Review: “Donda” is velvety, dark, heavy – and finally another good album by Kanye West

The saint of the last days is back – with an album that bears his mother’s first name: “Donda”. R&B singer Sleena Johnson repeats the word in “Donda Chant” felt a hundred times. The self-proclaimed presidential candidate for the 2024 US election also pulled out all the stops at the preliminary presentations of the new plant. In three football stadiums there was exultation, singing and cheering; in Georgia there was even a replica of West’s birthplace on the stage, and for the finale Kim Kardashian appeared in a white wedding dress – although the couple had actually only split up… Well, whatever – that’s entertainment! Like the Tiffany icons Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Ye and Kim have long been on top (and beyond) and enjoy the freedom that goes with it.

Anyway, because “Donda” turned out to be a pretty good album. Not just in comparison to the pious total crash “Jesus Is King” three years ago. The tone of the 1:48 hour work, which is extremely long, is velvety, dark and heavy, but the subject of faith is often treated as subtly as in “The Ten Commandments” with Charlton Heston. In “Believe What I Say” we meet the ex-gay hater Buju Banton who has apparently matured from Saul to Paul, in “Jail” Marilyn Manson, who has been accused of abuse and rape, is also involved. Jay-Z also takes the floor very skillfully: “Made in the image of god, that’s a selfie / Pray five times a day, so many felonies.”

It is not easy as a non-fan to navigate through the web of cross-references and allusions of “Donda”. HipHop is even more than usual a network in which gossip, belief, politics and everyday life merge with one another. As in the hymnic (yet somber) “Jesus Lord”, a bitter argument with the many absent fathers in the black community. Kanye raps the outro with Larry Hoover Jr., son of a well-known gang leader who has been sentenced to life in prison. West may be a crazy bird, but with “Donda” he finally shows his skills again. (Universal)

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