Review: Donda 2
By Spencer Yu, Photo Editor
Kanye West, in my opinion is one of the most interesting artists of all time. Not only in the music space but in the art space as well. Practically revolutionizing rap music in the early 2000s, he defined an entire generation of new artists and new music. However, he is not without his faults. From famous incidents like disrupting Taylor Swift at the VMAs to his very controversial and disturbing music video for the song “Famous.” However, his most recent breakup with reality star Kim Kardashian might be the most notable yet. He has allowed that experience to define a large part of his work moving forward from music videos put out and certainly this new album Donda 2.
Before we talk about the album, however, we must first talk about the Stem Player which the album is exclusively released on. It’s an interesting device that allows users to sample certain parts of the song, loop them and change the volume, essentially allowing users to remix music from a small device. It is a cool idea in concept and one that I had fun playing around with.
However, there are two glaring issues I can see with this. Firstly, there is no official way to listen to this album without the Stem Player. Secondly, West thinks that this album is so earth-shatteringly awesome that people are willing to pay $250 to listen to it. For him to assume that his fans, no matter how devoted, are going to spend $250 to listen to one album is a decision that is at best short sighted and at worst completely idiotic.
Now with that out of the way, we can talk about the album itself. Released just six months after Donda. Donda 2 fails on all fronts to live up to the original. Donda was a bloated, albeit largely enjoyable album with some of West’s best works in the last few years especially with the tracks “Jail” and “Hurricane.” However, West is releasing Donda 2 in incremental updates over time. What is currently released right now does not nearly come close to being as enjoyable as the original. It isn’t entirely bad however as there are some enjoyable tracks on the album that I thought were worth mentioning, most notably the track “Easy” featuring The Game. I particularly liked the use of the Eazy E sample and I loved The Game’s verse on the track. West’s verse however, while not being terrible is far from great. Despite the controversy with using a skinned monkey as the cover for this single, I thought that it was generally alright compared to the rest of the songs on the album.
“Pablo” featuring Travis Scott and Future was also a decent banger to listen to. But I found the hook despite being catchy to be a little too long and repetitive. That, paired along with a set of fairly plain verses means that “Pablo” is a run of the mill trap banger that does nothing spectacular but nothing bad either.
On the other hand, a vast majority of the album comes across as something that was rushed out with multiple songs being under two minutes long with abrupt starts and stops. On top of that all of West’s top quality rapping that made him so enjoyable to listen to for almost the last two decades is almost completely gone. Instead, we get some of the worst West bars ever penned.
A standout being on the track “Broken Road” where West goes: “Baby I’m free baby I’m free/ Like a homeless person.” That is something I would come to expect from a rapper’s first attempt at putting words together and not a man that has revolutionized the rap scene. There are also very blatant jabs towards Pete Davidson that come across as not a well articulated diss but something that was said just for the sake of it being said. Saying things like he’s gonna “beat Pete Davidson’s ass” on the track “Easy” and how he is going to “put his security at risk” on the track “Security.”
There is very minimal polish in terms of the rapping or the production for a large number of the tracks. If we were to compare it to West’s previous works, it is very subpar. If this was something that was put out by an amateur rapper it would almost be passable on the basis that there are some bright spots on the album here and there such as the instrumental on the track “Broken Road” and other previously mentioned tracks like “Easy” and “Pablo.” But for someone with such a storied and legendary career, it just comes off as something that was rushed and lazy.
They say that the bigger the star the faster it burns and in this case it might be true. Kanye West has a history of putting out smash hit albums that inspire and are incredibly enjoyable to listen to time and time again. With classics like The Graduation Trilogy and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy he certainly has a history of making incredibly enjoyable albums that in some cases can define an entire generation of music.
However, Donda 2 is an incredibly flawed album and what makes it disappointing for me is the fact that I know he can do so much better. Donda 2 is a strange and poorly executed look into the mind of West as he goes through this dark chapter in his life and all we can hope for is that he finds his way out of it soon.