From pink polos to bulletproof vests: Kanye West’s “Donda”

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Maggie Pasterz

Kanye West’s latest album “Donda” presents an incredible slate of featured artists including Travis Scott, Kid Cudi and long-time friend Jay-Z.

Jude Papillion, Senior Staff Columnist

After repping pink polos in “The College Dropoutera and wearing a bright red suit to welcome “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” Kanye West has now shifted to sporting a bulletproof vest to debut his latest studio album, “Donda.” The album, released on Aug. 29 and named in honor of his mother, includes a star-studded list of featured artists including Jay-Z, Travis Scott, Kid Cudi, Playboi Carti, The Weeknd and many more. 

West first announced he planned to release his 10th studio album, originally titled “God’s Country,” in June of 2020 following the release of his single “Wash Us In The Blood.” On July 19, 2020, West posted, then deleted, a tweet featuring the album’s new name, “DONDA,” along with a tracklist and announced that his new album would release on July 24, 2020. The next day, West again tweeted that “DONDA” would release on July 24 along with a revised tracklist. However, that release date passed without comment while West continued to drop album teasers and snippets of songs for over a year.

In the fall of 2020, West’s attention shifted to his run for president in the 2020 presidential election. West ran as a member of the Birthday Party, vowing to fight against police brutality, vaccines, abortions and the death penalty, telling Forbes, “Like anything I’ve ever done in my life, I’m [going] to win.” West did not end up winning the election, after only appearing on the ballot in 12 states and receiving about 60,000 votes.

Shortly after Kim Kardashian filed for divorce from West after months of rumors about their spiraling relationship, West returned to the studio to work on his album in March 2021. 

Shortly after Kim Kardashian filed for divorce from West after months of rumors about their spiraling relationship, West returned to the studio to work on his album in March 2021. 

Little was heard about the album’s progress until game six of the NBA Finals on July 20, when Beats by Dre aired a commercial starring Sha’Carri Richardson and featuring West’s track “No Child Left Behind,” along with an announcement that “Donda” would drop on July 23. 

The hype for “Donda” skyrocketed on July 22, over a full year after West first teased the album, when he held the first of three listening events for the album, all of which were livestreamed on Apple Music. The first two of these events were held at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. While “Donda” did not drop on July 23, West paid $1 million per day to live in Mercedes-Benz Stadium until the second listening show on Aug. 5, over two more weeks, to finish recording the album. 

The final of West’s listening events was held on Aug. 26 at Soldier Field in his hometown of Chicago. West hired fabricators to reconstruct his childhood home in the center of the stadium, after initially planning to move his mom’s actual house to the stadium. The event culminated with West lighting himself on fire inside of the house before recreating his nuptials with Kardashian as the show ended. 

Controversially, West invited Marilyn Manson and DaBaby, recently accused of sexual assault and homophobia, respectively, to stand in front of the house throughout the show. 

“Donda” was finally released on Aug. 29, but according to an Instagram post by West, Universal released the album without his permission and blocked “Jail pt 2” featuring Manson and DaBaby from being on the album. 

The album includes 27 tracks and is mainly hip-hop yet features several gospel elements, similarly to 2016’s “The Life of Pablo.” “Donda” presents an incredible slate of featured artists including Travis Scott, Kid Cudi, Playboi Carti, Pop Smoke, The Weeknd and long-time friend Jay-Z.

Despite releasing on a Sunday morning instead of the usual midnight Friday release time, “Donda” initially debuted as the biggest album release of 2021 on the Billboard 200 with 309,000 units. The album was West’s 10th number-one album, becoming just the seventh artist to earn 10 number one albums. 

Twenty three of the project’s 27 songs debuted on the Billboard Hot 100, with “Hurricane” and “Jail” debuting on the chart at six and 10 respectively, while “Off the Grid”, “Ok Ok”, “Junya”, “Moon” and “Praise God” all debuted in the top 20.

Now that “Donda” has been released, we are all left to wonder what will Kanye do next? How long will it take him to release his next project? Will he officially divorce Kim Kardashian? Will he run for president again in 2024? 

The only thing that is certain about Kanye is that Kanye will continue to be Kanye. While many might think he is crazy, West remains focused on himself. As he said in his track “Feedback” from “The Life of Pablo,” “I can’t let these people play me. Name one genius that ain’t crazy.”