No track left behind! “Donda” by Kanye West has finally dropped

Angelina Velasquez, Contributing Writer

I planned to go to the first listening party – my hotel was already booked, but I knew Kanye was a marketing expert, so I stopped myself to press the “Pay flight” button. While watching the live streaming, I got chills with the “No Child Left Behind” performance and hoped he dropped the album right the next day.

After making two more listening parties and trending on social media for almost a month, he dropped Donda on a Sunday morning, making it reach number one worldwide.

At first, I just vibed with the dark bassline, synthesizers, and levitated with the Sunday Service collab. But I was unable to find the meaning behind this almost 2-hour album. “Divorce? Donda talking? The moon? Four songs with part two? Maybe he dropped it too fast”. I finally decided to take the challenge of writing an article about it, and with the help of John Freyermuth – the coolest

Foundations of Music and Production professor, dive into the “hot mess” Mr West brought to life.

Starting with “Donda Chant”. As a modern art lover, I think this is one of the coolest concepts I have ever heard. For many, just a woman repeating “Donda” in different tones; for music junkies, an interesting intro. Syleena Johnson repeats the name for 52 seconds representing Donda’s last heartbeats before passing away. Accompanied by a silent background, we can feel the last moments of Kanye’s hope, the last moments before the whole world fell on his back.

Donda’s death was the breaking point for Ye to enter into a breakdown, and he represents it very well in “Jail”.

An overdriving guitar starts playing. “Take what you want” is repeated along with a heavy bassline that creates an atmosphere between anger and stress. Kanye screams “We are all liars” and “Guess who’s going to jail tonight”. It is clear that the after-death breakdown just started, filled with heavy thoughts and guilt. Not only does he complain about Donda’s death but states his fragile state of mind towards his recent divorce from Kim Kardashian. As we know, Kanye stayed in the Mercedes Benz Stadium while recording Donda, and his studio had the appearance of jail, making us reflect on him locked in a room where he is trapped in his thoughts. Moreover, Mr Freyermuth adds that Ye talks about the concept of mass proliferation of crack cocaine and the incarceration of black men in the 80s.

We can also see this behaviour in “Moon”, but the difference is that anger has passed and Ye tries to seek help. “Being Kanye West in 2021 must be exceptionally difficult with the level of scrutiny in his life. Divorce? Public. Mental health? Public. Loss of his mother? Public. His life is criticized, consumed, and judged by the public. However, this makes an interesting set-up for Donda.” says Mr Freyermuth. At first, the track could be a call for suicide, since Ye constantly struggles with bipolar disorder while being in the eye of the media. The vocal loop of “Don’t leave so soon, how can I get through?” indicates he is trapped in his own head, searching to escape from judgement and criticism in the mortal world. In heaven, the only judgement that can be passed is the one from God, and it represents a duality of reaching for the stars and searching for a place to hold, seek and be protected. As he arises, he enters a peaceful state of mind and finds freedom.

After the storm, Kanye is heading towards God and trying to fight any temptation he is susceptible to fall to during these hard times. Bass starts playing while Kanye states “I know God-Breathed on this” He is getting stronger, and knows an angel is watching his back. Then in “Jonah”, he reflects on the isolation and loneliness a person goes through while healing themself. Moreover, in “Remote Control”, he positions his faith in God and hopes to make the best plans for him. Finally, in “Keep my spirit alive” Ye along with other rappers confirm God is on their side stating that “The spirit won’t die” and it’s all in God’s hands.

