Photo Credit: Kevin Mazur
What is art? Art is like how one would describe food. You see it, and you can confidently say that it is that. You may not necessarily know what kind, but you know what it is. Art is subjective, but this we know. And its job of inspiration depends on who pays attention long enough to either receive or deny its purpose. Kanye is an artist (probably one of the greatest of our generation). Donda, his latest album, reminds us of what artists do best; inspire or leave us denied of its objective.
The album opens with a “Donda Chant”, which is inspired by his late mother who passed away on November 10, 2007. It immediately lets you know that this will be a journey, even though we already know the destination. It’s not somber but still puts you at ease. The next track “Jail” replaces that ease with synth guitars that start the engine on this ride. Jay-Z is featured and is a well-placed fit. His verse is humble even though the beat is boisterous, almost as if it was painted by Kehinde Wiley himself. “God Breathed” has a heavy bass intro, before Ye comes on. It’s also similar to a chant, in where Kanye needs us to understand the spirituality of this record.
“Off The Grid” takes us to Ye’s roots; deep bass with prominent drums. “Hurricane” features The Weeknd and a choir that compliments everyone on the track well. “Jonah” is a more laid-back track that speaks to the relationship (or lack thereof) of his once faithful partner in crime, Jay-Z. It’s subdued but with gritty context. The track “Believe What I say” is a standout, not only because it samples the incomparable Ms. Lauryn Hill, but because it’s also one of his most vulnerable expressions on the album. It mostly talks about his marriage to the reality star, Kim Kardashian-West.
“Remote Control” is a nice easy bop, almost pop-like in its aesthetic, but hip-hop in its sound. “Jesus Lord” is probably the best track on Donda, the production is at its best and lyrically Ye is on top of his game. “Come To Life” is where Kanye sings and laments about what could have been, if only he had: “wrote ’em down in pen.”
The album that bears his mother’s name is the same album that bears Mr. West’s soul. It not only gives us his pain but also gives us his joys, his sorrows, his hopes, and his dreams. When it comes to any piece of art, sometimes it takes us more than one visit to appreciate it. Sometimes it takes some history of the piece to help us put it into context, and sometimes it just takes patience. In any case, Donda is a piece of art that truly, and rarely defines the artist. Ye defined this moment of tragedy, and even though that seems bleak, we can’t help but assume that his mother would be proud.