Ye (formerly known as Kanye West) is a man who needs no introduction, as it is safe to say that anyone and everyone who landed on this article is in some way familiar with him and his artistic work. However, if by any chance you are in the rare position of not knowing the man at all, who once so famously said; “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” then let me give you the briefest recap ever known. In 2010, he released arguably one of the most influential albums of the last decade, entitled My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy or MBDTF in short. A decade and a year later, he came up with Donda, an album that was anticipated for years before its final release, already pronounced to be the album of the year and debatably as significant and profound as his last timeless project, in all its first year of release. From his fashion imprint and music production catalogue to his artistic career, the self-proclaimed ‘no man knows it all’ and throughout antics, public backlash and several cultural cancellations that could have ruined his legacy indefinitely, the man seems to only have become more successful.
Before I dive deeply into the many reasons I believe Donda is one of the most important albums of our time, I need to make sure a few things are clear first. The notion of time has always meant something different to a range of different people. In this particular context, the use of the term ‘time’ comes with the understanding that after 5 to 10 years, if an album remains as impactful and its replay valued as much by music enthusiasts as the average listener, it can only then be considered a classic album. So yes, you can say that I will be attempting to predict the future by setting the tone early with the following claim: Donda is the most important album of our time. Moreover, there’s a great chance that many of my readers will not feel in any way concerned with the use of the pronoun ‘our’ that I specifically chose to accompany my statement. Rest assured, my intentions are not to force my judgment on you with something you are merely convinced of, but rather to offer an invitation to those who are keen on this debate. This includes; music enthusiasts, old heads, artists of this generation and the average listeners under the hip-hop/rap umbrella. Lastly, I think it is important for me to mention that there won’t be any in-depth analysis of the lyrics, features, external activities and overall rollout of this project, simply because in my opinion, it would take the length of an entire novel for me to explain. In conclusion, everyone is entitled to their own opinion and will have their personal favourites of the year, so just take this with a grain of salt.
Positivity and support
Perhaps what could have been one of the worst ways of starting a new decade happened right in front of our eyes when the corona virus and a global pandemic was announced at the beginning of the year 2020. Countless loved ones were taken from us and as a result, those unaffected were placed into several quarantines that lasted as long as up to the following year. People lost jobs and opportunities, families were separated, students attended online classes with little to no previous experience and, for many of us, hobbies such as listening to music became an escape from this catastrophic reality. Since the world was in a complete shutdown, the anticipation and excitement about new music releases grew off the board. Everyone was eager to see how current circumstances would affect and inspire entertainers to express themselves creatively. It came a bit as a surprise though, when most of our favourites and leading music acts did nothing but avoid the subject of covid-19 and everything around it. At that time, not only were they bending the rules by having lavish parties and flying abroad on jets to private islands, but there was also a clear gap between social classes and it reflected well on the content they produced. It is to be said that most of the music at that time was not entirely dreadful and in fact, some artists produced one of their best projects to date. However, something was apparently missing and hip-hop/rap that was once seen as a form of storytelling could not have been any further from its true origin.
If we look back at history, the types of art that survives the test of time all have something in common; they gave an insight into what life and the people were like at that particular time. Moreover, they also reflected how different social classes and groups of people may have felt during certain life events and what they experienced and had to endure in between obstacles. This is crucial to the role of the artist, informing as many current consumers as potential listeners of the future, not only to achieve longevity, but also gratitude and relatability towards their targeted audience. This goes without saying that every artist is not meant to play that role, and it does not make anyone less of a contributor to art just because they chose not to address the subject in hand. In fact, the role of the artist is not to be taken literally, however, more so figuratively as anything such as a piece of clothing can attest to the signs of times.
The content of the album of Donda has a variety of themes, however the main subject matter is evidently the loss of Kanye’s mother Donda West. This is automatically relatable because a lot of people at this time have also dealt with the sudden death of loved ones who had fallen victim to Covid-19. Throughout the music and telling of his story, Ye was able to convey the many emotions of the masses currently handling this deadly disease, or forced to face a lot of internal problems such as depression and anxiety, while preaching the need of an unearthly power coming from a supreme being. Not only does his music offer a positive message, it also encourages and supports individuals who are currently lost and in search of someone or something to rely on while enduring torment. In a 2018 interview with Charlamagne, Kanye revealed that he was looking forward to producing more music with a therapeutic approach. No matter your religious beliefs or background, Kanye brought back an important virtue to music and the world, which is hope. This project serves music listeners who have gone through hell since the beginning of the pandemic, as an orchestral place one can turn to while still dealing with grief and battling depression, knowing one has to remain strong. As in track number 24, Kanye repeatedly sings: “we’re gonna be okay, we’re gonna be okay!”
A connection with people
As I already mentioned, a lot of the albums that were released during the pandemic avoided the subject matter and everything around it. Before the final Donda version was released, artists were seemingly trying their best to keep themselves in the limelight, and therefore, kept the content of their music uncontroversial and profitable. Moreover, as a result of many entertainers living such a detached life from reality and the average person, their lack of concern reflected tremendously onto their art and perhaps for the first time in a very long time, we as consumers had to face this harsh reality. Someone who was placed in financial difficulties because of working hours being reduced during the early times of Covid-19 for example, may not have received any sympathy from an artist worth millions of dollars living in a Calabasas mansion. This is where Kanye’s music comes into play, as the more commercially successful he gets, the more relatable he seems to become in the public's eye. There is no shame in saying that the man is no different than many celebrities who are no longer in touch with the general population, however perhaps the reason Kanye puts so much effort into spreading meaningful messages into our ears and through his truth, still finding ways to connect with people, is because he is simply one of the few who still cares.
In the past climate of hip-hop/rap, it had almost become a custom for the content to be either mumble rapping or lyrical rappers trying to out-rhyme each other, leaving the message to suffer behind the music. Donda set a new standard of not only meaningful bodies of work, but also a higher quality of content and messages behind the music for artists of the old and the new generation to draw from. A lot like MBDTF, years from now, new artists will come back to this album as a reference for their sound and development. Look at the recent Baby Keem’s project entitled ‘The Melodic Blue’ for example, as the great body of work it was (and proved that K.Dot’s cousin is here for the long run), you can find plenty of elements coming from Kanye’s music catalogue on tracks such as ‘issues,’ ‘scars’ and more. Kanye just has this effect on people to seek a greater purpose, a higher level in the process of music and pushing one to reach his or her true artistic potential.
In conclusion, only time can really tell what the future holds for this amazing body of work, however it would be wrong not to perpetuate the impression that because of the many layers this project already possesses, there is a great possibility that Donda will become one of the most important albums of our time and that our generation had the opportunity to experience.