“Donda” by Kanye West (ft. Stalone and The World Famous Tony Williams)
Donda West was Kanye West’s mother who unfortunately died at the age of 58, very unexpectedly and even unconventionally in the aftermath of having plastic surgery. She passed away before Kanye had finished transitioning from simply being rich and famous to being ridiculously rich and famous, as he is today.
But she had a chance to witness him grow into one of the most-influential artists in the music industry nonetheless. And that is by and large the topic she is speaking to in this song, which from a vocal perspective relies heavily on a speech Donda gave on 19 October 2007, about a month before her passing.
Said speech was conducted at Chicago State University, where Donda had been employed as an English professor prior to Kanye blowing up. And the occasion was actually in celebration of what would have been the forthcoming 90th birthday of legendary African-American poet Gwendolyn Brooks, had she not left the mortal plane in the year 2000.
And again, this is obviously an excerpt from said presentation, which is why for instance there is no mention of Brooks therein. And in a nutshell, reading in between the lines, what Donda is doing is celebrating the ascension of her son. And being an intellectual and all, she doesn’t harp on the monetary aspect of that reality but rather “what (Kanye) has meant to a generation”.
Anyone who is familiar with Kanye’s work knows that, especially back in those days, family was a consistent theme in his music. So yes, the loss of his mother like that was obviously devastating. Indeed in a way, it can be said that such is every rapper’s worst nightmare – blowing up alright, but your moms not living long enough to fully witness the fruits thereof.
So even though it took a while for Yeezus to get around to dropping an entire album in Donda’s honor, he has done so nonetheless. And as far as this particular track goes, i.e. the one from said album which is simply named in her honor, his vocal presence is most notable in the intro and outro, which basically revolve around the words “forever” and “glory” being repeated.
Sunday Service Choir and The World Famous Tony Williams
Now as verified in the chorus, which is held down by Kanye’s Sunday Service Choir alongside his cousin, The World Famous Tony Williams, what West is referring to in that regard is what in Biblical circles is referred to as the Lord’s Prayer.
But he does not present said prayer in its entirety but rather the last couple of lines in it, which point to God’s everlasting dominion. And putting all of this together, the logical implication would be along the lines of West believing that his mother is now in heaven.
So in that regard the song can actually be viewed as a celebration from his perspective also, i.e. relishing the notion that his mom will now live eternally alongside God.
Another way of looking at it is as Kanye still being emotionally devastated as a result of this loss. So that’s why for instance he feels compelled to praise God, i.e. recite the Lord’s Prayer, to imbue himself with a heightened sense of strength.
Interestingly, the track concludes with Donda West alluding to Kanye’s fearlessness. And truth be told for an A level rapper like himself to drop, shall we say an overtly Christianized track such as this, during any point in the history of hip-hop but even more so in the current industry landscape, does take an exceptional amount of courage.
Primary Artist(s): Kanye West
Featured Artist(s): Stalone and The World Famous Tony Williams
Did Kanye West release “Donda” as a Single?
No. “Donda” came out together with its album of the same name on August 29th of 2021.
“Donda” was written by the following:
- Donda West (Kanye West’s late mother)
- Raul Cubina
- Mark Williams
The reason Kanye’s late mother is included as a writer on this track is because it samples a speech she made over a decade ago.
Donda West – “17th Gwendolyn Brooks Writers’ Conference – Keynote Address: Dr. Donda West” (2007).