Few album releases get as much attention in the student press as has Kanye West’s Donda, which, on the surface, is about his mother. But as students note, it goes much deeper than that.
“This album is more complex than that,” write Julius Perez and Araminta Siegling in The Little Hawk, the student newspaper at Iowa City High School. “Variety treats Donda as just another one of Kanye’s emotional rants. Making it out to be a record filled with apparent obsessions with his ex-wife Kim Kardashian, and hip-hop rival Drake. I feel this perspective is a true insult to the testament of work and innovation put into this album.”
The fifth track, “Hurricane” begins with a harmonious opening from The Weeknd, reminiscent of an opening on the R&B singer’s album After Hours, reports George Bagwell in The Tribal Tribune, the student newspaper at Wando High School in Mt Pleasant, South Carolina.
“It’s followed by a verse by Atlanta rap superstar Lil Baby, and topped off with a much better verse from Kanye than on ‘Off The Grid,'” he writes. “All three reference their connection to God, something not just contained to Kanye’s verses, but also by most of the numerous high-profile features on the album.
“Following ‘Hurricane’ is ‘Praise God,’ with the intro being split by a recording of Donda West and an autotuned Travis Scott. West and Scott previously teamed up for ‘Wash Us in the Blood,’ a religious single, and a personal favorite of mine. However, amazing verses by Scott and West aren’t even the best part of the track. Baby Keem takes over the last verse and provides one of the greatest verses he has ever produced. He compares people who claim to be Christians, yet do not regularly practice it, to renters’ insurance. He name-drops Tame Impala, and he ends the verse with a high-pitched voice similar to Young Thug’s deliveries of the past. Overall, his verse drastically exceeded any expectations I had for Keem on this project, and it should help his career take off more than it already has in his young time on the charts. ‘Praise God’ is one of the best songs on the album.”
Writing in The Central Times at Naperville Central High School in Illinois, Connor McHugh generally agrees with Mr Bagwell about the quality of “Hurricane,” but he says at least two other tracks are “in the conversation” for the top spot on the album.
“Believe What I Say” is “going to be the most under-appreciated song on Donda,” he writes. “It contains the most upbeat tempo of the album and is one of the only songs that does not contain a feature. This song is a vibe. It makes me want to smile and dance like nobody is watching. I pray that people will realize sooner than later that this song is one of, if not the best, songs on this fantastic album.”
The other contender for the top spot, Mr McHugh opines, is “Moon”: “It is one of those special songs that transcends auditory gratification to provide the listener with an experience unlike any other. If I died tonight, I would expect to hear this song as I’m lifted up to the pearly gates, it’s just that divine,” he writes.
Chicago-area music fans had the opportunity to attend a pre-release listening event for the album at Soldier Field on August 26, three days before the official release date. Owen Atseff reported on the Soldier Field event in The Blueprint student newspaper at Downers Grove South High School in Illinois.
All the back-and-forth, tweet-deleting, and postponement of the album’s actual release has been frustrating for certain fans, including Michael Serritella, who writes in The Pacer, the student newspaper at Rolling Meadows High School in Illinois.
“Multiple times we have expected a new Kanye album and have been disappointed to see nothing new in his discography,” he writes. “The worst part of it all is that Kanye has been doing shows across the country, playing snippets and songs of the album. So we’ve heard leaks that have just made his fans more and more restless.”
Tyler Chrenka, who writes in The Tiger Times at Edwardsville High School in Illinois provides a descriptive history not only of several tracks but also of the tweet storm and postponements that preceded the album’s release.
“So is it worth the hype?” he asks. “Because there are several fantastic songs that will have no problem sustaining their listenability, I say yes.
“Out of the 27 tracks on Donda, ‘Jail,’ ‘Off The Grid,’ ‘Hurricane,’ and ‘Moon’ are by far, in my opinion, the best,” he continues.
In describing “Moon,” as Mr McHugh did, he writes, “The intense meaning of this song and the slow, somber beat makes this the perfect song to cry to.”
Finally, we note that the album’s 23rd track is titled “No Child Left Behind,” a reference to the 2002 law that re-authorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act during the presidency of George W Bush.
As the album is a rap-gospel hybrid of sorts, the song isn’t really about the law but about how our faith and trust should be put in God who won’t leave any child behind, and not in anything else that does not come from God. God has “done miracles on me,” he sings. The song elevates our existence to a plane that is far above anything our laws or Earthly plans might put before us or our schools.
It might be argued, though, that Mr Bush had God’s miracles in mind when he proposed the law’s title.