The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

‘Donda’: AOTY Contendor

Donda: AOTY Contendor

After three listening parties, countless pushbacks, and locking himself in a prison-like room in the Mercedes-Benz stadium, Kanye West released his 10th studio album, titled “Dondaon August 29, 2021. The album has an overall runtime of 108 minutes and 49 seconds, with 27 songs total. It includes a number of features and production from notable artists, with appearances by The Weeknd and Lil Baby on the album’s single “Hurricane.”

This review consists of an analysis of the first four songs of the album, focused on a variety of factors including enjoyability, artistic direction, production, and lyrical content. Highlight and lowlight songs are also listed, as well as the overall rating for the album and recommendations for listening.  

Donda Chant feat. Syleena Johnson (9/10): 

In the first track of the album, R&B artist Syleena Johnson repeats the name of West’s mother and the title of the album – “Donda – a total of 102 times. There is no instrumental accompaniment. While chanting the name, Johnson changes the tone, cadence, pattern, and rhythm of her speech. This chant imitates those of religious devotees, protestors, and, significantly, the sound of a heartbeat, specifically that of Donda West’s last heartbeats before she passed away. 

Story continues below advertisement

The constant repetition for 52 seconds creates a feeling of hypnosis or fixation. By fixating listeners on the name of his mother, West ensures that one of his greatest influences will be remembered throughout the rest of the album, which remains a consistent theme throughout “Donda.” While it’s far from the most enjoyable song on the album, its touching meaning and importance to the album makes it a perfectly fitting introduction.

Jail feat. Francis & The Lights and Jay-Z (9/10): 

“Jail,” featuring Jay Z, is a powerful song with a number of impressive guitar riffs. The riffs and musicality reference West’s divorce from Kim Kardashian, his willingness to give up his possessions, him changing his phone number to cut contact with Kim, and his feelings of freedom following the divorce. West claims “we all liars,” and lack of acknowledgment of our actions or feelings imprisons us in “Jail.” 

In the song, the “Jail” referenced is not only a physical jail for criminals but a spiritual jail of his own personal creation, as well as the eternal Biblical prison of Hell, which Jay-Z references in his final words “We know what Hell look like, still, it’s a hell of a life.” 

Throughout the song, both West and Jay-Z confess to the countless sins they have committed and recognize the “Jail” they deserve as a repercussion for crime. However, both ultimately call to God to post their bail, when West says “God gon’ post my bail tonight” in the refrain and Jay-Z asks “Who gon’ post my jail? Lord help me.” 

Jay-Z claims he must pray five times a day to repent for his felonies, with the word “felonies” sounding like “fell on knees” an allusion to the standard prayer position. They claim God will free them from their spiritual jail made of past sins, allowing them to grow into “Hova,” a reference to Jay-Z’s nickname Hov, as well as Jehova, the Hebrew name for God, and “Yeezus,” a combination of “Kanye” and “Jesus.” 

This song also highlights the relationship between the artists: Jay Z acted as a mentor to West in the way that God guided Jesus of Nazareth. In addition, West’s small room in the Mercedes-Benz stadium resembled a jail cell. 

God Breathed feat. Vory (6.5/10):

In this track, West implores the listener to put their faith in God using both the repetition technique from Donda Chant as well as using creative wordplay expected from West, one of the greatest rappers of all time (‘God, the Father, like Maury’ references the Maury Show which reveals whether a man is the biological father of a child). The song features Vory who provides a soulful and beautiful performance describing his personal relationship with God over the Gregorian chanting accompaniment. The vast majority of the song, however, consists of solely Gregorian chanting over the beat with no performance from either West or Vory – almost as if West is providing time for the listener to pray and develop their relationship with God. While touching, this unnecessarily draws out the song and makes it less impactful as the listener waits for the next track. If West wants the listener to pray, he should allow them to do so on their own time. 

Off the Grid feat. Playboi Carti and Fivio Foreign (9/10): 

This track describes the grind West went through to be able to provide for his grandchildren and future generations. It also provides insight into the necessity of some of the sins he committed while “‘on the grid,” which contrasts to his current state “off the grid.” His current state may also refer to his disinterest in the superficial and his prioritization of faith. 

One of the most replayable songs on the album, enjoyable after several listens, West’s performance is especially punctuated with fantastic features by Playboi Carti and Fivio Foreign. Many consider Fivio Foreign’s performance to be one of the very best of his career, as he speaks both on his relationship with God and faith, as well as his fundamental connection to the poverty and crime from which these artists came, showcasing the difficulty of the grind for success which West himself experienced. 

All three rappers highlight some of the darkest traits or parts of their lives, but all show growth and depth. Playboi Carti shouts out his son, West describes his self-growth, and Fivio Foreign showcases his eventual artistic success from humble beginnings. 

Hurricane feat. Lil Baby and The Weeknd (9/10):

The song starts with the powerful and emotionally charged vocals fans have always associated with featured artist The Weeknd. He describes his trust in God with a powerful visual which references the Apostle Peter walking on water before he starts to drown as he loses the faith – whereas West has the immense faith to continue walking over the turbulent waters of life for miles. 

Lil Baby delivers a solid verse typical of one of the most sought out features over the past few years. However, while some of his words are deeply emotional, his performance is still fundamentally braggadocious, without showing growth or providing context to this expression, as Fivio Foreign did on Off the Grid. This doesn’t mesh well with the introspective and emotional nature of the song. 

West allows himself to be fully honest and introspective, speaking on the superficiality of wealth and appearances as he comes to increasingly value things of greater personal importance to him.

Highlight Songs:


Off the Grid


Ok Ok

Jesus Lord Pt.2

Lowlight Songs:

God Breathed



Keep My Spirit Alive 

New Again

Final Album Score: 8/10

Ultimately, whether or not one will enjoy “Donda” has nothing to do with the album itself, but with one’s personal tastes. If it matters that all songs on an album relate to one another and have equal and consistent value, then “Donda” will seem relatively watered down or unimpressive. However, if moments of brilliance and impactful source material and themes are what you consider to constitute a good album, then by all means “Donda” will live up to its immense hype.

By Alexander Danielyan

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All International Dateline Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *