Decoding Ye’s DONDA

A few months ago I was too tired to stay up and watch a listening party that I stumbled across and went to bed. Little did I know that it would be two months until I heard the actual album and how much of an ordeal it would be to actually sit and listen to it in its entirety.

Is it me and my expectations, the way we consume or you?

To be honest I feel like that has been a trend with every Kanye album post 808s for me. I haven’t been convinced nor captivated enough to continue listening to them beyond the first. Maybe it’s my listening habits or simply the way I and the rest of the world consume music but one thing for sure is that Ye hasn’t been the same in such a long time. Maybe we’ve all just moved on to the next artist or maybe the levels that we held our favourite artists in such high esteems for have been surpassed by those that they’ve inspired. For example as much as Timbo is great for his beat making and soundscape legacy, am I excited about watch Timbo make beats on Twitch as I’d be excited at watching some of the new producers doing all sorts of instrumentation and madness? Respectfully, no.

At the time when the likes of Timbo, Ye, Swizz, RZA, Preemo, Jammer and Neptunes were doing their thing we were all babies without equipment or access to the methods but now in the era of info, the mystique is no longer there. There’s perhaps an exception to this lineup of someone like say Dilla, but what I’m saying is that with the floodgates open and so many people flooding the DSPs with music the levels are higher than that of the people we revere.

The industry has become fair for all, perhaps the only reason I’m attempting to write about DONDA is that I’m bored of and didn’t get sucked into the hype generated. Perhaps another reason that I’ve spent a lot of words painting the scene is that there wasn’t much moments on the actual album that stood out to me besides 24, Hov making an appearance and Da Baby with arguably one of the best verses of the year -considering what he’s gone though recently with cancellations and all. Aside from that here’s a few tweets expressing my lack of excitement and general underwhelmed reaction to DONDA.

If anything this album is a lesson in how hype sells and style overcomes and is much more important than substance -harsh I know and it hurts to write that but if you’re looking for any lyrical wizardry you won’t find it here. If you’re looking for vibes you’ll find it -plenty of it like a freestyled church sermon with the guy who makes afrobeats and drill in the week finds himself doing prayer chords on the sunday as the pastor does his thing.

Before you get stuck in dispel any expectations you may have. Yes it has the hype build up experience of a DJ Khaled cookie-cutter type album with different flavours of the same famous friend collaborators but this one is more like a melé or battle royale. I didn’t know what was coming next, what the sequences or story behind the album was, it was just random as me walking into that church on sunday filtering out the pastor so I can hear the drill and afrobeats dude play some great chords with the band doing their thing. Vibes you know.

Decoded Summary

In my first tweet I mention that it was suited for stage and performance art hence why there were so many shows on the lead up and if I went to the arena perhaps I’d understand it. It’s more catwalk and theatrical than a standard listening experience. I think I worked out the code of the album in the last sentence so forget everything I wrote prior but then again I was decoding DONDA in real time as I wrote this with no edits, just a big paragraph with no breaks [since broken up with meta titles].

Tweets Iz Watching

I set out to go to the gym and give it a listen but to be honest the first few tracks were hard as hell to get through after the Hov verse. I mean in all honesty I was more excited about that. It weren’t anything special but rather a backhanded compliment type collab which pokes fun at Ye’s expense for acting up and asking man to feature -think to The Godfather where the Funeral Director distances himself from Don Corleone to try to live the American Dream and runs back to him when the AD doesn’t do nothing for him. There was a track with these weird sounding guys which made me switch off the album and try to listen to the Nas album but after the 3rd bar I locked it off and went back to Ye [a story for another day].

At this point I’m in the gym doing compounds gritting my teeth trying to get through and make sense of the album whilst progressively loading plates onto the barbell like a madman as it was my second day back in months. It was when I was doing chest press that 24 came on and I was like “Rah… this is the best track on the album” and maybe listened to it three more times.

I heard the Jay Elec verse and though that it was a great nod to Monk and Nica -who Monk dedicated Round Midnight to, but then reading between the lines and knowing his ties to a Rothchild record exec in London, had me wondering whether it was a reference to their alleged tryst hence the reaction.

Workout done and I’m heading home when I hear Jail Pt2 and you know what I stand by the statement that I tweeted. They attempted to cancel him and to some degree it worked but Ye public returned the favour as Da Baby said he’d vote for him. What do we get in return? A testimony of someone who had it all and was humbled by not thinking before he spoke and was humbled by the world, now on an album sharing his experience in an act of redemption. Do you not see the religious imagery here?

The album itself is just vibes and feelings, Jay Elec is perhaps one of the only lyrical displays alongside Da Baby however Jay Elec is talking stuff we’ve heard from him already; you know all that esoteric, mystical lyrical that I love but when we’re talking in the context of trying to find redemption and using his lyrical abilities to share his truth, Da Baby trumps him on this one.

This is hilarious as by the time it got to The LOX the album was becoming an ordeal. 27 tracks is rather excessive especially when some of the features aren’t A1 as you would associate. It becomes a game of who’s hot, who shall I put on there. It became a melé of madness that I could no longer listen to.

Thanks for reading my decoding of DONDA. As a longstanding Ye and Hov fan, I wouldn’t say I was disappointed but rather underwhelmed after all the hype and talking points not meeting my expectations.

What are your thoughts?

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