8 Predictions for Kanye West's New Album 'Donda'

Kanye West's new album 'Donda' is set to arrive on July 23. What direction will he take? How will it compare to his other albums? Here are 8 predictions.

Kanye West 'Donda' album predictions

Image via Getty/Ethan Miller

Kanye West 'Donda' album predictions

On Tuesday night, Def Jam made it official: Kanye West plans to release his new album Donda on July 23.

Of course, Kanye has a reputation for reinventing himself each album cycle and making dramatic changes to his sound, so it’s always difficult to predict where he’ll go next. Will he put a new twist on the gospel-inspired era that brought us Jesus Is King? Or will he attempt to introduce an entirely new sound that none of us have heard before?

The Donda rollout, in particular, is difficult to decipher. For one, Kanye isn’t talking. There have been no tweets. No radio interviews. No words spoken at album listening sessions. We haven’t even seen his face all year (Kanye likes masks again). Instead, he’s let other people speak for him, so all we have to go on are a few tweets from collaborators like Consequence and acquaintances like Justin LaBoy who have heard the album.

Still, if you follow the breadcrumbs, you’ll find some clues. Kanye has been teasing Donda for a while now, and there are bits of information floating around on the internet (see some here). With all of this in mind, plus some context clues about the direction of his career, here are 8 predictions about Kanye West’s new album.

So far, we’ve heard one official snippet from Donda: 60 seconds of “No Child Left Behind” in the background of a Beats by Dre ad. The only words we hear from Kanye in the song are, “He’s done miracles on me,” which he repeats over and over, so it seems like the religious themes from Jesus Is King will carry over to the new album. They might not be as pervasive this time, though. According to photographer Nigel D., who attended the listening session in Las Vegas, “The album is really about having faith in God and overcoming adversity. Kanye speaks on personal struggles and struggles others face. Positive messages that you can turn up to.” But Nigel also pointed out that the album has some cursing in it, unlike JIK. “I thought the album would have no expletives,” he tweeted. “But there are some B’s and N’s. So Kanye tried to rush and lower the music when the B’s were flying because we were I’m a church.” It’s likely that Kanye’s faith will still guide the direction of the album, but he’ll leave more room to cover other aspects of his life, and it won’t be as much of an overt Christian album as JIK was. Like the rest of his discography, our bet is that Donda blends religious themes into an otherwise secular album. —Eric Skelton

This is a presumption you can make based on the album title alone. If Jesus Is King was a tribute to Jesus, Donda is a tribute to Kanye’s late mother Donda West, which signals it might be an album full of songs about his family and personal life. On Tuesday night, Kanye shared a collection of photos in which he’s wearing chains that have each of his children’s names on them, reinforcing the idea that family is on his mind right now. Kanye has been going through a divorce while making this album, and he’s never shied away from getting personal on albums in the past (808s & Heartbreak is the most obvious example of this). After the Vegas listening session, there were whispers about one song in particular where Kanye gets deeply personal about the current state of his life, and it’s likely these themes will extend throughout the rest of the album. —Eric Skelton

Kanye West is a master of spectacle. It’s not just that he has a titanic fanbase that makes everything he does trend. It’s the way he knows exactly how to get both fans and detractors to start talking. He’s previously likened his antics to playing a “game” to fight off being “canceled” (whatever “cancel” actually means). For this album cycle though, it seems like the game is on silent mode. Kanye hasn’t made a public statement in the press or otherwise all year, and the whole time he’s worn a mask that completely covers his head. All the news about Donda has been delivered from others. He’s inverted all the noise we’re used to, and now has hoards of people pondering his utter silence. After self-sabotaging for several years with statements that made many people tune out of the Kanye show, he might actually have some of those same people once again intrigued about what he has to say. It looks like the music will speak for him. —Andre Gee

Somehow, only a couple video clips leaked from the Vegas listening session, so we don’t have a clear sense of what this album will sound like yet. But one of the snippets that did emerge was Baby Keem’s guest verse. In the clip, Keem takes a page out of Playboi Carti’s book and tries out a high-pitched baby voice flow, and we have a feeling this won’t be the only time Carti’s influence shows up on Donda. Kanye has always paid close attention to rap’s shifting trends, and there’s a whole generation of kids coming up right now who are taking influences from Carti and pushing his sound in interesting new directions. Think SoFaygo, SSGKobe, and Cochise. Another artist who revolves in that orbit is KayCyy, who has been working with Kanye a lot lately and is rumored to show up on the album himself (more on that below). So, will we hear Baby Voice Kanye on this album? As of now, it’s unclear. But even if he doesn’t do it himself, it does seem likely that influences from this new wave of Carti-influenced rappers in the underground will creep onto Donda one way or the other. Don’t believe Kanye is paying attention to Carti? Well, he just posted moody photos of himself wearing leather pants again. (I’m joking, but only a little). —Eric Skelton

