Last night, Kanye West debuted his upcoming album DONDA at a listening party in Atlanta in front of an excited crowd. In true Kanye fashion, no one knew what to expect, nor what the album would actually sound like. Previous albums such as The Life of Pablo and Kids See Ghosts have all been revealed in drastically different ways, from a fashion show at Madison Square Garden to a cozy gathering at the rapper’s Wyoming ranch.
This week has seen Kanye once again coming back to social media, returning to fashion looks reminiscent of his 2014 aesthetic, debuting the first DONDA track in a Beats by Dre spot, as well as potentially performing at Rolling Loud in Miami – making it clear that he’s really back this time.
Gearing up for the album’s official release, here are five main takeaways from Kanye’s DONDA listening party.
The listening party took place in Atlanta, at Mercedes Benz Stadium. 42,000 people were in the crowd, who had all previously bought tickets for $20 or $50 prior to the event to be the first to listen to the upcoming album. The performance took place on a big empty floor, with the rapper pacing across the stadium whilst the music played out loud on speakers. The rapper didn’t say anything throughout the 45-minute long event, nor when it ended. It was all just total silence. We know Kanye has been loving the work of Bottega Veneta in recent times, and perhaps he’s adopting their silent approach as a personality trait, too.
We already know that Kanye never disappoints when it comes to features, and ahead of the album’s reveal, fans have been speculating as to who would snag a spot on a track. The first feature on the album is long-time Kanye collaborator Pusha-T, on the track “Come to Life,” and throughout the tracklist, we also see Playboi Carti, Travis Scott, Lil Durk, Roddy Rich, Pop Smoke, Vory, and more. One name that is missing, however, is Tyler, The Creator, who Kanye was photographed in the studio with recently, leading fans to think the album might still not be fully finished.
Kanye’s mother Donda West, who the album is named after, is also featured on the album. Samples of her speaking are intertwined with the songs, followed by lyrical nods to the rapper’s relationship with God and his struggles with loneliness – something the album is centered around.
Of course, a new album means a new era to add to Kanye’s style evolution, this time rocking a big bright red iteration of his polarizing Yeezy x GAP jacket together with matching red trousers, orange shoes, and a mask to cover his face – a recent interesting addition to the rapper’s signature look. Kim Kardashian also made an appearance at the listening party together with the former couple’s children, wearing a red jumpsuit to go with Kanye’s look. Previous teasers also included a potential track called “Kim’s Song,” which wasn’t played at the event.
Additionally, a previous song dubbed “Junya Watanabe” surfaced, featuring Playboy Carti, but also wasn’t included in the album reveal, so we can’t be sure if it’s a demo or part of the record.
The biggest surprise of the event was of course the final feature: Jay-Z. Linking up with Kanye on the album’s final track “I’m Going to Jail Tonight,” the song finally reunites the two rappers and has fans excited about their decade-long beef finally coming to an end. Lyrics from the rapper’s verse include bars including, “Told him to stop that red cap, we’re going home,” “This might be the return the of the throne,” and “Hova and Yeezus, like Moses and Jesus,” with fans already going crazy about the surprise linkup online. Could another Watch the Throne be in the works? Let’s hope so.
Despite the release date being confirmed for Friday, July 23, the album is yet nowhere to be seen. With Kanye, we already know that just because a date has been set, it doesn’t mean anything will release, and we’re hoping that DONDA is the exception (for all we know, this could just be a demo). Meant to release across streaming services today, we’re staying tuned for the official drop.