Ever since The Life of Pablo underwent at least three name changes and maybe twice as many release dates before it finally materialized, you have to take words about a new Kanye West album with a grain of salt—even (sometimes, especially) when they come from the man himself.
And yet, all signs point to Yeezy Season approaching yet again. His tenth album is seemingly done. The signals were there—for the last couple of months, Kanye has been making public appearances with his face covered by t-shirts reworked into masks. In the last few weeks, it’s morphed into a full on uniform, as he’s gone everywhere from Paris Fashion Week events to basketball games wearing his gothic face covering and his upcoming black puffy winter jacket from Yeezy Gap. Is this look a statement meant to comment on the media’s prying eyes while he goes through a divorce? Corporate synergy to hype up the Gap line? Or album mode theatrics that signal he’s ready to begin a new era? With Kanye, it could be a combo of all three.
Then a few days ago, frequent Kanye collaborator Consequence posted a video (with no sound) of Kanye playing Tyler, The Creator something in the studio and Tyler’s very excited reaction. Followed by speculation on Deuxmoi that had the album dropping last week (with a Drake feature, which, lol) and, seemingly, an exclusive listening event in Las Vegas. But not before he seemingly played it privately for Kevin Durant and Justin Laboy, a former pro basketball player who’s since become known for his viral tweets about relationships and dating, which he’s turned into a Revolt TV talk show called Respectfully alongside Diddy’s son Justin Combs. Laboy wasted no time in jumpstarting the hype machine with a few definitely-not-hyperbolic tweets that praised the production as being “light years ahead of its time” and claimed that Kanye’s bars evoked the days when he was “broke and hungry.”
Naturally, internet sleuths are all over this. With the caveat that all this is unconfirmed and Kanye listening events typically come with a heavy dose of sycophancy and hyperbole, here’s a breakdown of what we seemingly know so far.
So what’s the album called? Donda, named after Kanye’s late mother. He first threw this title out as Donda: With Child last summer during his pr*s*d*nti*l *a*p*ign. If you recall, there was a single and accompanying video called “Wash Us in the Blood” featuring Travis Scott (the artist Arthur Jafa, who directed the video, referred to the album at one point as God’s Country) and another song titled “Nah Nah Nah.” Judging from reports, blessedly, neither song has made the final cut.
And this is supposedly the “potential” album artwork, which some people think is a reference to the work of the French artist Louis Bourgeois.
Who’s on it? Travis made the cut with a different feature, which one listener described as a “hood classic.” (What does that mean exactly? Is it Baby Boy?) Apparently the ever-bubbling Baby Keem is also on that song. Pusha T shows up for a rap-heavy track that sees him and Kanye trading bars. And Lil Baby is apparently continuing his incredible run of scene-stealing guest features—his track seems to be garnering the most unanimous praise. Other rumored features include Post Malone and Playboi Carti. And in keeping with the title, the project is peppered with interludes of Dr. Donda West speaking.
Is it another Jesus album? Not quite. Yes, Kanye’s last album was Jesus Is King and between that and his Sunday Service performances, he’s gone heavy on the megachurch route for the last two years or so. But even though this listening took place in a church, supposedly he’s toned down the non-secular vibes. Faith and a strong belief in God have always been prevalent in Kanye’s work and those themes remain, but less overtly—the album is reportedly more about his own personal struggles and the general idea of overcoming adversity. As veteran hip-hop media mainstay Nigel D put it, “it’s positive music you can turn up to.” And most importantly, King’s profanity ban seems to have been lifted.
He talks about his personal struggles? So does that mean there are songs about Ki— Of course the end of his marriage comes up, but anyone who thought we were in for a “Blame Game” type of song about the mother of Kanye’s children might have to recalibrate their expectations.
So Kanye didn’t talk at all? The mask never came off and Kanye never said a word—at press time, he hasn’t said anything anywhere himself about this album. However, one listener reported him crying after a particularly raw song about his marriage. Otherwise, he just stood at a laptop and played music—following two commercials that will apparently debut during Game 6 of the NBA Finals. (Cribbing from the Jay-Z playbook, eh?) One is for Nike (Kanye making something for Nike again? Whoa) and features Sha’Carri Richardson, and the other is for Beats.
So when can I, a civilian and/or non-Las Vegas resident, hear Donda? With Kanye, “subject to change” may as well be a motto. There’s absolutely no telling if every song he played this weekend will actually make the final cut or sound the way it did to these people he played it for. Reports say the album will drop this weekend, but who knows? (Another listening event is supposedly set to take place on July 22nd at the Mercedes Benz stadium in Atlanta.) There’s no telling if that will hold—Kanye’s never been one to have a project ready to hit Spotify at 11:59pm on Thursday on the dot. It could drop Saturday morning after he’s tinkered with the mixes, it could have a totally different title, or he could decide it’s not ready and make Pusha T drop in his place. It’s Kanye’s schedule and we’re living by it.