Only Kanye West could rent out Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta for weeks at a time and also live there in the process of making an album. After pump-faking the release of Donda twice, Kanye returned on Aug. 26 by rebuilding his childhood home at midfield of Soldier Field in his hometown of Chicago for another listening event.
After yet another delay, the elusive Donda album finally made its way onto streaming services Sunday morning (Aug. 29). Ye’s 10th LP boasts star-studded features that include Jay-Z, Baby Keem, Pusha T, Kid Cudi, The Weeknd, Lil Baby, Travis Scott, Lil Yachty, Lil Durk, Young Thug, Jay Electronica and many more collaborators helping execute Yeezy’s latest vision on what he’s dubbed the “album of the life.”
Bringing the best out of a phalanx of collaborators and special guests has always been a gift of Kanye’s throughout his career, and he puts it on display once again with the superstar cast bridging multiple generations across 27 total tracks.
After sifting through the censored CDQ version of Donda on streaming services, check out our song rankings for the LP below.
26. “Tell the Vision” (feat. Pop Smoke)
A different version of “Tell the Vision” originally landed on Pop Smoke’s posthumous Faith album. Here, Pusha T’s verse is cut out and Pop’s vocals are altered along with Kanye tweaking the beat. Yeezy gives a salute to Pop, which serves as more of an interlude or bridge than a legit track from the fallen Brooklyn drill soldier.
25. “No Child Left Behind” (feat. Vory)
This is the proper album closer. Anyone that watched the stream or was on social media during the second Atlanta listening party will have to associate “No Child Left Behind” with the sight of Kanye — or a Kanye stunt double — ascending into the heavens on an ultralight beam through the open roof of Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
24. “God Breathed” (feat. Vory)
One of the more gospel-leaning records on Donda. “GBOT” is a forgettable deep cut in the long run of the project as it gets swallowed up by other glossier records and colossal stars lending their talents to the LP. Although, it is funny to hear Kanye compare God being the father to an episode of Maury.
23. “24” (Feat. Vory)
By this point on the album, Donda is transitioning into a more peaceful finish. Kanye is repeatedly letting the listeners know everything is going to be okay and he’s going to keep conquering the obstacles life has thrown his way, whether it’s the loss of his mother, relationship troubles with Kim Kardashian or something else. As he rapped on “Reborn,” keep moving forward.
22. “Ok Ok, Pt. 2” (feat. Fivio Foreign, Rooga & Shenseea)
In another part two edition, Kanye enlists his first female collaborator on the record with rising dancehall star Shenseea. But it’s the original that won’t be topped, thanks to a standout feature from Lil Yachty.
21. “Jonah” (feat. Vory & Lil Durk)
After missing the private jet to put his melodic rhymes on Donda in July, Lil Durk made up for it in a major way by making the final cut for his first collaboration with the Chicago legend on “Jonah.” Vory’s croon pops up on another track as Kanye basically turned the Houston artist’s voice into another instrument for him to deploy throughout the project. It’s probably no coincidence to hear Kanye condemning “smoking on an opp’s pack” around the same time Durk said he would stop name-dropping the dead in his music.
Kanye looks inward and mixes in an inspirational speech from the late Donda West, as Kanye reflects on his parents’ relationship and his origin story with help from the Sunday Service choir. Erasing the assist from G.O.O.D. Music president Pusha T ends up lowering the track’s ceiling.
19. “Remote Control” (feat. Young Thug)
Another unexpected treat for listeners has Young Thug reuniting with Kanye on a record. Thugger steals the show, gliding through the smooth production without a worry in the world, boasting about his riches while Yeezy mocks how futuristic the world has become with remote controls and hoverboards. With that said, “Remote” is mildly disappointing, as it won’t be one of Donda‘s most memorable cuts.
18. “New Again” (feat. Chris Brown)
Kanye brings listeners on an uptempo psychedelic trip throughout “New Again.” With all Yeezy and Chris Brown have been through, they know a thing or two about shedding their skin and feeling new again. The house-influenced “New Again” would’ve been a hidden gem on Donda that was sure to get your head-bobbing if Yeezy left alone the edition fans heard in Atlanta with help from Ty Dolla $ign.
17. “Heaven and Hell”
Kicked off with a Jennifer Lopez “Jenny From the Block” sample, “Heaven and Hell” is rare solo Kanye cut on Donda. Yeezy rides the thunderous production which provides one of the most exhilarating drops shortly after the one-minute mark. If only Kanye channeled his “No More Parties in L.A.” flow, this could’ve easily been a classic cut.
16. “Junya, Pt. 2” (feat. Playboi Carti & Ty Dolla $ign)
This serves as a breath of fresh air with Ty Dolla $ign tapping into his rapping bag with ease. While Ty, unfortunately, got cut off from “New Again,” he gets his shine here.
15. “Jesus Lord, Pt. 2” (feat. Jay Electronica & The LOX)
The final track of what could’ve been a double-disc effort from Yeezy. This version was played at the second Atlanta listening session as The LOX continued their hot streak coming off of their dominating Verzuz victory over Dipset. Kanye just couldn’t cut them off altogether, it just wouldn’t have been right.
14. “Keep My Spirit Alive” (feat. Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine & KayCyy)
Griselda and Kanye West is an unlikely combination, but he once again made it all work. “Keep My Spirit Alive” is tied together by the tuneful singing of YZY Sound artist KayCyy. The track most likely stems from when Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine, and Benny The Butcher paid Kanye’s Wyoming ranch a visit in 2020.
