Kanye West’s “Donda 2”: A worthy sequel or a work in progress?


Courtesy of Complex

Kanye West posted this promotional image on his Instagram in mid-February to announce the supposed release date of his next project, “Donda 2.” He did not release the album on February 22.

George Monroe, Staff Writer

Kanye West has had quite a year. With his tenth studio album “Donda” receiving rave reviews, fans were happy to see West put out a great project. His previous release, 2019 gospel rap album “Jesus Is King,” was widely considered by fans as his worst. It was refreshing to see West stick to his godly themes while also putting out better music. “Donda” was a big point in West’s career which has been filled with controversy. Recently, the controversy has only gotten worse for West. 

Ever since his widely publicized divorse with Kim Kardashian, West has taken to Instagram to explain his side of the story. He called out Kardashian for a lack of transparency with the custody of his children, and went after comedian Pete Davidson for dating Kardashian. Whatever situation West is going through, he puts into his music. This only got fans more excited for an upcoming release.

In early February, Kanye West announced that “Donda 2” would be released on February 22, purposefully chosen for the written date 2/22/22.  But fans were thrown a curveball after West announced the album would not be released on any streaming services. The only way to access the album would be through his own “Stem Player” that was released in August 2021. This listening device allows the user to isolate certain instruments or vocals in a song. The tracks off of West’s previous album, “Donda” were loaded on to the Stem Player last year, but now West is using it for “Donda 2.”

Much like any product West puts out, it was expensive, with a price tag of two hundred dollars on the Stem Player website. But fans of West are loyal and dedicated. West made over 2.2 million dollars in Stem Player purchases in the 24 hours after his announcement that the only way to listen to “Donda 2” would be through the Stem Player. With tons of promotion for the Stem Player on West’s Instagram, fans were hoping that this album would actually release on February 22. 

However, West has a habit of delaying, scrapping and canceling albums. In fact, only one of West’s projects has stayed true to its release date. Postponing albums is something long-time fans of West were used to, but soon there was more hope. West later announced the continuation of his listening parties. These listening parties showcased the new songs from West’s upcoming project, something he did back in July and August of 2021 for “Donda.” This time, the listening party would be at the LoanDepot Center in Miami. But this listening party turned out to be a disaster, much of it not being West’s fault. 

Besides the show starting extremely late, there were many technical problems that arose. After West previewed his songs from “Donda 2,” he was set to perform popular songs off of “Donda.” But there was clearly something wrong. Featured artists at the listening party had trouble keeping up with the instrumental of the song, and West didn’t even have a microphone at times. West was visibly frustrated, throwing his microphone during the performance of “Jail.” West would later say that he did this because he did not want to perform his “Donda” songs. But when it came to the “Donda 2” songs, fans were mostly pleased. It was clear that these tracks were still a work in progress. 

But the “Donda 2” listening party ended the night of February 22, the set date for the album. People began to question whether West should face lawsuits, considering people bought this expensive Stem Player being promised “Donda 2” would be available on that date. But fortunately, West released four tracks from the new album the next day, keeping his fans occupied.

The four songs were titled “Broken Road”, “Security”, “Pablo” and “We Did it Kid.” The song “Broken Road” is a short, containing an angelic hook from rapper Don Toliver, who continues his success on West’s projects, previously appearing on Donda’s “Moon.” Wext has a somewhat normal tone in this song, but this tone shortly shifts as we move to the track “Security.” West’s attitude is manic and dangerous as he fires shots at Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson, claiming “I put your security at risk.” 

These threatening comments fit the production as well. The overall feel is much similar to West’s 2013 album “Yeezus.” The track is extremely vengeful and aggressive, which helps West shine. But this is another short track, which also seems unfinished and raw. Next we have “We Did it Kid,” which is much more polished and less thrown together. So far, it’s the strongest track. The horns are incredible and help elevate everyone’s performance. West hardly has a verse, so the featured artists do all the heavy lifting. Rapper Baby Keem gives one of his best lyrical performances to date, while still contributing the high amount of energy he is known for. Quavo, Offset and Takeoff of The Migos give an energizing back and forth performance, while still sticking to a solid subject matter, as they celebrate their rise to the top after their humble beginnings. This electrifying track shows promise for the remainder of the album, while also questioning West’s abilities, considering his verse failed to exceed twenty seconds in length. 

As we move on to “Pablo,” you can clearly make it out to be a trap banger within a few seconds in. It contains a catchy hook, which names drops Pablo, an alter ego of sorts that West used in his 2016 album, “The Life of Pablo.” Travis Scott’s vocal inflections bring an interesting feel to the track, but unfortunately West mumbles through parts of his verse, draining the energy out of “Pablo.” Future is sleeping through his verse as well, as if he is trying to hide all of the redeeming qualities of “Pablo.” 

After these four songs were released on the Stem Player, there were many questions to be asked. Are these the finished tracks, or is it still a work in progress? When will more tracks be released? Soon, we had the answer to these questions.

On February 24, another 12 songs were added to the Stem Player website to download. Fans were excited that more songs were released, but were still questioning when the rest of the project would be available on the Stem Player, as West showcased 22 new songs at the Miami listening party. But nevertheless, most of what fans were anticipating was finally here. And much like the four tracks that dropped the day before, it is flawed, inconsistent, but spectacular at times. 

