Sunday, September 26

‘This Is A Full Circle Moment’: Inside Kanye West’s Donda Listening Party | Kanye west

TThe circular circle of screens on top of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta was turned off at 9.42 p.m. Thursday. The crowd gave a short shout of approval at the progress signal, only to realize that the show had yet to start. “It’s Kanye West,” said Christopher Hicks, an Atlanta-based music executive who attended the listening party with his teenage son, before the music started playing. “You have to expect chaos.”

Ten minutes later, the speakers started playing music at an uncomfortable volume when the song Come to Life seemed to start playing midway through. Donda’s gigantic listening party, West’s long-awaited 10th studio album, had finally started, nearly two hours late. West emerged from a tunnel in a puffy red jacket, matching leather pants, and orange shoes. After raising his arm to greet the crowd, he walked to the center of the floor dressed in white where he almost always stood still, occasionally swaying, stumbling, or falling to his knees in a prayer posture, illuminated by a shape-shifting spotlight.

Through the explosive audio came West’s recorded voice, trading bars with Pusha T, a frequent collaborator. As the evening wore on, it would become clear that Come to Life was one of the songs closest to completion on Donda, named for West’s late mother; most of the other songs were played in the form of an obvious fragment or demonstration. The listening party was expected to herald the album’s release on Friday. As of the date of publication, it has not materialized. Theophilus London, one of West’s collaborators, has said that West is finishing verses and adding new guest features to a track list that already includes Travis Scott, Playboi Carti and a surprise feature from Jay-Z that suggests a rapprochement between the two rappers.

The Scattershot album releases represent the tip of West’s unpredictable actions in recent years, including endorsing Donald Trump, a failed presidential candidacy and risque comments about his family. The listening party, announced on Pusha T’s Instagram account on July 19, triggered a fight for tickets with an original price of $ 20 and $ 50, which many assumed would sell out quickly. Actually, access to the show was still available until Thursday morning. West donated 5,000 tickets to the Downtown Atlanta University Consortium, which includes the announced HBCU Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College. Local restaurateur Pinky Cole gave away 1,000 tickets. The stadium was not crowded by any means.

“A night of uncomfortable, disconnected, and mostly low-energy music.” Photograph: Paras Griffin / Getty Images for Universal Music Group

West’s actual concert performances are conceptual and groundbreaking: On the 2016 Saint Pablo tour, he performed on a floating platform suspended above the crowd. At Donda’s event, the violently loud beginnings served as a harbinger of a night of awkward, disconnected, and mostly low-energy music. West didn’t address the crowd and didn’t even have a microphone. From what could be heard through the noise, much of the music felt gospel-inspired, with Auto-Tuned vocal groans moving through church organs, atmospheric soundscapes, and minimalist production: the Drum tracks were conspicuously absent. The reduced sound brought focus to the repetitive characteristics of the music, such as the chorus “We’re going to be fine” from song 24.

There was a remarkably positive reaction to material that seemed destined to win in Atlanta, the home of trap music: Hurricane features Kenyan-American pop rapper KayCyy and local superstar Lil Baby, whose voice caused a visible bounce inside the stadium. Praise God, a trappy bounce track that echoed the sound of Atlanta’s Migos and featured Travis Scott and Baby Keem, featured choppy lyrics such as, “They’ve had me bop / The devil my opp.”

Otherwise, there was limited enthusiasm for the music. Clearly losing patience, some members of the audience attempted a chant of “Say something” while West stood still and looked out over the meeting. When not completely still, he would walk solemnly across the floor, appearing trapped inside a lighted prison or walking on projected images, including an anime clip of a boy jumping backwards from a high position on a mountain, spliced ​​with images of an astronaut. backing away. to the earth.

Kanye West and his mother Donda celebrate their three awards backstage at the 48th Grammy Awards
Kanye West and his mother, Donda, celebrate their three awards backstage at the 48th Grammy Awards. Photograph: Reed Saxon / AP

She repeatedly knelt, suggesting her search for understanding, if not forgiveness, perhaps from God, her late mother, her fans, or her estranged Kim Kardashian, who was present with her four children. Donda continues the overt religiosity of West’s 2019 album Jesus Is King and his Sunday service worship sessions. “He has done miracles for me,” he sings in the fragment he performed from No Child Left Behind. The ring of video screens on the floor often turned white, producing a literal halo effect. West walked alone on the white floor, clouded by mist that created an almost heavenly effect, but also obscured West’s view for anyone looking beyond the lower stalls.

The performance, if it can be called that, felt like a man returning to holy ground. Donda includes quotes from her late mother, including: “We come from somewhere. Not just our mothers ‘bellies. ”West was born in Atlanta and moved with Donda to Chicago at the age of three after his parents’ divorce. His mother’s death in 2007 was clearly a point of no return for West. Night in Atlanta, he seemed to be looking for a sign, whether it be from the crowd, his mother, or the creator, that might offer answers.

There were sympathetic fans in the crowd. Champ Heaggans, an Atlanta-based screenwriter, has been on every tour of the West since Glow in the Dark in 2008. “He knows the vibe and he knows he has to win back the hearts of black people,” Heaggans said. “This is a full circle moment.”

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