You can count on one thing every Kanye West album cycle: He’ll take a rising artist under his wing and help introduce them to the world (while also borrowing some of their aesthetic for his own new music, of course). We saw it happen with Kid Cudi on 808s & Heartbreak. We saw it with Travis Scott on Cruel Summer (and later Yeezus). The list goes on. So who will it be this time? Vocals from rapper and singer Vory are heard in the “No Child Left Behind” snippet, so he’s an early contender. But if you look a little closer, it seems up-and-comer KayCyy might play even more of a pivotal role in Kanye’s new era. During an interview with Rolling Stone, Kanye’s new manager Abou ‘Bu’ Thiam was asked if he’s working with any other artists, and he responded, “I’m working with an up-and-coming artist named KayCyy Pluto, who’s also on Kanye’s [as-yet-unreleased] album. And Kanye and I are in the process of doing some other stuff with him.” More recently, KayCyy sat down with Arshan Jawaid of Kids Take Over and confirmed he’s been working closely with Kanye for the past couple years, even revealing that ‘Ye wants to executive produce one (or both) of his upcoming projects. Some of the attendees at the Vegas listening sessions tweeted that they heard KayCyy’s vocals on the album, and the young artist re-shared those reports on his Instagram Story. He’s currently putting the finishing touches on his next album, but if you’re just catching up now, check out his last release Ups & Downs on Spotify. —Eric Skelton

Kanye has historically been a perfectionist. His first album was delayed because he continuously remixed and remastered it, trying to get the best sound. He’s worked with some of the world’s best engineers to deliver a pristine sound, and he’s masterful at organizing his beat switches, as moments on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Yeezus, and The Life Of Pablo demonstrate. But since G.O.O.D. Music’s 2018 suite of 7-track projects, his projects haven’t had the same mixing and mastering polish that fans are used to. Additionally, his songwriting hasn’t been as sharp, and tracks like Ye’s “I Thought About Killing You” felt a bit too free-wheeling. Ye, in particular, has an unfinished vibe to it. Some feel like it’s a sign that music isn’t the first priority for the fashion designer, father, and creative right now. Others feel like his raw cuts are the result of inspiration from “SoundCloud rappers” and other underground phenoms who came up without the need for glossy mixing. Whatever the reason is, we expect the trend to continue, and this will be another testament to raw expression. —Andre Gee

By now it’s clear: Kanye’s oldest daughter North West is a star in her own right. In March 2020, North made her rap debut at Kanye’s Yeezy fashion show. Since then, her mother Kim Kardashian has noted that North enjoys performing covers of other child rappers, like Zaza and That Girl LayLay. Given North’s interest in her dad’s line of work, it makes sense that she’d show up on his next album. North’s contribution on Donda will likely be minimal, though. She’ll probably rap a few bars or share a sweet moment with her dad on the outro of one of the tracks. It may be small, but it will definitely get the internet talking. —Jessica McKinney

Kanye turned some fans off when he began incorporating his controversial political views in his music. On 2018’s “I Thought About Killing You,” Kanye referenced his infamous “slavery was a choice” quote, rapping, “Sorry, but I chose not to be no slave.” On Pusha-T’s single “What Would Meek Do,” he spoke about wearing his MAGA hat. “If you ain’t drivin’ while Black, do they stop you?/ Will MAGA hats let me slide like a drive-thru?” Kanye also stirred up some controversy for “Closed On Sunday,” which showed support for Chik-fil-A, the fast food restaurant notorious for its Christian background and anti-LGBTQ stance. Despite his questionable choices in the past, it’s very possible that Kanye will be leaving his MAGA era behind on this album. As mentioned above, he’s staying quiet and out of the headlines as he’s publicly distanced himself from politics. It wouldn’t be a Kanye album if there weren’t newsworthy bars here and there, but we don’t expect to hear lines about Donald Trump, MAGA, or political parties. —Jessica McKinney

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