This version begins with the song “True Love”, which starts off the project on a good note. Late rapper XXX Tentacion gives an emotional and powerful hook. Whether you agree with West on the view of his children’s custody, he gives a heartfelt and compelling view from his side of the situation, telling his children “daddy’s not gone” and “I leave the light on” referencing the house he bought next to Kim Kardashian.

This track flows well with “Broken Road”, which now has a better feel next to “True Love” instead of “Security”. Then comes “Get Lost,” a futuristic song with no instrumental. West looks back at his marriage with Kardashian and questions when he crosses her mind. The heavy autotune West uses is much similar to his 2008 album “808s and Heartbreak.” The fourth track, “Too Easy,” also contains more of an autotuned West, and a “Yeezus” type beat. But once again, we see West beat a dead horse with a repetitive chorus and an unfinished verse. 

Up next is “Flowers”, which West previewed on Instagram to announce that “Donda 2” would only be available on the Stem Player. This track doesn’t knock it out of the park, but it at least isn’t thrown together, and still touches on what West is going through currently. After “Flowers,” we get “Security,” “We Did it Kid” and “Pablo” all in a row, all bringing big shifts of energy as you go track by track. Reaching the midway point of the album, we have “Louie Bags,” which features a sample of Vice President Kamala Harris’s viral video of her phone call with Joe Biden after Biden won the presidency. The beat is mostly made up of blaring hi-hats, and West once again mumbles through his verse, which is just another sign of an unfinished, disappointing project so far. Rapper Jack Harlow does all he can to save the song with a great verse, touching on his experience in the music industry. Meanwhile, Future is back on the track “Happy”, but with more energy and a stronger verse than his previous featured track, “Pablo”. West gives a consistent verse, but his performance is still disappointing to the point where it is hard not to skip to the next track. 

Luckily, the next track, “Sci Fi,” is fantastic. It incorporates a Kim Kardashian sample from her Saturday Night Live monologue, praising West and her four children he gave her. Singer Sean Leon gives an incredible vocal performance that feels angelic yet devilish at times. This beautiful and atmospheric instrumental only lifts the song up and surrounds the listener. West gives a compelling performance asking the audience to make a choice: oxygen or wifi? This line comments on the excessive need for celebrity gossip and drama on the internet, that only separates the world. In this track, West is essentially giving up in his battle, stating that he needs to remove himself from the situation before he loses himself. 

After “Sci Fi”, the album goes on a small hot streak, with the tracks “Selfish” and “Lift Me Up.” “Selfish” contains another great feature from XXX Tentacion, who is hands-down the star of this track, but West’s verse also contains no mumbling which is promising. On “Lift Me Up,” singer Vory gives a great vocal performance. This mostly serves as an interlude, considering West’s only credits to this song are on the production side of things, but the dreamy instrumental makes this one of the most beautiful tracks on “Donda 2”. 

The next track, “Keep it Burning”, contains yet another Future feature, delivering his best one yet. But West drains all the energy out with an unfinished verse. If West gave a consistent performance on these trap bangers, there would be more optimism for this album. Thankfully, we get a fully finished song, “City of Gods.” This track was originally released by rapper Fivio Foreign on streaming services, but is listed as part of “Donda 2.” This might just be the best track on the album. It is a drill banger that singer Alicia Keys’ vocals fit surprisingly well on. Fivio Foreign and West are once again successful as collaborators, as their song “Off the Grid” is another great track that appeared on “Donda.” Fivio gives a verse that proves he is a force to be reckoned with and one of the most underrated rappers currently. The synths give a futuristic take on the New York drill scene. West gives a solid verse, incorporating the interesting line “100 goons pulling up to SNL,” another instance of him threatening Pete Davidson. Overall, “City of Gods” is a great collaboration and a contender for song of the year. The last track on the album, “First Time in a Long Time,” includes West reflecting on his year and once again, Kim Kardashian. Although rapper Soulja Boy’s humorous appearance on the album, his verse is solid. This track is a decent closer for a flawed and unfinished project. 

The future of “Donda 2” is unpredictable, which raises many questions. Is this the final version? Will the album be released on streaming services? With Kanye West, we never know. But we do know there is still much of this journey left, which makes sense, considering that this project is the furthest thing from polished. 

But from a production aspect, West is still at the top of his game. Through “Donda 2”, we hear many airy and futuristic beats, but West still takes a minimal approach. The use of samples is something West has continued to do his whole career, and it hasn’t stopped now. But instead of using soul, funk and jazz samples like he traditionally has in the past, he incorporates more modern day snippets from television or TikTok. 

It is clear that no one should test West’s ability to produce beats, something that originally got him in the rap scene in the early 2000s. But mixing is also an issue on numerous songs. Volume unintentionally fluctuates at times, and West’s voice at points is off-putting, especially on tracks with more dreamy instrumentals. 

Nevertheless, “Donda 2” shows promise. If West can deliver consistent verses with a bit more energy, this project would take a huge leap forward. But we don’t know if or when these changes will take place. Only one thing remains constant in West’s career, unpredictability, and he is taking us on this ride with him once again.