Photo by Arnold Jerocki/GC Images via Getty Images
Kanye West previewed a new album at a listening party in Las Vegas over the weekend.
There’s nothing quite like waking up to the collective siren of a new album campaign from Kanye West.
In case this is the first you’re hearing of it, just take a quick scroll down your Twitter feed. Note the timeline howling with chatter about the next chapter from the controversial Chicago rapper-turned-streetwear-guru-turned-hypebeast-cult-leader. And regardless of whether you feel it’s too soon (it is,) for a new Kanye album to arrive when you’re still trying to figure out where to file his last two projects, it certainly seems that we’ve crossed some sort of threshold, as reports are insisting a new album called DONDA could arrive as early as this week.
If you’re wondering how West, in just eight months or so, went from being a stark mad presidential candidate in the throes of a divorce with one of the most famous people on the planet to throwing a listening party in Las Vegas over the weekend for an album no one knew he was working on, this is not the appropriate body of text for you to read. No one in our corner of the internet has or wants that level of proximity to West and we simply don’t have the answers, Sway. But if the snippets and one-take reviews rippling out from last night’s stunt on the Vegas strip are any indication, DONDA, named after West’s late mother, is, in fact, done and will very likely be arriving imminently. And to further the point, another listening party in Atlanta is set to take place this Thursday, July 22nd, mirroring the tour of album previews that headed off the release of 2016’s The Life of Pablo.
Not unlike the last few runs on the Kanye carousel, this album’s launch is flooded with speculative hyperbole and contradictory information. To help you parse through the inevitable splatter job of whatever’s en route, we’re putting all we’ve gleaned from this morning’s findings in one place. Obviously, this being Kanye and all, no aspect of this release — be it track list, guests, runtime, album art, you name it –is set in stone. But until there’s more than just a handful of crowd-sourced clips and conjecture to go on, here’s everything we know about the new Kanye album so far. Stay tuned for updates in the days ahead.
New album, new mask.
If you caught some of the videos (see below,) inexplicably circulating from an event that reportedly required attendees to hand over their phones, you probably noticed Kanye reviving, to a certain degree, a Yeezus tour remnant. Throughout last night’s listening party at an undisclosed Vegas outpost, the rapper was wearing a full face covering. Unlike the Swarovski-encrusted mask from his gaudy-beyond-measure 2013 live run, this one is scaled down and almost ninja-esque. Now, it’s anyone’s guess if West was actually the man behind the laptop. For all we know, it could have been an imposter pulled straight out of MF DOOM’s handbook of trickery. But it does appear West has been making the rounds in this eyes-only screen. So it’s probably more than just a COVID precaution.
Kanye West x Baby Keem 🗣💨🔥
Donda Listening Party 💪🏾🐐 pic.twitter.com/M4stPaW37e
— lux＊ (@waitlux) July 19, 2021
A predictably lengthy guest list.
Though only a couple of songs were decipherable in those low-grade segments floating through our timelines, early reports from last night’s session indicate DONDA is as much of a communal effort as previous studio outings. Fans claim to have heard the voices of Travis Scott, Baby Keem, Ty Dolla $ign, Pusha T, Playboi Carti, Kaycyy, and others not named Kanye, all over the project.
First snippet From Kanye West Las Vegas Party and it sound fire ong pic.twitter.com/dm2wDrTRKy
— ٰ (@bIondedxo) July 19, 2021
🎵 Hurricane – Kanye West
Dropping on the album DONDA
— Dr. Kanye West (@DaKanye21) July 19, 2021
The late Donda West makes several appearances.
If the title didn’t make it clear enough, the incoming album from Kanye is dedicated to and inspired by his late mother, former manager, and retired educator, Donda West. And it seems she’s prominently factored into the tracklist. According to at least one attendee’s raving review of the listening party, DONDA is partitioned into three acts, each commencing with a monologue from the West family matriarch. And it won’t be the first time Kanye has paid tribute to Donda, who tragically passed in 2007 after complications from a number of cosmetic surgeries. West’s charity takes his mother’s name, and in 2016, he even attempted to develop a game for his single “Only One” that centered on ascending to heaven to be reunited with her.
This may be the most sonically impressive ye album to date. For those wondering he does swear but just n word and bitch. Features I recognized were Travis Scott, Pusha T, Kaycyy, and Ty Dolla $ign. Features 3 Donda West monologues that split the album into 3 parts
— vik! (@vikkomode) July 19, 2021
A return to the secular?
Perhaps the most relieving takeaway from last night’s listening party is West’s apparent departure from the Christian raps. This isn’t to say Kanye has abandoned the faith-forwardness of Jesus is King. But from the sound of it, the squeaky clean bars are getting left in 2019, right where we’d hoped his pursuit of the Oval office would end. But the jury’s still out on whether he’s given up on that pipedream or just retooling for a more refined run in 2024.