9 Things You Need to Know About Kanye West's New Album 'Donda'

Kanye West's new album 'Donda' is on its way. From guest features to whispers about the album's direction, here are 9 things you need to know.

Kanye West

Image via Getty/George Pimentel

Kanye West

Yeezy Season is upon us, yet again. Kanye West is about to drop his tenth studio album, Donda. The album follows his gospel project Jesus Is King, which was released in October 2019. 

Kanye has been known to break his own promises when it comes to album release dates, of course, but there are many clues that suggest the album will actually arrive very soon. Though ‘Ye has been tight-lipped about his album, showing up to public events in a mask and not speaking at all, folks in his corner have been dropping hints about the project ahead of his Friday release. And according to whispers from those who have heard it, Donda is shaping up to be a good one. 

As you anxiously await the arrival of Kanye’s new album, check out this breakdown of everything we know about Donda so far.

Kanye’s forthcoming album has gone through many title changes over the years. In a live conversation between video artist Arthur Jafa and French fashion designer Michèle Lamy, Jafa mentioned that he directed Kanye’s “Wash Us In Blood” music video for his new project called God’s Country. In June 2021, Kanye’s manager Abou “Bu” Thiam teased the upcoming album on Instagram, writing “WestDayEver.” Some fans speculated West Day Ever had become the new title, but as of most recently, it appears he has returned to Donda. However, an official press release from Def Jam later confirmed it’s called Donda. Members of Kanye’s inner circle, including Pusha-T, have also shared promotional material featuring the words: “Kanye West Presents Donda.”

If you’re a Kanye fan, you know the album’s current title has a very special significance for Kanye. Donda is the name of Kanye’s mother, who passed away on November 10, 2007 at the age of 58. Donda West was a former professor of English at Chicago University. She also penned a book about nurturing her son titled, Raising Kanye: Life Lessons from the Mother of a Hip-Hop Superstar. Kanye has made a handful of songs about his his late mother, the most notable being 2005’s “Hey Mama.” On July 12, 2020, he also shared a song called “Donda” on social media in tribute to his late mother. On the track, his mother is heard reciting lyrics to KRS One’s “Sound of da Police” before Kanye begins rapping. In a now-deleted post on Twitter, Kanye wrote, “In loving memory of my incredible mother on her birthday.”

Donda has seen many release dates. Kanye originally suggested the album was coming sometime in 2020, and even shared a couple specific dates, but the year quickly passed without an album. Then, finally, on July 17, 2021, close collaborator Consequence shared a video of Kanye and Tyler, the Creator in the studio with the caption, “Summer ’21,” which alluded to a new release date. Following an initial listening event in Las Vegas at a church on Sunday, July 18, many fans anticipated the project to drop later in the week week.

Kanye West album is really done. When it drops this week, we probably not going to listen to anything else for a while.. Let me go enjoy all the current artist I’m listening to until then. God bless✌🏾 #Respectfully

— Respectfully Justin (@JustinLaboy) July 18, 2021

After hearing the album alongside Kevin Durant in a private listening session with Kanye, media personality Justin LaBoy ​​tweeted that the album would be coming this week: “Kanye West album is really done. When it drops this week, we probably not going to listen to anything else for a while.” Days later, Def Jam confirmed in a press release that the release date is July 23. In recent years, Kanye has become notorious for not delivering on his expected release date. So, we’ll just have to cross our fingers that his new album really drops on time.

An official tracklist for Kanye’s album has not been released, but it has undergone several evolutions over time. In July 2020, Kanye shared a handwritten note that many believed was a tentative tracklist. The note included the tentative titles of preleased singles like “Wash Us In Blood” and “New Body.” Over time, he’s shared photos of several notes that included song titles like “”With Child,” “DND,” and “24.” 


— Dr Cum (@benito2509) July 17, 2021

Then, this month, Consequence shared a clip of Tyler in the studio with Kanye, and fans noticed a new tracklist written on a white board in the background. Some of the songs on the new version appear to overlap with older tracklists, including songs like “Hurricane,” “God’s Country,” “24,” and “Donda.”

On July 19, an image rumored to be the artwork for Kanye’s album was released on social media. The image, shared on fan sites like TeamKanyeDaily, depicts an abstract portrait of a person with red paint. While some initially believed the painting was done by Kanye’s eldest daughter North West, it was later rumored to be created by French American artist Louise Bourgeois.

Kanye West - Donda

(Artwork by Louise Bourgeois) pic.twitter.com/G8Im71lrbC

— TeamKanyeDaily (@TeamKanyeDaily) July 19, 2021

On July 18, Kanye held his first listening party for his upcoming album in Las Vegas. There were several celebrities in attendance, including Westside Gunn, Kevin Durant, and Usher. Kanye’s label, Def Jam also announced a listening session on Thursday, July 22 at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Tickets are being sold on Ticketmaster.

In September 2019, Kanye announced that he was done with making secular music before releasing two gospel-inspired albums: Jesus Is King and Jesus Is Born. According to photographer Nigel D., who attended the listening event in Vegas, Donda is still “centered on God,” but Kanye is also experimenting with secular sounds again, including “some slow [and] some trap [...] Some songs could be played in a church, some in a club.” Nigel went on to say, “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.” Nigel also noted that the album includes curse words, unlike Jesus Is King. “I thought the album would have no expletives. 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 in a church,” he wrote.

According to attendees of the Vegas listening party, there are quite a few features on the album. Although not all of these have been confirmed, tweets from those who attended the listening session say they heard guest appearances by Pusha-T, Travis Scott, Post Malone, Westside Gunn, Playboi Carti, Baby Keem, and more (although not all of these have been confirmed). There is also a screenshot of studio equipment circulating social media that suggests Tyler, the Creator contributed vocals on the album. Chris Brown hinted at a possible collaboration on his Instagram Stories on July 20, while many people are raving about Lil Baby’s performance on “Hurricane,” and Nigel tweeted, “Then he had a track with Lil Baby, and I was ready to party.” One of the only video snippets that emerged from the Vegas listening session featured vocals from Baby Keem.

On July 18, Justin LaBoy tweeted about a listening session he had with Kanye in Vegas. “The production is light years ahead of its time, and the bars sound like he’s broke & hungry trying to get signed again,” Laboy tweeted. He also shared a photo of him sitting with Kanye to confirm his whereabouts. SKAM artist DJ Justin Credible soon tweeted about his experience in Vegas, noting that the “production was strong, some raps that are reminiscent of early Kanye. Definitely some vulnerable moments on the project which I really enjoyed.” 

In addition to the album, Kanye is premiering a new single in a commercial for Beats By Dre, which was exclusively announced by Complex Music. The commercial will star U.S. track star Sha’Carri Richardson, and is set to premiere on July 20 during Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

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