Don’t let the lifestyle drag you down

The “demons” surrounding Kanye are strong. “You gotta move differently when you are in the industry”. Playboi Carti and Fivio Foreign join to rap in the action-themed song “Off The Grind”, where Kanye tries to go away from all the drama, the gangs, and the industry in general. “This for my kids, kids, kids” meaning he also is escaping for his family’s sake. We can connect the fact that Ye has a ranch in Wyoming, far from Los Angeles, where most media is saturated and celebrities are settled. After reflecting on leaving behind his old lifestyle, “Pure Souls” shows us a changing Kanye, in the process of being better, singing “I cannot sell my soul”. Then, Shenseea ends the song with “The truth the only thing you get away with” meaning everyone has to accept their sins before renewing themselves. Finally, in “Believe What I Say” Ye becomes the mentor for the new kids on the block. His criticism goes directly to the media industry, which constantly overreacts and exaggerates news about celebrities’ lives to generate more attention. He and Kim Kardashian are watched by the world, and paparazzi will always find new material that can harm close relationships. The track ends by stating “Don’t involve yourself in things you don’t have to know” reminding people to be careful while tweeting or posting on social media, and making declarations to the public.

Yeezus went too far? Or is it just a matter of context?

Kanye is using Christianity to approach his better life. However, deeply religious people who perform within the gospel world in the southern part of America have found the album sensitive and insulting. Some called it a “Blasphemy” due to him comparing himself to Jesus, but it really depends on how much you connect with the album in a religious way”. (J. Freyermuth)

After identifying the “demons” following him, Kanye states he is renewing himself in “Hurricane”. [Mr Freyermuth turns the speakers’ volume higher and says “It makes a big sound”]. This is the first song in which context is essential, and also how a person connects with the song itself. Phrases like “I can walk on the water” could make the listener think Kanye is comparing himself to Jesus! However, the reality is he finally “Found the God in him”, and is connecting at a spiritual level while following his steps. We see the same controversy in “Donda”, where Ye samples a speech made by his mother saying “And what made thе project extra special to me is, I got a chance to share not only what he has meant to me, But what he has meant to a generation” stating that Kanye has extended African

American work to new generations and that he carries a big role in representing his ancestors.“At first, I thought the song was sacrilegious, and that Kanye was declaring himself the messianic, which could actually be pretty ballsy. However, now I think he represents his family tree and blackness in America, and it’s a generation thing. Everything that defines Kanye now was built by his ancestors. His family in America, being black in America. That’s what it means to be Kanye. He gets his fearlessness from the combined history of his relatives’ trials and struggles they were forced to overcome” states, Mr Freyermuth.

Praising God through the lands of Kanye’s musical taste

In “Praise God”, Kanye samples a speech Donda made back in 2007. Followed by a gospel trap background, this is an allusion to a mass. and after ending the sermon, Sunday Service starts singing. “I’ve spent the last decade in the south. South East Texas, Western Louisiana. And went to some baptist religious services, modern evangelical Christian sects, where “modern churches” exist. After the sermon, someone starts rapping about god, or singing in the country, even cowboy churches with horses!” Mr Freyermuth adds. Donda plays the pastor role, while Kanye represents the chorus by stating phrases like “I serve, follow your word!”. Throughout the album, we can hear these “services” like in “24”, a tribute for Kobe Bryant and a reminder to keep moving no matter the situation; and Although the concept exists in the south, Ye is presenting it to the world, making it reach a new sector of the population, and the reactions have been incredibly strongly until now.

You wanna come in and play with the G.O.A.T

Kanye keeps fighting with his demons, and on the road, he encounters a big enemy for his big return. As we know, Drake dropped “Certified Lover Boy” five days after Donda released it. Ye and Drake had been having conflicts the last years, and rumors said that the Champagne Papi originally planned to release his last album the same day as Donda. In “Ok Ok”, Ye talks about how he feels betrayed by the music industry, and in “Junya” starts sending signs like “Move out of the way of my release, tryna get me off my Qs and Ps” meaning that his dark side could go out if Drake provokes him by dropping the album before him, and of course, media could use Kanye’s acts against him, while flexing he is the G.O.A.T. Finally, in the short “Tell the vision” he alternate’s Pop Smoke’s version and states he is thankful to God that he reached success.

