Kanye West's 'Donda' Breaks Apple Music Records, Hits No. 1 in 152 Countries

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Variety 30 August, 2021 - 09:05pm 3 views

How many streams does Donda have?

Kanye West's new album Donda has amassed more than 60 million streams on Apple Music in the US on the first day of its release. The much-anticipated and heavily delayed album was released on Sunday 29 August and set a 2021 record for the global streaming service. The IndependentKanye West’s Donda amasses over 60 million streams on Apple Music on the first day

Is Pusha T on Donda?

Kanye West's 'Donda' Album Is Here: Stream It Now Donda features numerous high-profile collaborations, including The Weeknd and Lil Baby (“Hurricane”), Travis Scott (“Praise God”), Young Thug and Pop Smoke (“Tell the Vision”), Kid Cudi (“Moon”), Pusha T, Roddy Ricch and Ariana Grande (“Donda”), and more. billboard.comKanye West's 'Donda' Has Finally Arrived and Fans Are Loving It: See the Best Reactions

Is Jay Z on Donda?

Photo by John Canon via Universal. Kanye West has released his much-anticipated tenth album Donda. ... Largely produced by West, the album features collaborations with Jay-Z, who is back on the album after being replaced with DaBaby on the record's Soldier Field version, and more. thefader.comKanye West releases new album Donda (with the Jay-Z verse)

Is Kid Cudi on Donda?

Over the three listening parties, Donda has featured guest vocalists and rappers like the Weeknd and Lil Baby (“Hurricane”), Travis Scott and Baby Keem (“Praise God”), Young Thug, the late Pop Smoke (“Tell the Vision”), Jay Electronica and the Lox (“Jesus Lord”), Kid Cudi (“Moon”), Pusha T, Roddy Ricch, Ariana Grande ( ... Rolling StoneKanye West Finally Releases ‘Donda’ to Streaming Services

God May Forgive Kanye West, but You Don’t Have To

The Atlantic 30 August, 2021 - 06:35pm

To overcome what ails you, you must surrender. That is the third directive on the famous 12-step road map to sobriety and stability. Recovering from an internal battle that has had external repercussions means deciding “to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God,” according to the Alcoholics Anonymous guidebook, from which multitudes of 12-step programs—treating multitudes of psychological conditions—are modeled. God can mean different things to different people, but in AA’s original conception, the Christian god takes the burden.

Kanye West’s Donda is the sound of such surrender. Ascribing that term to a 27-song album preceded by multiple stadium shows may seem strange, but the hype and grandeur surrounding West’s tenth full-length record highlight that he’s doing something pop stars don’t do very often: fall to their knees, declare existential bankruptcy, and ask for help. There is power—stirring power, ancient power—in that maneuver, and it electrifies some of Donda. But listeners may also feel a disconnect with the album that, West says, his label released against his wishes this past weekend (an unnamed label staffer told Variety that this accusation was “preposterous”). Across an hour and 49 minutes, supposed transcendence comes to feel suspiciously like regression, and surrender like self-exculpation.

The album punctuates an uneasy period for the rapper, who has bulldozed a highway through music, fashion, and politics for more than two decades. In the years after his 2016 album, The Life of Pablo—a chaotic opus about mental struggle—much of the cultural consensus around his value as a public figure began to dissipate. His music became patchier and less widely acclaimed; his oscillating Donald Trump support and presidential run threw off many fans; his mergings of art and Christian evangelism were sometimes cold and inaccessible. Then, in February, his wife, Kim Kardashian, filed for divorce—a development that seemed to confirm many of the anxieties over commitment, family, and fatherhood West had made central to his art all along.

Though known for his filibuster-style interviews and splatter-gun tweets, West has been strikingly quiet since the divorce news broke. Donda’s album art is a black square. Rather than promote it with interviews or speeches, he held three huge, ticketed listening events that felt more like art installations. In front of thousands, West patrolled around a bed, or glowered outside a barricaded house, wearing black clothes resembling commando apparel. He looked cagey, defensive, trapped—until he appeared to ascend to heaven on wires, or emerge from flames into a wedding ceremony. These stunts were simple, obvious, and mythic: Here was a warrior suddenly delivered into peace.

The record itself aches for such a miracle to unfold. After a serene intro of vocal chanting—the album’s title, his late mother’s name, said over and over—“Jail” uses jolting guitars and echoing yells to dramatize rock bottom. As West and Jay-Z twine metaphors about criminality with seemingly real details about marriage and sin, you’re drawn into the album’s narrative—but the effect, like much of Donda, works a little better as cinematic storytelling than as replayable music. The urgent rhythms of “God Breathed” continue the dire mood, and by the end of a multi-minute instrumental breakdown, longtime fans will be drunk with déjà vu. Chopped-up screams, industrial noise—early Donda resembles West’s divisive but great 2013 album, Yeezus.

