Stalone! Baby Keem! You’ve… maybe not heard of these people! But maybe that’s Sylvester Stalone! That’d be pretty lit, right?! Travis Scott! At time of writing there was no issues with this guy at all! DaBaby! At time of wri…! Hmm? What’s that you say? More than a month before the album’s release you say? Grossness intensified you say? Well, that’s a shame… But still, check out all the other men and women guest stars! What’s that you say? Ah. Sorry, misplaced collective noun there. One woman. Syleena Johnson. For possibly the least impactful guest spot on the album. Well it is an album (apparently) dedicated to Kanye’s loving mother, so I guess that’s what she would have wanted. She would have absolutely wanted convicted domestic abuser (plus all round prick of many delightful degrees) Chris Brown and Marilyn Manson, a man accused of an astonishing array of sexual abuses, on the record! I must really meet this God of Kanye’s who forces him to remove all the swearing on the album but is enough of a diamond geezer to let a lot of fucked up shit fly, that heaven’s gotta be one respectfully spoken den of toxic male rage.

So, erm, does he successfully construct ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy 2.0’? Hard to say, really.

But, Jesus fucking Christ, is that even what he’s going for?? Who fucking knows with Kanye these past few years what he’s ever aiming to do? Maybe one of the reasons that I rate ‘Ye’ so highly is that it’s his only album since 2013’s incredible Yeezus’ where a clear theme and obvious end product that he’s satisfied with is evident. It may have only been 23 minutes long, but they were 23 minutes that you were confident Kanye had a clear plan for and was happy with the end product of. Every other album in that time has acted like the ‘Life of Pablo’ model was something worth aping (again, who’s responsible? You fucking are). Jumbled and everchanging track listings, clear announcements quickly followed by startled rebukes, release followed by an announcement that, no, hang on, fucked that up, here’s the real album. No. Wait. Did I remember to include the Crash Test Dummies duet? Track five is actually track seven, track seven is actually track twelve, track twelve is actually track nine, track nine is actually a limited edition underwear line. That limited edition underwear line is actually the album cover. The album cover is actually really problematic. Crash Test Dummies?? Who the fuck mentioned Crash Test Dummies?! Quit putting words in my mouth and stifling my creativity. Kanye tinkered with this record endlessly, taking it way past its original July 2020 release, working on all those… erm… what, exactly? The finished record may not quite sound like a throwaway jam recorded between a cheese toastie and a crafty wank, but there’s certainly not almost three years of studious preparation evident here. And maybe, this isn’t even what he fucking wanted to release anyway, as soon as it went live he was taking to his angry chamber to scream about Universal not releasing the album he wanted, mainly by taking off the homophobes and sex offenders. Damn this woke culture. I had a similar dispute when I released my last album when the PC cancel culture demanded my label remove David Berkowitz‘s musical contributions. Hey! Before you judge, I was always very clear that me and Davey fundamentally disagreed on a lot of political and theological issues, but that doesn’t mean I have to ignore an absolute pearl of a bass player when I see him. Son of Jam, we used to call him. I would honestly treat Kanye’s claims of record company interference with a lot more seriousness if he gave any indication whatso-fucking-ever that he had a concrete idea of what this record would sound like at any point.

Having said that… Yeah, not a bad album at all, really. Bit too long. If you’ve never heard the record before – perhaps because you’re far less forgiving than me of Kanye’s abhorrent antics that you don’t assume he’s smart enough to be trolls, or you simply assume with all the evidence in the fucking world that it’ll be a complete dumpster fire of aborted artistic foetuses* – I guarantee you’ll be ever so surprised with how good it sounds. You’ll notice straight away that there are absolute high points, and that even the low points are by no means terrible. You might even start to question… is this a better album than ‘Life of Pablo’…?

(*it’s not that. But, at the same time… It very much is)

It’s only fair to warn you though that, however late you come to any of these conclusions, there’s at least another hour of the record to go. 109 [ONE HUNDRED AND NINE] minutes is a bit excessive… no, this is no time for litotes: it’s absolutely fucking absurd. The fucking White Album is 93 minutes long, and even that probably had space for four or five dogshit lullabies called Krocodile Kinkshame or some shit. Yeah, that’s right, ‘litotes’, the opposite of hyperbole. Don’t get mad at me just because your lack of vocabulary shames you.

So, what is Kanye? Why is Kanye? Despite everything, he’s still far from a busted flush, and his next record is still good for 1’500 words or so in the next Necessary Evil it inevitably turns up in. But is he even an artist these days? I’m honestly not sure, as he goons about onstage with Marilyn Manson like the dimmest sort of Reddit edgelord. Kanye West wishes he were white so he could say the N word in the most needlessly offensive manner. He wishes he were a poop emoji. He wishes he were the human incarceration of a shitpost. He has absolutely no wishes relating to music.

3 thoughts on “40 Kanye West: Donda

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