For many Ye fans, the rollout for Donda, his 10th studio album, started in late July 2021 when his first album listening party was announced to take place in Atlanta's Mercedes Benz Stadium. For others, it started a year prior, when Donda was initially announced. For most - it will be an experience that won't be forgotten.
The rollout initially started with the project being known under a different name. At the time, the album was known as God's Country, and the first single for the album had just released - Wash Us In The Blood. The industrial hip-hop track included lyrical references to slavery, religion, genocide and capital punishment, and featured vocals from long-time Ye collaborator Travis Scott.
Weeks went by with little information on the upcoming album. In late July however, Ye announced that the album would be renamed to Donda to pay tribute to his late mother, and revealed the release date and track listing of the album which was due to release in days. With a track list and release date shown off by Ye himself, many fans believed the project would release on time - though few had reservations, comparing the Donda announcement to the scrapped album Yandhi, which was announced in 2018.
Friday came and went with no new music from Ye. News had broken out about various artists travelling to Ye's Wyoming ranch to help finish the project and music snippets began to surface across the internet, though we would not see another release date announced.
Information on the project slowed down again for a few months. In early 2021, we received the information that Ye was still hard at work finishing the album, and that it hadn't been scrapped. On July 17th 2021, longtime Ye collaborator Consequence posted a video with both Ye and Tyler, The Creator in the studio, hinting at a release later in 2021. The song which played through this snippet ended up being an alternate version of the song Life of The Party.
Shortly after this, Pusha T, artist and close friend of Ye, announced that there would be a listening event for the album on July 22nd 2021 at Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium. This was followed by a Beats commercial featuring the athlete Sha'Carri Richardson, which was scored by Ye and aired during game six of the 2021 NBA finals. The track, known as No Child Left Behind, was confirmed to be on the album. After the commercial aired, Def Jam revealed that Donda was set to release on July 23rd 2021, and mentioned that the Atlanta listening event would also be streamed through Apple Music.
The July 22nd listening event went off without many issues. Featured in some of the new tracks previewed by Ye were artists such as Travis Scott, Playboi Carti and even Jay-Z. The event also broke Apple Music streaming records, with 3.3 million people tuning in.
The listening party gave the masses their first listen of Ye's latest project - while what was shown received praise at the time, open verses appeared throughout the album, leading to some fans believing the album was unfinished. A few also felt as though the feature artists had the spotlight on the project, and that Ye needed to appear more on his album. Ye had been listening to the criticism and was determined to polish the album - because of this, the album ended up missing another release date, despite commercials and even Ye's label stating otherwise. Instead of heading back to a conventional studio, Ye took up a temporary residence in the guest locker rooms of the Mercedes-Benz stadium and converted it into a recording studio to finish recording and mixing the album.
Around this time, the cover art for the project also changed. Instead of the grassy plains, clouds and figures running towards the Sun depicted in the first cover, Ye chose an interpretation of a Louise Bourgeois drawing depicting the feeling of loss they felt after losing the mother figure in their life.
A second listening party was announced to take place on August 5th, and many fans thought that the album would release a day later. A second Beats commercial aired featuring a new song - Glory, and the album was earmarked for an August 6th release date, with the listening party once again being streamed through Apple Music. The listening party was even titled "The Donda Album Release", which led fans to believe the album would release imminently.
A pre-order for the album appeared on iTunes around this time, revealing that the album was 24 tracks long - a far cry from Ye's last two projects, which were 7 and 11 tracks long respectively. The preorder also revealed the final cover for the album, which ended up being a black square. Fans speculated that this was done to mask what the true final cover could be at the time, but the black cover remained when the album eventually released.
Compared to the first listening party, the music had changed drastically. Many tracks from the first listening party had carried over to the second, but sounded more complete, with new verses from Ye, or other feature artists. Standouts included artists such as The Weeknd, Fivio Foreign, Jay Electronica and Westside Gunn. In addition to this, there were more tracks shown off as a whole. The event culminated with the incredible visual of Ye being lifted out of the stadium.