Indeed, Donda’s sprawl comes off like an alternative-reality package of West’s greatest hits—or, to be harsher, a career’s worth of B-sides. After years of fans pining for the “old Kanye,” West gives them various versions of just that: The College Dropout goofiness on “Keep My Spirit Alive”; 808s & Heartbreak wistfulness on “Moon”; My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’s swarms of guests and choirs throughout the track listing. Stylistic innovation has driven West’s career ’til now, but maybe he conceives of Donda as the album of his life—a capstone, an anthology. He might also be trying to steady his recent career wobbles by reminding the world of the sounds that made him famous. Regardless, most of these new songs would have been second-tier cuts on the earlier albums they evoke.

Donda’s highlights don’t match his previous heights, either—but they’re still pretty good. With crackling verses by Fivio Foreign and Playboi Carti and a detour into the rap subgenre of drill, “Off the Grid” joins West’s canon of classic crew anthems. “Believe What I Say” uses a Lauryn Hill sample and a house bass line to give anyone in a romantic spat something to strut to. “Heaven and Hell” repurposes a groovy ’70s sample for an eerie high. Most significant is a late-album run of gospel anthems: “Come to Life,” whose uplifting piano would be maudlin if it didn’t seem so hard-earned, and the epic “Jesus Lord,” which features testimonials about racial justice from West, the majestically verbose Jay Electronica, and the heartbreakingly eloquent activist Larry Hoover Jr.

Moments like “Jesus Lord” tie Donda to a larger social picture. But generally, the album revolves around West’s personal life. The specifics he shares about his marriage are haunting: “Sixty-million-dollar home, never went home to it,” goes one line. References to addiction, pills, and mental instability abound. So do proclamations of freedom and disses to people who are too “sensitive” to handle his truth. A story emerges about someone persecuted—by a romantic partner and by society—for being himself. West acknowledges that he’s made mistakes, but he doesn’t get into much detail about who wronged whom. Instead he sets up a struggle and simply, repeatedly, says God will fix it.

The history of worship music, which is to say a thick strand of the history of pop music, rests on the faith that—as Kanye’s mom says in one Donda interlude, quoting the poet Gwendolyn Brooks—“it cannot always be night.” But here, West expresses that faith in a way that curtails the momentum, complication, and depth that have marked his best work. It’s really not the listener’s place to quibble with his personal theology. But the searching and repentance that so much religion proscribes feel glaringly minimized here. “Alcohol anonymous, who’s the busiest loser?” he asks on “Hurricane,” but if he’s walked the latter parts of the 12-step journey—those that include making a list of one’s wrongs and hustling to correct them—he doesn’t spend much time sharing about them.

More unsettling: When West teams up with the abuser Chris Brown to rap lines like “I repent for everything I’ma do again” and “Last night don’t count,” it makes West’s conception of God—as a bail bondsman—sound anything but holy. At his third Donda release event, West brought out Marilyn Manson and DaBaby, both of whom feature on the track “Jail Pt. 2.” Manson has denied multiple women’s accusations of rape; DaBaby ended up deleting his apology for saying that people with AIDS are “nasty” (the defiance continues in his Donda lyrics). West’s alliance with such men could signal anything from full endorsement to a gesture of Christian forgiveness. He hasn’t really made a case either way, and his most notorious buddies certainly haven’t been seen working for absolution.

To be left wanting by a nearly two-hour-long album by one of the greatest exhibitionists in the world is not just odd. It’s exhausting. Inevitably and avoidably, Donda’s graceful moments will be outshone by spectacle and conflict. Despite West’s lofty pretenses, his friend Pusha T may have gotten it right in an Instagram post celebrating the album: “This is about power, money, influence and taste … nothing more, nothing less.”

Kanye West’s ‘Donda’ Is a Tribute to Mom Full of People Who Hate Women

Daily Beast 30 August, 2021 - 06:17pm

And here we have the latest status update on the ubiquitous Chicago producer, rapper, and self-anointed God, seemingly humbled by life and divorce proceedings from his superstar ex-wife, Kim Kardashian, whilst carrying with him a seething loneliness ever since the death of his mother, whose absence is channeled through the edifice of his South Side childhood home while standing shoulder-to-shoulder with men who’ve shown nothing but disdain for the women in their lives. Kanye West, after spending what felt like 40 days and 40 nights exiled underneath the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, throwing three arena-packed multi-million dollar listening sessions, and boasting a collection of features that rivals DJ Khaled, is a man whose contradictions have folded into themselves. He is a bird trapped in a cage of his own making. He is not suffering from a hint of cancel culturitis. He is, quite simply, a middle-aged man who once touched the hem of musical brilliance with nothing left to give.

