Donda is Kanye West’s tenth studio album, released on August 29, 2021. The record is named after Kanye’s late mother, Donda West.
During a May 2020 Instagram Live interview, cinematographer Arthur Jafa revealed that he and Kanye were working together on a video. He also mentioned that Ye was preparing for the release of an album called God’s Country. On June 30, 2020, Kanye released a track which was, at the time, thought to be the album’s lead single—“Wash Us in the Blood”—in collaboration with Travis Scott. He also confirmed that the album’s title would be God’s Country in a tweet, but the name underwent another change.
On July 12, 2020, his mother’s birthday, Kanye previewed a portion of the original version of the album’s title track via Twitter. On July 18, 2020, Kanye tweeted the album’s tracklist, new title, and release date; he deleted the tweet within minutes. On July 21, 2020, Kanye tweeted yet another title and tracklist, saying:
DONDA: WITH CHILD new album and movie this Friday
The album ended up not releasing on that date; the following day, on July 25, 2020, Kanye revealed the original cover art via Twitter.
Almost a year later, on July 17, 2021, a video surfaced of Kanye and Tyler, The Creator playing new music in the studio from the night before. The next day, on July 18, 2021, Kanye had scheduled to have a private album launch party with family and friends. On July 21, 2021, a snippet of the song “No Child Left Behind” was used in a Beats ad with Sha'Carri Richardson. The advertisement revealed that the listening party would actually take place on July 22, 2021, and that the album would finally release that night. An unfinished version of the album premiered at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
To the surprise of no one, the album did not release on July 23, 2021. Justin Laboy took to Twitter that day to announce that the album will be releasing on August 6, 2021, stating that Kanye “wants to give fans the best possible product without rushing anything.” Kanye confirmed this on July 30, 2021, in an Instagram post that included the date “08.05.2021” which is when the second listening party took place.
On August 4, 2021, Kanye began livestreaming from within the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. He had been living there in a makeshift studio since the first Donda listening event. The livestream included studio footage, along with clips of Kanye sleeping and various associates including Chance The Rapper and Mike Dean working on the album.
Later that night, a version of Donda was premiered at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Although the album was promised to be released immediately following the event, it ultimately wasn’t once again.
On August 18, 2021, West announced a third listening party for the album scheduled for August 26, 2021, at Soldier Field in Chicago, titled “Kanye West Presents: The Donda Album Experience.” It was subsequently announced by West’s manager that the album would be released the day after the listening party on August 27. To the surprise of no one, the album was not released on August 27.
It was revealed a few hours before the release on Kanye’s Instagram that the reason of the delay was because DaBaby’s manager, Arnold Taylor, hadn’t cleared the verse from him on “Jail”. Kanye stated:
I’m not taking my brother off the album. He was the only person who said he would vote for me in public.
Kanye is referring to his 2020 president candidacy which DaBaby had publicly stated he was voting for West.
The album finally ended up releasing almost two days after the final listening party, on the early morning of August 29, 2021, with the addition of four new remixes of songs on the album, containing new features from DaBaby, Marilyn Manson, Shenseea, and Ty Dolla $ign. Older verses that weren’t shown at the final listening party also made the final cut, including JAY-Z’s verse on “Jail” and Kid Cudi’s vocals on “Moon”.
UNIVERSAL PUT MY ALBUM OUT WITHOUT MY APPROVAL AND THEY BLOCKED JAIL 2 FROM BEING ON THE ALBUM
This post alarmed many of Kanye’s fans, who believed he might try to take it down and further delay the project. Executives from UMG have denied the accusation, insisting that everyone involved was on board with the release.