Kanye West barely said a word during his impromptu album listening-session Thursday night, but the mercurial rapper still had most attendees standing on their feet while hanging on every word of his new project.
West unveiled his 10th studio album, Donda in front of a packed crowd at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. His album was named after his mother, Donda West, who died at the age of 58 following plastic surgery complications in 2007.
Pulling off the listening session — which was livestreamed on Apple Music — was an impressive feat for West, who sold out the venue after he announced 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 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 that features gospel themes, hip-hop vibes, his autotune-altered vocals, and recorded speeches made by his mother.
While sporting an all-red outfit with orange shoes, West alternately walked, fell to his knees, and pranced around white flooring about the size of the football field, where the city’s professional football and soccer teams play home games.
During the NBA Finals on Tuesday, the 22-time Grammy winner had revealed in a commercial — featuring U.S. track star Sha’Carri Richardson — that his highly-anticipated album would release on Friday. The commercial, scored and directed by West, featured No Child Left Behind, a song from the album.
But as of Friday afternoon, West’s album was still not available on music streaming services, leading fans to joke about the rapper’s track record of missing his scheduled release dates.
Though West, 44, is mostly known as being associated with Chicago, he was born in Atlanta — a Georgia city where there are currently no restrictions against large gatherings. The rapper-producer gifted 5,000 tickets to faculty, staff and students from some Atlanta HBCUs (historically black colleges or universities) including Clark Atlanta, Morehouse, Spelman, Morris Brown and the Interdenominational Theological Center.
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.
West first announced he would release the album last year on Twitter, alongside colourful cover art and a track list. At the time, his tweets indicated that his project would release on the same day as his rival Taylor Swift’s project Folklore, but West quickly deleted the tweet and the album ended up being postponed.
The two music stars have been in an ongoing beef since West famously interrupted 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 Kanye 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 City. Several big names who attended the show included Kardashian West, 50 Cent, Lil Kim, Caitlyn Jenner, A$AP Rocky and 2 Chainz.
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