Improved ‘Donda’ album impresses at live Atlanta event


ATLANTA – Exactly two weeks ago, Kanye West played his long-awaited “Donda” album for about 42,000 fans in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

And then he literally never left the building.

The superstar rapper – a genius to his devotees, an eccentric to everyone else – created a studio lair in a pocket of the cavernous downtown Atlanta venue where he slept in a makeshift spartan bedroom, ate meals from a privately commissioned chef,toiled away on “Donda,” livestreamed elements of his temporary (?) life and welcomed guests including Chance the Rapper.

On Thursday night, West emerged from his stadium cocoon for another live album presentation for a slightly smaller crowd of about 35,000.

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Kanye West went with an all-black ensemble for his second "Donda" listening event at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Aug. 5, 2021.

As with his July 22 event – during which “Donda” played in the stadium while West walked around the venue floor – West arrived on his own time, at 10:25 p.m. (tickets were for 9 p.m.).

Clad in black with the word DONDA on his back, West stood amid a circle of lights on a setup mimicking his makeshift room (bed, candle, shoes) as the song featuring a speech from his beloved late mother Donda West – who died in 2007 and for whom the album is named – played. One amusing lyric, “You brought church to stadiums built for only soccer,” was perhaps a nod to his surroundings.

It was immediately apparent that the retooled album sounded more cohesive, with more beats and melodies and songs such as “New Again” and the Roddy Ricch feature “Pure Souls” sounding textured and lyrically fulfilling.

Kanye West has been living in Mercedes-Benz Stadium since July 22, working on his new album, "Donda."

Guest shots from Jay Electronica, Kid Cudi, Jadakiss and Griselda also popped up during the nearly 90-minute presentation. But Jay-Z’s appearance on the guitar-buzzing, percussion-heavy “Jail” and The Weeknd’s creamy vocals cushioning “Hurricane” sounded like highlights for fans, who whooped appreciatively at the recognition of both.

(Trivia alert: This was the first music event in Mercedes-Benz Stadium to take place under an open roof – a call made by stadium officials due to the COVID-19 surge.)