Kanye West’s Atlanta ‘Donda’ Listening Event: Step Into The Arena

It was nearly 90 degrees in Atlanta, the sun stubbornly beating down on Mercedes Benz Stadium as tens of thousands of people flocked to the hall for what was arguably the biggest event the arena has seen in more than a year. an, the Kanye West ‘Donda’ listening event (which, although it was played in full at the event, still had not officially dropped out at the time of this article’s publication).

The interior of the building contrasted sharply with the summer heat, the floor covered in white with a light mist hanging in the air, giving the appearance of an ice rink. At 8 p.m., when West was due to start the session, thousands of people were sitting in the arena – and millions more tuned in to Apple Music’s livestream – settling in for what was likely to be a long wait. Among them were 5,000 lucky faculty, staff and students at Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine, Spelman College, Morris Brown College and ITC, at who West had donated tickets.

Considering West’s many baits and album release switches in the past – he had teased “Donda” and another album called “Yandhi” a few years ago – anyone could guess when, or if, the session would start. Actually. While reports from last weekend claimed that “Donda” was over, there were rumors among the music directors in attendance that the project was still being completed even as fans sat in the stands. . More than one person joked that 2 Chainz was in a stadium locker room polishing his voice, possibly thanks in part to an Instagram post he posted earlier today.

Despite Atlanta’s reputation for being open when most of the country was closed, there was a sense of meeting among attendees, many of whom were seeing each other in person for the first time since early 2020. The VIP lounges were teeming with people. celebrities: Marlon Wayans, “Grey’s Anatomy” star Jesse Williams and “The Chi” fan favorite Jacob Latimore; Southern hip-hop veterans Goodie Mob and Organized Noize were spied on waiting for the delay near the stadium’s AMG lounge bar. Other sightings include Killer Mike, hitmakers Jermaine Dupri and Mike Will Made It, Earthgang, JID, Angela Simmons and Steve Aoki.

But the most talked about guest was probably Kim Kardashian, who was spotted with her and the children of West, North, Saint, Chicago and Psalm and his sister Khloé, who were there to support him at the event. . There were rumors that West’s girlfriend Irina Shayk was also present, but no photos of her emerged.

After a nearly two hour wait, West finally emerged shortly before 10 p.m. fully prepared for the fake tundra in a custom red Yeezy x Gap puffer jacket, matching red leather pants, orange Yeezy boots, and a wispy face cover. . He was greeted by cheers from the crowd as they watched him walk from a gate at the edge of the stadium into the round circle of spotlights waiting for him in the center of the arena.

The dome of the arena ceiling was open as he walked over to the chorus, “It’s going to be… God has it.” Anyone who has been in a black church could feel the influence behind the opening number, the moan of a heavily synth-treated church organ. Then a voice sounded, announcing Dr. Donda West – the album’s namesake, the mother of Kanye who died suddenly in 2007.

While West said nothing to the crowd during the shoot, his mother’s voice pierced through the interludes, daring to say, as she said her son told her, whatever she wanted. He mostly stood with his legs hip-width apart, but sometimes he would squat or stomp, occasionally dancing under a spotlight that was sometimes a circle, sometimes a triangle, and sometimes a rectangle.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – JULY 22: Kanye West is seen at the “DONDA by Kanye West” listening event at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on July 22, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin Mazur / Getty Images for Universal Music Group)

Among the dozen songs that Ye premiered to his Atlanta audience, “Donda” defies genres: some have described it, not mistakenly, as a “gospel trap.” How else would you describe a project that includes lots of Christian references and the familiar words of the Lord’s Prayer and also features from Pusha T, Playboi Carti, Travis Scott, Baby Keem, Lil Baby, Lil Durk, Roddy Ricch and Pop Smoke?

By the time Kanye reached the other big surprise of the night – a verse from his longtime friend and mentor Jay-Z, who he’s been training with for the past few months, on the closing song, which could be calling out “Jail” (go here for a full report on the song) – the crowd worked into a total frenzy, shouting, “Ye! You! Ye! As he finally left the shape-shifting spotlight in the center of the ground to dance around the edges of the arena, closer to the people.

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Jean Canon

When West left the room and the lights came on at the Mercedes Benz Stadium, half the crowd began to crowd, while others remained in their sections, discussing whether or not “Donda” could usher in a change to rap music. God has been a part of Kanye’s music since the very beginning of his career, so maybe it was only natural that he went from “Jesus Walks” to a full-fledged gospel rapper. While the album “Jesus Is King” and its Sunday Service efforts were initially treated by some as a gimmick to beg forgiveness for many public missteps, the time it took for it to make “Donda” , most fans seem to embrace his faith. messaging based as genuine.

Online, many are touting “Jail” (or whatever Jay-Z’s featured song name is) as the star of the project, prompting the theory that West, finally relieved of his association with the Kardashians, has fully come to terms with the project. reconciled with his beloved Big Bro, fueled in part by Jay-Z’s own words that he might have to bring about “the return of the ‘throne’,” but not without the reminder that Ye will have to take off his red hat.

Listening to Atlanta “Donda” was an event in its own right, but more than a few people on social media berated the thousands in attendance for so quickly forgetting about West’s past offenses. These people could be former fans who will never return to Kanye’s congregation. While the question remains whether the album itself will live up to the hype of the event, based on audience reactions so far the favorite tracks were “Jail”, “Pure Souls” and “Junya Watanabe”, his collaborations with Roddy Ricch and Playboi Carti.

But what’s no doubt about it is that with ‘Donda’ we’re definitely getting back a bit of old Ye: wildly creative, rooted in the foundation of his strongest relationships, and striving to do what no one knows. other artist has done this before.

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