DONDA, Kanye West’s tenth studio album, was released at the end of August 2021. And while it has received mixed reviews from critics and fans, its cultural significance has been marked in the current era of music.
Apart from the actual content of the album, the release experience has given insight into the creative process of music production to the general public. Initially following the JESUS IS KING album, DONDA was announced as early as May 2020 with a July 2020 release date. But seen from the timeline of the album from the first rumor to its actual release the general public had intimate knowledge of its creation.
Timeline of DONDA:
- May 24th, 2020: The first rumors of Kanye releasing an album came out from a report about “God’s Country”
- June 30th, 2020: Kanye releases “Wash Us in the Blood”
- July 12th, 2020: Kanye previews “DONDA” on Twitter with a deleted tweet
- July 19th, 2020: Kanye debuts “DONDA” tracklist with a deleted tweet
- July 21st, 2020: Kanye releases a screenshot of the Apple Music tracklist stating DONDA would be releasing that Friday
- July 26th, 2020: Kanye reveals the Album art of “DONDA”
- September 26th, 2020: Kanye previews “Believe What I Say”
- October 16th, 2020: Kanye releases his presidential campaign’s theme song “NAH NAH NAH”
- March 7th, 2021: Rumors of Kanye working on “DONDA” after divorce with Kim Kardashian
- July 17th,2021: Tyler the Creator was spotted in the same studio as Kanye
- July 19th, 2021: Kanye previews DONDA for Justin LaBoy and Kevin Durant
- July 19th, 2021: Pusha T announces Atlanta Listening Party on July 22nd
- July 20th, 2021: Beats showcases ad during NBA finals with July 23rd release date
- July 22nd, 2021: First Listening Party
- July 24th, 2021: Justin LaBoy tweets August 6th release date
- July 26th, 2021: Kanye moves into Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium to finish “DONDA”
- July 30th, 2021: Abou Thiam, Kanye’s manager, confirmed second listening party scheduled for August 5th
- August 3rd, 2021: Kanye and Mike Dean tease The Weekend feature
- August 5th, 2021: Beats tease Dr. Dre produced song from “DONDA”
- August 5th, 2021: Second Listening Party
- August 7th, 2021: Apple Music “DONDA” page delays release date to August 15th
- August 9th, 2021: Kanye moves to Chicago’s Soldier Field Stadium
- August 15th, 2021: Mike Dean says he is still on the album and Kanye is still working on it
- August 18th, 2021: Third Listening Party announced for August 26th
- August 19th, 2021: Abou Thiam confirms “DONDA” is dropping after Chicago event
- August 21st, 2021: Kanye clears his Instagram feed and posts picture of Childhood home
- August 21st, 2021: Kanye shares screenshots of convo threatening Drake
- August 23rd, 2021: Kanye’s Childhood home is being built in Chicago Stadium
- August 24th, 2021: Kanye changes his name to Ye removing the last name given by his mother
- August 26th, 2021: Third Listening Party
- August 28th, 2021: DONDA is released
Step 1: Writing the Song
The first step, highlighted in the lifecycle of a song article, is writing the songs of the album. From initial rumors the general public was able to experience how long it actually takes for an artist to actually create a song/album. As early as June 30th, 2020, a whole year before the actual release of the album, Kanye was working on the album likely writing new parts at any chance and also rewriting/scrapping songs. Looking at the tracklists released in July and October in 2020, they are completely different from one another and the final release.
Step 2: Recording and demoing
In this next step, artists will often record demos for other artists and friends and family to gain insight. Doing this can give yourself constructive criticism and help elevate your production. Kanye initially showcased the album to his peers within the music industry, while also just some of his friends such as Kevin Durant and Justin LaBoy. But now, imagine showcasing a work-in-progress album/sing with the entire world watching. This is exactly what Kanye did with every listening party. By previewing the album to the world through the different live streams he was able to gain criticism and insights from the general public while also successfully marketing and building hype for the album.
Step 3: Rehearsals and feature additions
Playing your music after you have recorded initial snippets in different spaces and different equipment can help change the direction an album/song goes. This is because hearing your music from a different perspective from what you are used to can make arrangement of the song change to help make the song more interesting. Also adding in features from other artists and producers can bring in a missing element you didn’t know was there initially. Looking at the listening events for DONDA individually, it is very obvious that the album is different at every date from Kanye using the criticism of the public, the rehearsal within the stadiums, and the addition of features.
Step 4: Fine Tuning and Mixing/Mastery
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are albums. Looking at any timeline of an album, it can take years for an album to fully see the light of day. Constant tweaks are made and expected when it comes to finalizing a song/album. And even after finishing the main production mixing and mastering, highlighted in in the lifecycle of a song article, is needed to create a sense of balance. Watching the different livestreams of Kanye in his residence in the Atlanta stadium, the general public were album to watch him whenever he would go to his computer to make any edits and mix and master his work.
While the DONDA release was a long and hectic journey, it laid its mark on the music industry as it showcased the production process and likely inspired many. Will other artists use Kanye's album delivery as the new framework for working on albums, or will the creative process never be this publicized again?
Only time will tell.
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