After five weeks, four official public listening sessions and millions of words of speculation from the media, Kanye West finally released his “Donda” album to streaming services on Sunday morning. It is unclear when the album was actually posted, but a press release from West’s label, Def Jam, arrived at around 8:15 a.m. ET. The album’s arrival time coincides thematically with West’s church-like “Sunday Service” performances from recent years.
The album, which is nearly two hours long in its released version, changed dramatically over the course of the listening events — one in Las Vegas, two in Atlanta on July 23 and August 6, and last Thursday in Chicago — with drastically different running orders and song selections and featured vocalists. Jay-Z, the Weeknd, Travis Scott, Young Thug, Pusha T, the late Pop Smoke, Baby Keem, Jay Electronica, Kid Cudi, the Lox, and many others appeared on its various incarnations. However, during the third and most recent event, Jay-Z’s fiery verses on “Jail” were replaced by new verses by DaBaby — setting off a firestorm of outrage online — and several other popular verses were dropped. However, the released version reinstates Jay-Z’s appearance and other popular, previously deleted ones by Kid Cudi and the Lox.
The Weeknd’s verse also appears; frequent West collaborator Mike Dean is credited on several cuts; and veteran producers Swizz Beatz and Gesaffelstein also receive credits on the eight-minute “Jesus Lord,” one of the most memorable songs from the listening sessions. 88-Keys, BoogzdaBeast and Jeff Bhasker receive production credits on other songs.
However, “Jail” also features a credit for Brian Warner, a.k.a. Marilyn Manson, who made a controversial appearance onstage during Thursday’s event. Between DaBaby, who was effectively proclaimed himself a homophobe with his public comments, and accused sex offender Manson, West was widely accused of trolling the public, among other things, after Thursday’s event.
Curiously, at the time of the album’s release, a “Jail Pt. 2” that apparently credits DaBaby by his real name, Jonathan Kirk, appeared on the Spotify track list but was blacked out and could not be played, which usually happens when the song has not been cleared legally for play by the streaming service due to a copyright conflict or some similar complication. However, the song became playable by 10 a.m. PT.
The album’s release also staves off a “release-date battle” with Drake that some had speculated might take place, given the recent social-media sparring between the two and the apparently imminent release of the Canadian rapper’s long-awaited “Certified Lover Boy” album — a battle that West almost certainly would have lost, given the extensive “Donda” previews and his audience-polarizing behavior in recent years.
It is also possible that this officially released version of the album is not necessarily final: West continued to remix and re-record elements of his 2016 “Life of Pablo” album for weeks after it was posted on streaming services.
Variety will have more on the album in the coming hours.