The listening party was a success, once again breaking live-streaming records through Apple Music by pulling in 5.4 million live viewers - though when it came to August 6th, the album was nowhere to be seen. Even though the album was still unreleased, a song from the project known only as "Track 2" began appearing on curated playlists on Apple Music and Spotify. The track appeared as greyed out on both streaming services, and could not be played.
The name "Track 2" was eventually replaced with 'Hurricane', which features The Weeknd and Lil Baby. Despite additional information about the song being made known, such as the runtime, the song still could not be played and was eventually removed from all streaming services.
After the second public delay for Donda, demand for YEEZY shot up by roughly 347%. Anticipation surrounding the album was at its highest, and fans began picking up anything to do with Ye - the rollout had gone further than just an album for many people. Fans discovered that Ye was no longer staying at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium and had been spotted in other areas of the US - leading them to believe the album had been finished and it was only a matter of time before we'd hear it.
Ye eventually announced a third listening party for Donda on August 18th, titled "The Donda Album Experience". Set to take place on August 26th, this event would take place at the Solider Field in Chicago, Ye's hometown. People near Ye's inner circle would tease this event, stating that it would be considerably more extravagant than prior listening parties.
Hype surrounding the third listening party reached critical mass when it was reported that Ye was building a replica of his childhood home in the center of Soldier Field for the listening party.
The original plan was for the original home to be physically moved from its original location to Soldier Field, though Chicago's Buildings Department didn't allow this, citing how technical the process is. The department also required a permit application, but it hadn't been submitted in time. Around this time, it was announced that Donda would finally be released on August 27th, a day after the listening party.
The third listening party featured even more music than the first two - verses where Ye had "mumbled" his lyrics had been completely replaced with legible lyrics, and new verses had been added to songs. Some of the features had also been altered. KayCyy had his hook on Keep My Spirit Alive replaced by Ye, and controversially, Jay-Z's verse on Jail had been replaced by DaBaby. The event was also subject to controversy due to the appearance of both DaBaby and Marilyn Manson, who have both been subject to allegations of homophobia and sexual abuse respectively.
While the first event featured only Ye and the second featured fan participation, the third consisted of friends and associates of Ye dancing and performing around the replica of the childhood home. The event also featured an entourage of black cars driving around the house, along with various participants dressed in all black.
This event had a fiery climax. During the track Come To Life, Ye sat in a room within the replica house which eventually erupted in fire.
Many thought that the fire was CGI until Ye himself walked back out of the house, bathed in flames before being put out.
The final track of the show, No Child Left Behind, featured Kim Kardashian wearing a wedding dress, walking toward the replica home. Eventually, Ye appeared again, walking toward Kim and removing his mask - the first time Ye was seen in public without his mask since the beginning of the Donda rollout. This fueled rumors that the two would be getting back together following their separation, though a source close to Kim revealed that this was not the case. The event finally ended and when it came to the scheduled release date...the album hadn't released.
With three deadlines now being missed to release the album, many fans began to believe the album wouldn't receive a wide release. The lack of discussion surrounding the release of the project following the final listening party from Ye's inner circle also led to concern. However, almost as if it was a miracle, Donda released by surprise on Sunday, August 29th and became Ye's tenth consecutive #1 album.
The release didn't come without controversy - shortly after the album released on streaming services, Ye took to Instagram claiming that Universal put the album out without his approval. Ye also stated that UMG was the reason the controversial Jail Pt 2 (featuring DaBaby and Marilyn Manson) had been blocked from appearing on the album.
Following on from issues clearing DaBaby's verse on the track, Jail Pt 2 eventually appeared on the Donda tracklist later that night.
Even though the album had finally released, the rollout seemingly continued. Ye began travelling around the world, with producers and sound engineers for Donda stating that he was continuing to finish off music. Ye also continued to wear masks obscuring his face.
