For many of us, this summer has just been too much. Between the novel coronavirus, California’s worst wildfires to date, hurricane season, police brutality, the country’s growing division, it became difficult to digest… anything. So when I first noticed major news networks give credibility to Kanye West’s 2020 presidential campaign, my natural reaction was to block it out—not for anything would I let it sink in—and scroll into one of those mindless and scrumptious Buzzfeed lists. “50 Friends Outfits That Were So 90’s.” Oh yes. That, I could handle.
Flash forward to last week, when New York Magazine published “Kanye West’s Campaign Is Both Proceeding and Unraveling,” detailing how Republican activists and electors have kept up a suspicious amount of momentum behind Kanye’s name being on the ballot in November. And how, despite numerous hiccups, missed deadlines, and a relatively minimal effort from Camp West, Kanye will appear on the ballot in Arkansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Vermont—and will almost certainly appear in several others including Louisiana and Utah. Not to mention his bid for the swing state Arizona.
Kanye West, slated to appear on at least nine state’s ballots this November, still has zero chance of winning the presidency. At most, Kanye West could secure 64 electoral votes—well short of the 270 needed to win the election. And despite the prevailing theory that Kanye West has been planted/selected by the Republican party to steal a portion of the Black vote from Biden, public polling data shows West being unpopular among all demographics but particularly among those with an unfavorable opinion of Trump.
Could Kanye West’s 2020 presidential campaign surprise us all and take a sizable percentage away from the Trump campaign? Only in 2020 would such a question even exist. When so much is unraveling before us, it’s difficult to swallow the reality we face in November. And do you know what would be much better than witnessing Kanye’s political blunders ring through the echo chamber? Listening to Kanye West’s new album, Donda.
Because alongside Kanye West’s presidential bid, campaign, his shady measures for securing signatures, the rapper has also been teasing the release of a new album. This is a typical pace for Kanye, who is known for juggling many selves and artistic identities, multiple madnesses. And right now may be the most spread Kanye’s ever been.
Never before has he taken the stage as a hopeful president elect, never has he attempted to build a landscape of rural, tucked away communities in Cody, Wyoming. Matched with his shoe and apparel labels—YZY Gap Kids now on the way—Kanye West really should feel like Pablo these days. But where is the album? Is Donda, or DNDA: WTH CHLD, dropping in 2020? Or, is Kanye using the promise of a new album to maintain interest around his presidential campaign?
On June 30th, Kanye West dropped his first single since 2019’s Jesus Is King and Jesus Is Born. The new track was titled “Wash Us In The Blood,” featured a verse from Travis Scott, and was branded by the famed producer and mixer Dr. Dre. With three of hip-hop’s moguls behind a single track, fans anticipated one of the best rap songs to arrive in awhile. What they were given was a scrappy, repetitive, and at times menacing single.
“Wash Us In The Blood” is lightly reminiscent of Yeezus, the grit and anger and relentless heat of it, particularly tracks such as “Blood On The Leaves” and “Send It Up.” The accompanying video, directed by Arthur Jafa, includes images of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, along with footage from this year’s protests, concretizing Kanye as a continued witness to the racist behavior Black people face in this country.
Despite wearing a MAGA hat last year, despite running in the 2020 election—perhaps the most important election for Black people in his lifetime—Kanye defies expectation with his gaze. Kanye is Black, and continues to use his music as a way to experience his blackness. As a Kanye West fan, this essential truth of him will always be of interest to me. I will always want to listen.
But on July 24th, when Kanye West said Donda would arrive, the album never came. This is what it’s like to be a Kanye West fan in 2020. Belligerent hope when he drops a new single, deeply imperfect, because it signals an album in the works. Seething disappointment when another promised release date goes by and nothing new came. Mesmerizing sadness, when after falling through on his word, he deepens the hole by being the meat of a cringe-worthy headline. Kanye West’s strange presidential bid unravels thanks to a messy ballot access operation.
No thank you. Back to Monica’s grandpa sweaters and Phoebe’s jean vests, because that’s all I can handle for right now.
Will Kanye West Release Donda in 2020? Everything about Donda, at this point, feels like fake news. Even the cover art and tracklist for Donda seem false, like little party tricks Kanye has practiced in his free time. And if he’s running for president, to whatever extent that means, we can’t imagine that he’ll have the time or resources to rally behind a new record.
Still, because there’s little else to do, we’ll wait for Donda. If you’re a true Kanye West fan, you know the best music comes once the dust has settled, he’s a king of wreckage, and nobody does Kanye like Kanye.