You know you’ll always be my favorite prom queen

Apart from his mother’s death, what has made Kanye return to a fragile state of mind recently was his divorce from celebrity and model Kim Kardashian. It all starts with “Lord I Need You”. While Sunday Service Choir sings “And tell me everything’s gonna be alright”, Kanye is passing through hard times and remembering his marriage with Kim, to then reconcile with himself. In “New Again” Kanye is healing and ready to get Kim back “If I hit you with a “W-Y-D?” You better not hit me with an “H-E-Y” It better be like “Hiii” with a bunch of I’s Or “Heyyy” with a bunch of Y’s”. He is thankful for God’s mercy and renovated to renew his relationships. Finally, in “Come to Life” he makes a lifetime promise to Kim, telling her the significance their marriage and children influences in his life, and that he doesn’t want to die alone but by her side. According to, this is the “Runaway” from Donda.

“Heaven and hell”: The old Kanye returned

The sample introducing it makes the whole song, and the beat is sick!” says John. This track is different from the whole album, you can feel the old Kanye, with no gospel or dark baseline. A My Twisted Dark Fantasy-vibe is felt while Ye states “No more promos, no more photos, no more problems”. He is ready to make music, especially to save people through his music. He has found his purpose, and received forgiveness. He has been through heaven and hell, and ready to shine again. “I guess I wanted him to go back,” says Mr Freyermuth, as I reflected that this must’ve been the closing track.

Father West!

Experience makes the master, and Kanye is ready to preach and mentor God’s word. “Tell me if you know somebody that needs (Jesus, Lord)”. While he reflects on his problems, he tells the story of a boy that sells drugs to support his family and gets killed; Jay Electronica joins the song and talks about how the U.S used Haitians as lab rats back in 2008. Once again, we go back to “Donda” track, where she states that Kanye is using his platform to conscientise the world about the African American population. Finally, the album finishes with “No Child Left Behind”, a total gospel track, where Vory tells that he relied on God when no one helped him, and connects with Kanye’s story. We first saw a snippet of the song in a Beats commercial with Sha’Carri Richardson, who was recently removed from running in Tokyo 2021 due to marihuana consumption. Sha’Carri received hate through social media, leading cybernauts to discredit her career as a black woman, LGBTQ+, runner. The song ends with Ye repeating that God has made “miracles” on him, which could connect to Sha’Carri’s situation in which she found herself saturated by the media, but knew God has better plans for her in her life and athletic career.

Final thoughts

On one side, Mr. Freyermuth gives Donda a 3 and a half. On the other side, I got to connect the themes and enjoyed Kanye’s messy journey to salvation. A rounded 5.

Donda is a slightly disjointed set of themes, clearly influenced by Kanye’s last year’s affinity with Christianity. He is defining his faith, relinquishing his life, and accepting the fact that judgment in his coexistence falls flat with respect to judgement to his immortal soul with god. Kanye is not saying he is Jesus, but that the struggle of Jesus is relatable to our everyday problems. In Donda, he becomes the pastor and tells us Jesus’ history can connect with ours.

Talking in a more technical aspect, Donda fails to give an exact message because there is no cohesive statement, and we are only seeing a snapshot of Kanye’s life. The length of the album is not worth it, he’s just putting ideas and not mixing, plus, the songs need more work and clarification. We have different personalities, a collection of songs. Also the second part of five songs, where mostly he added more features. Perhaps it’s because he dropped it too fast.

However, the production has made this album listenable. Every song goes through a similar vein, the heavy riff of mock, synthesizers, and dark tones. The baseline is the same for almost all the songs, a relatively wise choice that connects an incredibly disjointed record


Side note: I want to thank Mr Freyermuth for collaborating with me to analyze this heavy album, my friend Vheneka who introduced me to the idea of “Donda Chant” being the breaking point of Kanye to explore the album. And lastly to my Peruvian friend Garchi, who made me reflect on egocentric Kanye, and how in this record he becomes more like a preacher.