The city of Atlanta has presented Kanye West with two momentous gifts, following a sold-out, stadium-set listening party for his long-awaited tenth album ‘DONDA’ – which is yet to hit streaming, despite a slated release date of July 23.
The first, as TMZ reports, is the official proclamation that July 22 be formally recognised as Kanye West Day. The rapper was presented with a plaque acknowledging the occasion backstage at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, upon which he donned a wide, toothy smile (an especially rare sight for West in recent years).
Check out a fan-recorded video of the impromptu ‘ceremony’ below:
— 🎤🎶 Black Music History 🎶🎤 (@BlackMusicHstry) July 23, 2021
In addition, West was presented with the Dr. Donda West Meritorious Service award, honouring his late mother – who passed in 2007 of complications from cosmetic surgery – for her tenure as a respected member of Morris Brown College family. A teacher at the HBCU for almost 20 years, Donda also served as Chair of its English Department.
West was given the award by Morris Brown College president Kevin James, leading to a moment in which TMZ said the rapper “got super emotional”. Per their report, members of West’s family were in attendance to celebrate the achievement.
After months of rumours, leaks and formally announced dates that came and went without its delivery, yesterday’s event saw the full ‘DONDA’ record played publicly for the first time. The 15-track album – West’s tenth, following the 2019 release of ‘Jesus Is King’ – was played to a full house of 42,000 punters, majority of whom paid between $20 and $100 for a ticket.
In NME’s review of the event (see above), which was also livestreamed via Apple Music, writer Maria Lewczyk noted: “There’s a sense of closure around the album. ‘DONDA’ is confident, full of forgiveness and optimism for a better future.”
She continued: “While audiences are inevitably going to be divided in their opinions on the album, this one wasn’t made for those critiques. West has channeled his emotions into a singular work, making it feel just as contorted and wild as the pains of loss and grief, and giving it a brighter resolution with a sense of solace.”
The hotly anticipated release of ‘DONDA’ was confirmed earlier this week in a commercial for Beats By Dre, previewing the track ‘No Child Left Behind’ in a clip starring US athlete Sha’Carri Richardson. The ad followed an announcement for the listening party delivered by longtime Kanye collaborator Pusha T.
West then shared a partial tracklist for the album, featuring tracks ‘Off The Grid’, ‘Keep My Spirit Alive’ and ‘Lord I Need You’.
At the time of writing, ‘DONDA’ is still yet to be released. According to Theophilus London, West “still has verses to finish and a bunch of new features today just based off the roll out hype”, teasing a last-minute teaming with Rick Rubin to finalise the LP for its (hopefully) imminent release.
Sources reportedly told Billboard that West is set to bring ‘DONDA’ to the live stage this weekend with a performance at the Rolling Loud festival in Miami on Sunday (July 25).