After Ye (formerly known as Kanye West) surprised fans Feb. 17 by revealing that his upcoming Donda 2 album will available exclusively on his branded Stem Player, the reaction was… divisive, to say the least. The unusual move to withhold the rapper’s first-ever sequel album from traditional streaming services in order to release the collection as a kind of protest against the low royalty payments from what Ye called the “oppressive system” seemed to confound, confuse and annoy some of his diehard fans.
“Guess I ain’t listening to Donda 2,” read one tweet. Another mocked the move by posting an image of the long-forgotten pre-iPod portable tech thingamajig HitClips, writing, “Me with my Stem player listening to Donda 2.” Some went another direction, promising to fully download Donda 2 off their Stem player and then promptly upload it to a Google Drive folder, even as one joked that “Kanye is now one step away from announcing Donda 2 as an NFT.”
For the majority of music fans who are not familiar with the Stem tech, there was an attempt at clarification in a tweet taking issue with Ye not fully explaining how the off-cycle Tuesday (Feb. 22) release will work. “Kanye not clarifying that you don’t have actually have to pay 200 dollars to listen to donda 2 and that you can listen to it on the stem player website or the app for free has to be some sort of esoteric marketing scheme,” they tweeted.
In announcing the move, Ye explained, “Today artists get just 12% of the money the industry makes. It’s time to free music from this oppressive system. It’s time to take control and build our own. Go tonow to order.” Priced at $200, Yeezy’s digital player — which allows users to split songs into “stems” — appears to operate with controls for volume and track selection, built-in speakers and flashing lights. The site promises that express orders will ship in two business days in the U.S. and U.K., but that standard shipping could take up to three weeks for the rest of the world.
A spokesperson for Ye had not returned requests for comment at press time about whether there will be a less expensive version of the album, and if — as some fans have complained — the Stem player could take several months to ship.
In the original post, West said D2 will only stream on his platform, where users can play four different elements of each track: bass, vocals, drums and music. He also said the Stem player will have an MP3 player element, with “67,000 currently available,” and 3,000 being manufactured per day.
In a follow-up post seemingly reacting to the backlash, West said he feels like the Stem move is a return to the early days of his career, while claiming that he turned down a $100 million deal from Apple for his services. “I feel that same feeling like when I first moved to New York to make it in Music. I ain’t know what was gonna happen but I knew had to move. After 10 albums after being under 10 contracts. I turned down a hundred million dollar Apple deal,” he said in a second Insta post.
“No one can pay me to be disrespected. We set our own price for our art. Tech companies made music practically free so if you don’t do merch sneakers and tours you don’t eat. Jay Z made Tidal and fake media attacked him. Well in the words of my big brother. Come and get me. I’m willing to die standing cause I ain’t living on my knees no more. God please cover me. I run this company 100% I don’t have to ask for permission. This is our 2nd generation stemplayer We have more things we working on. I feel like how I felt in the first episode of the documentary,” he added, referring to the just-dropped first chapter of the Netflix Jeen-Yuhs doc series that chronicles more than two decades of the rapper’s career.
And while the move seemed exclusionary and overpriced to some, there were a few fans who gave Ye props for his out-of-the-box decision. They suggested that what is true today may not be true tomorrow for the artist known for tweaking his albums up to, and beyond, their release dates, and changing his mind as often as he changes his mask.
“The Life of Pablo was a TIDAL exclusive when it dropped, and look what happened after. Kanye West is definitely putting Donda 2 everywhere after a couple of days, not just the Stem Player,” one tweet suggested. (Two months after its release, Pablo rolled out on Spotify, Apple Music and other DSPs.)
Donda 2 will be celebrated with a special event on release day at Miami’s LoanDepot Park stadium. The Future-produced album is the follow-up to 2021’s Donda, which takes its name from Kanye’s late mother.
Check out tweets reacting to the Stem announcement below.
DONDA 2 ONLY ON STEM PLAYER.
BUY NOW TO GET ACCESS ON THE DAY.
LINK IN BIO pic.twitter.com/jieaYGjFfy
— STEM PLAYER (@stemplayer) February 18, 2022
Guess I ain’t listening to Donda 2
— Wav🌎☄️💕 (@reaIwav) February 18, 2022
I CAN'T AFFORD TO LISTEN TO DONDA 2
STEM PLAYER WILL TAKE 3 MONTHS TO DELIVER
— harshhh (@el3mentry) February 18, 2022
Me with my Stem player listening to Donda 2 pic.twitter.com/cHq9it1xnw
— Aaron (Alperen Şengün's Stan Account) (@Argarcia22) February 18, 2022
Kanye is now one step away from announcing Donda 2 as an NFT
— andre (@andredelaalfaro) February 18, 2022
just found out that one stem player costs $200 just to listen to Donda 2 pic.twitter.com/de2ZsFy662
— Derrel (@DerrelIch) February 18, 2022
Kanye not clarifying that you don't have actually have to pay 200 dollars to listen to donda 2 and that you can listen to it on the stem player website or the app for free has to be some sort of esoteric marketing scheme
— Sh a de (@thisdopenose) February 18, 2022
donda 2 only being available on the stem player is honestly hilarious to me. somebody tell him about bandcamp lol
— cherry 🍒 (@CHERRRYYYWOW) February 18, 2022
I will download Donda 2 off my stem player and upload it to a google drive folder
— JEEN-𝚮𝖆𝖘𝖘 ✰ (@HassVsTheWorld) February 18, 2022
So kanye wants us to spend $200 on a stem player so we can hear Donda 2? Gmfu
— TRAVIS SCOTT FANPAGE (@dailytrvis) February 18, 2022
The Life of Pablo was a TIDAL exclusive when it dropped, and look what happened after. Kanye West is definitely putting Donda 2 everywhere after a couple of days, not just the Stem Player.
— mariano 🦦 (@oscos) February 18, 2022
Kanye trying to charge us $200 for a Stem Player to listen to Donda 2? i think i’ve got a solution… pic.twitter.com/UT1GlE0sqd
— ghost (@skepthai) February 18, 2022
Me waking up Kanye West to get a copy of Donda 2 on a CD so that I don’t have to buy a Stem Player pic.twitter.com/7M4onUauId
— Rich (@UptownDC_Rich) February 18, 2022
Why is kanye always doing some fuck shit. Who tf is gonna buy the stem player just for donda 2
— braden (@fuqcherry) February 18, 2022
Imagine spending $200 on the stem player to get Donda 2 and then it’s just the poopity scoop song
— Thomas Iannucci (@thomasiannucci_) February 18, 2022