“Donda,” which will be the 22-time Grammy winner’s 10th studio album, is only the latest of his releases to stray from norms. Following a controversial interview with TMZ in spring 2018 — when he described slavery as “a choice” — West said he rerecorded the entirety of “Ye,” his eighth album, released that June. His most recent record, “Jesus Is King,” missed multiple dates before its October 2019 release.
Named after West’s late mother, “Donda” was scheduled for July 2020 before it was indefinitely delayed, though he announced the title and shared album artwork that month. News of West’s political antics overshadowed his music at the time, with West announcing over the Fourth of July that he would be running for president. The statement led to much scrutiny over the legitimacy of his candidacy, speculation as to how his running might affect the race and concern over his mental health.
Shortly after West announced his candidacy, Kim Kardashian West, who would later file for divorce from her husband of several years, requested “compassion and empathy” for him. While acknowledging that West was “subject to criticism because he is a public figure [whose] actions at times can cause strong opinions and emotions,” Kardashian described him as “a brilliant but complicated person who on top of the pressures of being an artist and a black man, who experienced the painful loss of his mother … has to deal with the pressure and isolation that is heightened by his bi-polar disorder.”
West’s presidential bid eventually fizzled out, and his concession speech consisted of a brief, since-deleted tweet: “WELP.” He hasn’t been active on Twitter since, though he returned to Instagram last week to promote a new Beats by Dre commercial starring American sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson (who was barred from competing at the Tokyo Olympics because of a positive marijuana test) and featuring the upcoming “Donda” track “No Child Left Behind.”
The video, which West scored and edited, also teased the album’s missed Friday release date.
West reportedly remained silent while streaming “Donda” at the listening event held Thursday in Atlanta. The Associated Press described the album as featuring “gospel themes, hip-hop vibes, his Auto-Tune vocals” and noted that it included a track featuring Jay-Z, a West mentor with whom he has shared a tumultuous professional relationship. Audio engineer and producer Young Guru shared on Twitter that Jay-Z recorded his verse Thursday at 4 p.m., just hours before the event.