Kanye West's 'Donda 2' Isn't Finished Yet — but It Might Not Be Fixable
Published Mar 08, 2022In a world where fans have waited nearly five years for a follow-up to Kendrick Lamar's Pulitzer Prize-winning DAMN. or close to two decades for an André 3000 solo effort, there was something oddly freeing about the rollout of Kanye West's Donda sequel.
Barely letting the dust settle after its chart-topping predecessor, V2.22.22 MIAMI — the current release of the album otherwise known as Donda 2 — is a noticeably unfinished album. It's only officially available on Ye's own Stem Player device, where listeners can manipulate the tracks to their liking. This makes fans a part of Ye's creative process — an engaging idea in theory, even if the the Stem Player's $200 USD price point is quite steep for the average listener. The Stem Player itself is an innovative creative product, another example of Ye's trailblazing — the music on Donda 2 is less so.
As it currently stands, Donda 2 is very much a reflection of Ye's mindset as expressed in his recent online exploits, largely inspired by his divorce from Kim Kardashian. He is far from the first man to be engrossed in a separation that involves children. Still, he is arguably the most popular, and he continues to use his platform to lob uncomfortably one-sided jabs at Kardashian and her new boyfriend, Pete Davidson. While his heart may be in the right place (in his mind), the messaging gets more than a little mixed up as the tracklist progresses, not unlike the Instagram post-and-delete madness we got leading up to the album.
For example, on "True Love," featuring the late XXXTentacion, Ye takes shots at Kardashian and laments the emotional, frustrating realities of co-parenting under hostility (something he's, y'know, contributing toward). It's a sharp juxtaposition to a much more menacing "Security," where he appears to be threatening the safety of anyone standing between him and the nuclear family structure he's trying to regain. It's hard not to see this directed at Davidson, who has become one of the most prominent opps of Ye's career, up there with Taylor Swift and big tech. It's an incredibly harsh song to have out in the world during a divorce proceeding.
Then, even more jarring, is "Flowers," which can be taken two ways. While the chorus feels like a reference to the extravagant Valentine's Day gift Ye sent Kardashian, he appears to be addressing a new acquaintance — assuring her that he is the literal pinnacle she will ever reach. That's quite off-brand, considering the bulk of Donda 2's crux and his personal narrative of late.
Not that the album is unfinished to the point it's entirely unsatisfying; there are clear winners here. Kanye bares his soul against Don Toliver's angelic vocals on "Broken Road," and Vory's feature on "Lord Lift Me Up" gives an unmistakably orchestral feel. "We Did It," featuring Migos and Baby Keem, is a rare bright moment in what feels like an otherwise dark tracklist, standing as a clear highlight on the album, while NYC ode "City of Gods" stands as the most fully realized track. As usual, his curation of guests is vital, at points carrying Ye's incomplete verses (which are often hampered by mumbly placeholders). The Future-featuring "Keep It Burning" and Jack Harlow-aided "Louie Bags" both feel like potentially great tracks that weren't ready to come out of the oven yet.
The first instalment of Donda used elements of Ye's late mother's voice to help stitch together a thematic narrative, and that sense of tribute gets lost in the sequel. Instead, he's submerged in his divorce. On "Sci-Fi," he samples Kardashian's vocals and recalls "[giving her] the semen" before asking her to choose between oxygen or Wi-Fi— while also stating that he's recusing himself (from a public situation he is in fact driving) for his own sanity. He follows that up with "Selfish," a song that sees him reassert his newfound musical independence while again harkening back to the sense of loneliness he is currently feeling.
It's possibly his most focused tracklist in recent memory; it's a voyeuristic look into a dark period in his timeline. Ye isn't happy — he says it himself more than once. The result is timely music that, for better or worse, captures this moment, despite not having any real high-powered hits or us being mixed and mastered to the level of his most revered work.
It does open up a new world, allowing fans access to clean stems. This could result in better remixes and mashups from a wide variety of listeners — whether it's producers building around the existing elements or artists adding their verses to glaring gaps in songs like "True Love" or "Too Easy."
Even in the eyes of his die-hard fans, this feels like an accurate indicator of a project that will ultimately play in the same sandbox, albeit with some changed instrumentation and — hopefully — fleshed out songs. Dark times often lead to fantastic art. However, for Ye, the intersection of striking while the iron's hot has resulted in a rushed body of work. Things are happening in real-time — for example, his March 5 "divorce" post, with a caption including lines like, "Divorce feels like your kids were snatched from your control / Divorce feels like you've been shot and traffic is slow," which feels like an inevitable future addition to this project. But, whether tinkering can add some sorely missing replay value to Donda 2 remains to be seen. (Independent)