Kanye hosts Atlanta ‘listening party’ for new album ‘Donda’ ahead of Aug. 6 release

Free Press wire reports | 7/29/2021, 6 p.m.
Kanye West barely said a word during his impromptu album listening session on July 22, but the mercurial rapper still ...
In this Nov. 17, 2019, file photo, Kanye West appears on stage during a service at Lakewood Church in Houston. Mr. West unveiled his 10th studio album, “Donda,” named after his late mother, at a “listening party” July 22 at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The official public release will be Aug. 6. Photo by Michael Wyke/AP file photo

Kanye West barely said a word during his impromptu album listening session on July 22, but the mercurial rapper still had most attendees standing on their feet while hanging on every word of his new project.

Mr. West unveiled his 10th studio album, “Donda” in front of a packed crowd at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in At- lanta. His album was named in honor of his mother, Dr. Donda West, who earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Virginia Union University in Richmond, a doctorate in English educa- tion from Auburn University and taught at Chicago State University for 24 years before serving as CEO of West Brands LLC and chair of the Kanye West Foundation. She died in 2007 at age 58 following plastic surgery complications.

The album will officially be released Friday, Aug. 6.

Pulling off the listening session, which was livestreamed on Apple Music, was an impressive feat for Mr. West, who sold out the venue after he announced just two days prior that the first public listen of his highly-anticipated album would take place.

Some of the big names who attended the event were Rick Ross, Khloe Kardashian and his soon-to-be ex-wife Kim Kardashian West, who showed up in a red jumpsuit with their children.

Unlike Mr. West’s typical high-energy concerts, he appeared more mellow than usual. He let his music do the talking while most attendees listened to each song in silence and applauded at the end of each track of his album. The album features gospel themes, hip-hop vibes, his Auto-Tune vocals and recorded speeches made by his mother.

While sporting an all-red outfit with orange shoes, Mr. West sometimes walked, fell to his knees and pranced around on white flooring about the size of the football field, where Atlanta’s professional football and soccer teams play home games.

The 22-time Grammy winner revealed in a commercial, featuring U.S. track star Sha’Carri Richardson, during the NBA Finals on July 20 that his highly-anticipated album would be released on July 23. The commercial, scored and directed by Mr. West, featured “No Child Left Behind,” a song from the album.

Mr. West, 44, is mostly known as being associated with Chicago, but he was born in Atlanta, a Georgia city where there are no restrictions against large gatherings. The rapper-producer gave away 5,000 tickets to faculty, staff and students at several HBCUs in Atlanta, including Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse and Spelman colleges, Morris Brown College and the Interdenominational Theological Center.

Mr. West’s new project is a follow up to his 2019 gospel- themed album “Jesus is King,” which won a Grammy for best contemporary Christian album.

Last year, Mr. West announced on Twitter—with colorful cover art and a track list—that he would release his latest album. At the time, his tweets indicated that his project would release on the same day as his rival Taylor Swift’s project “Folklore,” but his album ended up being postponed.

The two music stars have been in an ongoing beef since Mr. West famously interrupted Ms. Swift’s speech during the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards when she won for best female video. It appeared both put their differences aside after she introduced him when he won the video vanguard award at the 2015 VMAs, but a leaked video clip between both about his controversial song “Famous” caused more drama.

It’s not the first time Mr. West has hosted a listening event for an upcoming album. In 2016, he debuted his album “The Life of Pablo” during a massive event and fashion show at Madison Square Garden in New York. Several big names who attended the show included Ms. Kardashian West, 50 Cent, Lil Kim, Caitlyn Jenner, A$AP Rocky and 2 Chainz.