Days after the album released, Drake leaked the Ye song Life Of The Party, featuring Andre 3000. The track was intended to be on Donda, but was left off of the final tracklist. This was because Andre 3000 did not agree with his verse being censored, whereas Ye refused to have an explicit track feature on Donda.
The version of the track that leaked out was completely uncensored, and features a verse from Ye full of disses directed at Drake. Andre 3000 was not aware of this, and released a statement surrounding the events, explaining that it was "unfortunate the track released in this way".
A music video for Come To Life also released in early September. The video was made up of footage taken from the third Donda listening party - mainly the visuals of Kim Kardashian in a wedding dress, along with the imagery of Ye himself being set alight in a replica of his childhood home.
A few weeks after this, Ye also released a music video for 24, with help from photographer and long-time collaborator, Nick Knight. While the Come To Life video featured footage from the final listening party, the 24 music video features footage from the second party - the imagery of Ye being lifted out of the stadium. This is followed by imagery of Ye flying through the skies, with videos of his late mother, Donda West watching him go by.
Discussion surrounding a potential new revision of Donda was renewed once again when the STEM PLAYER began shipping out to customers. Announced during the same weekend where Donda released, the small device allows consumers to split any music they would like into stems - and also includes the full Donda album for free. Many of the Donda tracks on the stem player featured slight adjustments that had not been done to the album that was on streaming services. In addition to this, the stem players also featured multiple unreleased Ye tracks, including a finished and censored version of Life of The Party.
Shortly after the STEM PLAYERs began shipping out, REVOLT TV's Drink Champs began teasing a potential interview featuring Ye. The Instagram video they announced this in was comprised of the Drink Champs logo spinning in black and white, with the track Donda Chant overlaid onto it.
Ye appeared on Drink Champs that night, marking his first interview since releasing Donda. Ye touched upon various subjects throughout the two hour long interview, but also directly confirmed the existence of a Donda Deluxe, which was expected to be released "soon". Donda Deluxe was set to be a remastered version of the album that released in August 2021, featuring all new songs.
Mirroring the beginning of the Donda rollout, billboards announcing the release of Donda Deluxe began appearing in various cities around the US.
The billboards were comprised of an all black background with the subtitle "Kanye West Presents Donda Deluxe".
Around the same time as when the billboards announcing the release of Donda Deluxe began appearing around the USA, an army of Ye clones were spotted in New York City. The clones wore similar clothing to what Ye had been seen in recently, consisting of Balenciaga caps and boots, YEEZY GAP jackets and Apple AirPods Max headphones. In addition to this, the clones all wore masks obscuring their faces.
Donda Deluxe eventually released by surprise on Sunday 14th November 2021 and featured an additional five songs over the original version of the album, bringing the total number of tracks up to 32. One of the tracks added to the project was Life of The Party - the track that Drake had leaked a few months prior. The version of the song that appeared on the album was considerably different from the leaked version, with a completely new verse from Ye that omitted all of the disses from the original. In addition to this, the track was completely censored - however, an explicit version of the song was released as a standalone single alongside Donda Deluxe.
The release of Donda Deluxe marked the end of the rollout of Ye's tenth album, though the announcement of the nominations for the 64th Annual Grammy Awards brought discussion surrounding the album back to the forefront. Donda ended up receiving four Grammy nominations. Ye took home two Grammys for Donda, winning in the Best Rap Song and Best Melodic Rap Performance fields with the tracks Hurricane and Jail.
Following on from the missed deadlines, the scrapped track lists, various feature changes and the musical process, there's only one thing we can say for certain - the release experience of a Ye album is truly one of a kind. You can check out the deluxe edition of the album on Apple Music and Spotify below.
What did you think of Donda? What track was your favorite? Let us know through our social media channels, and for more updates on all things YEEZY, be sure to keep it locked to YM.