But he does have plenty to take.

From the very start, the 44-year-old rapper thieved headlines with the most grandiose gestures an artist with a muted social media presence could pull. He revealed he’d been living under the Atlanta Falcons’ stadium to finish the album; he staged listening parties with Kim Kardashian in tow wearing her wedding dress; he bucked and screamed, “Listen to the album or go home” at fellow-Chicagoan Chance the Rapper in a leaked video early in the album’s production; alleged that Universal Music Group released Donda without his permission; was subject to curiously-timed “reports” that he and Kim were “rebuilding” that were immediately walked back a day later; and last week stood next to accused sexual assaulter Marilyn Manson, and unapologetic homophobe and assaulter, DaBaby. And this was all before the masses even got a sniff of what the album would sound like.

Right off the bat, on album opener “Donda Chant,” West—known for his rather loose definition of borrowing—used a sample of gospel singer Bri Babineaux’s entrancing chant without her approval. Babineaux is one of two Black women’s voices on the entire 27-song, 108-minute Donda—the other being the late Donda West herself, who features on “Praise God” and “Donda,” saying on the latter: “I am my son’s mother, the man I describe in the introduction as being so decidedly different… I got a chance to share not only what he has meant to me, but what he has meant to a generation.”

For a new generation, he will serve as an avatar of grief—at best—and an aggy, existential-pity celebrant at worst. From “Jail,” where he says that, “we’re all liars,” to the self-aggrandizing “Ok Ok,” where he spits, “You the type to cut the grass and snake your bestest friend, I’m the type to close the deal and cut my n*ggas in.” Those other rappers he cut in, by the way, do a much better job of propping up the falling star. Fivio Foreign raps perhaps his best verse yet on “Off the Grid,” unlocking a redemptive arc and narrative panache that we’d never heard before: “I’m feeling marvelous, who let the monster loose? They call me a product of my environment, I tell em, ‘Nah, I’m what God produced.’” To his credit, West is still a master of laying the foundation for other artists and producers (he worked with longtime collaborator and legendary producer Mike Dean as well as a whole host of audio titans like David x Eli, 88 Keys, Buju Banton, Cashmere Brown, and Wheezy) to shine. Fivio fits comfortably in this drill-ish pocket, spinning yarns of spirit and urgency that would make any Woo fan’s eyes widen.

He does it again on tracks like “Junya” where Lil Durk, who has no shortage of homies and loved ones to grieve, takes the moment to pour one out for his brother, Dontay, who was recently murdered outside a Chicago nightclub. The guest verses on Donda are probably its best assets. And while the Sunday Service Choir has been relegated to some bland iteration of protestant pining, records like “Jonah” and “Believe What I’m Saying” are simply undeniable: Kanye the Composer, when he’s really feeling it, can chop a soul beat better than most.

But therein lies one huge issue with Donda: it’s just much too long and packed with artists for there to be no so few women present, whether rapping or singing. For every Vory feature—and to be fair, the Houston-born Grammy-winning artist does the lord’s work on a number of tracks—there could’ve quite easily been a female vocalist of equal talent carrying those records home. The lack of women feels intentional here, as if to say that Donda and Kim are the only true female figures in his life, and both of them are becoming more and more distant from him. Instead, he’s taken it upon himself to recruit an army of sexist men to perform songs on an album named for his mother, to further insult our sensibilities.

West brought even more attention onto his album’s ugly men by claiming DaBaby’s manager, Arnold Taylor, blocked the DaBaby and Marilyn Manson feature—which Taylor quickly called misleading. Much to his chagrin, Soulja Boy, who has his own history of allegedly abusing women, is pretty pissed to be left off the final version of the track “Remote Control.” He’s taken to Twitter to not only post screenshots of their previous conversations where West is thirsting for a collab, but also to call out his elder for being fake:

Perhaps ‘Ye reached his predator quota. Or perhaps this is just another publicity stunt to garner even more chatter for the album. Regardless, what we’re left with is an indignant record of Kanye and his co-conspirators not taking ownership of their own actions, glossing over the real harm they cause in some trauma-bonding exercise.

There is no doubt that Kanye is in pain; there is no doubt that the artist is suffering. But there is a malignancy present in his cult of personality and his lyrical content that can dissuade any considerate listener from giving a damn. We are all, in the midst of a pandemic, in our own kind of exile, dealing with grief in profound measure. Instead of being the pastor whose sermons help us take accountability for the ways we’ve contributed to our own agony, West has harnessed that collective grief for his own capital gain and “born again” ennoblement, in order to convince us to forgive and forget. But he’s not a new being; he has not reached the soul-purity he professes. Instead, Donda is an overinflated mess that leaves listeners as physically and psychically exhausted as Kanye West claims to be.

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