13. “Jesus Lord” (feat. Jay Electronica)
One of the most powerful tracks on the entire album. Kanye opens up about the pain he’s gone through with his divorce and the never-healing wound of the loss of his mother. Bars like “Suicidal thoughts got you wondering what’s up there” or “If I die tonight, will I see her in the afterlife” are sure to pierce any listener’s soul. And that was just part one, as elusive rap superhero Jay Electronica provides reinforcements in the second half of the nine-minute marathon. The cut is capped off by a message from Larry Hoover Jr., who thanked Kanye for trying to help his incarcerated father and pleaded for his freedom.
12. “Jail” (feat. Jay-Z & Francis and the Lights)
“This might be the return of The Throne,” Jay-Z raps. The most anticipated reunion in all of hip-hop takes place on Donda as Kanye reconnects with big brother Hov. “Hova and Yeezus, like Moses and Jesus,” Jay continues to add to the hype of the former Roc-A-Fella running mates teaming up. While Watch the Throne remains the gold standard, there could be more in store as social media personality turned Donda insider Justin LaBoy claimed a sequel project from Ye and Jay was on the way for later in 2021.
11. “Lord I Need You”
One of the tracks with stronger religious themes with Kanye being a man of God. The softer track features co-production from Wheezy and serves as an angelic transition into the final chapter of Donda. This won’t be anyone’s favorite, but also not anyone’s least favorite.
10. “Moon” (feat. Don Toliver & Kid Cudi)
After publicly saying he wasn’t on the original version of Donda, Kanye gave his close friend Kid Cudi a call to have him fly into Atlanta and contribute to multiple tracks on the finished album. Cudder and Cactus Jack’s Don Toliver trade croons as “Moon” carries the middle portion of Donda.
9. “Junya” (feat. Playboi Carti)
An incredible three-song stretch of Donda is capped off with “Junya.” Yeezy joins forces with one of the leaders of the new school in Playboi Carti and doesn’t flinch. Kanye gives Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee bucks a shout-out for winning the championship and has smoke for anyone (possibly Drake or Nas) who wanted to invade his release day. “Move out the way of my release,” he raps.
8. “Jail, Pt. 2” (feat. DaBaby)
The Chicago-bred billionaire sent shockwaves through the industry when DaBaby and Marilyn Manson joined him on the remake of his childhood home’s porch at Soldier field for the third public Donda listening party. Baby replaces and Jay-Z, which is usually an impossible task, but gives an A+ effort with a hard-hitting verse addressing the public thrashing he’s received in recent weeks. The Charlotte native’s assist is one of the album’s premier guest appearances and it’s over a beat he would never rap on if it wasn’t for Kanye.
7. “Come to Life”
Kanye warms up his vocal cords and puts his singing voice to use while getting introspective with a look inward. Sadness sets in as Yeezy expresses regret with possible love notes to his wife Kim Kardashian West and fades into the distance with an inspiring piano solo letting everyone know he’s finally free.
6. “Praise God” (feat. Travis Scott & Baby Keem)
Kanye reunites with Travis Scott for the first time since “Wash Us in the Blood” for the spacey track. Baby Keem, who was an Atlanta mainstay the past two weeks, lets us know he’s still outside pandemic be damned over the ominous organ-laden production.
5. “Ok Ok” (feat. Lil Yachty & Rooga)
A bonafide Donda standout track. The Chicago-bred mogul looks inward and professes he’s not okay at the moment. Yeezy examines the rap game admitting he’s inspired again and recognizes those trying to copy his blueprint all the while calling out artists for following trends and not standing out.
Lil Yachty provides a welcomed feature, which makes for a full-circle moment, as he got his start modeling Kanye’s Yeezy Season 3 during The Life of Pablo‘s Madison Square Garden listening party in 2016 when he wasn’t yet a known commodity in rap. Lil Boat pays tribute to the late Juice WRLD over muffled 808s and hands the baton to underground Chicago native Rooga, who takes aim at those who don’t want to see him winning.
4. “Believe What I Say”
Lauryn Hill and her label come through in the clutch with the “Doo Wop” sample clearance. Kanye actually teased “Believe What I Say” in 2020 while enjoying a boat ride. The soulful cut makes for a welcomed addition to the Donda fold and might be a slight jab at Drake who used a similar “Doo Wop” sample on 2014’s “Draft Day.”
3. “Pure Souls” (feat. Roddy Ricch & Shenseea)
Another track, another five-star collaboration. Kanye connects with one of Compton’s finest in Roddy Ricch and emerging dancehall singer Shenseea for “Pure Souls.” While production has been crisp on recent Kanye projects, his songwriting has been where he’s faltered in the latter part of his career. “Pure Souls” features some quality writing from Yeezy as he spars with friendly enemy Drake by weaving “Mob Ties” and “God’s Plan” into his rhymes, which is sure to grab the 6 God’s attention heading into CLB.
2. “Hurricane” (feat. Lil Baby & The Weeknd)
A fan-favorite from the shelved Yandhi era in 2018. “Hurricane” has gone through a series of evolutions and reached close to its final form in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium when Kanye showed off the track polished with The Weeknd’s intoxicating tenor on the chorus instead of himself, which takes the nearly three-year-old song to another level on the Richter scale.
1. “Off the Grid” (feat. Playboi Carti & Fivio Foreign)
Whoever thought there would be a Kanye West, Playboi Carti and Fivio Foreign collaboration in 2021 should probably play the lottery too. Fivio helps make it one of Donda‘s best efforts. He pours his soul into this verse and doesn’t leave a bar unaccounted for.
It’s almost as if he knew how important this verse could be in catapulting him to rap’s mainstream, which is something a Kanye feature was powerful enough to do at one point. As one of the torchbearers of Brooklyn’s drill scene following Pop Smoke’s death, Fivio Foreign didn’t take this moment for granted and it showed in the final product.
A reinvigorated Kanye taps into another frequency and ends up adding his best rapping verse since The Life of Pablo to take the track to a superior fan-favorite level.