Kanye West Returns With Donda (and Ex Kim Kardashian West)

Kanye West performing Donda
Photo by Kevin Mazur via Getty Images

There was no guessing what Kanye West’s big reveal of Donda, his long-awaited 10th solo record, would look like—or whether it would even happen at all—until the rapper stepped out into the massive spotlight of an Atlanta, Georgia stadium on Thursday night. In keeping with the usual unpredictability associated with his music release dates, West has yet to drop the album as promised. He did, however, expand the number of those allowed a preview, selling out every last seat. Among the most notable attendees were West’s four children and ex-wife Kim Kardashian West, who has maintained distance from West since filing for divorce earlier this year. (West’s rumored beau, the model Irina Shayk, was nowhere to be seen.)

West stuck to his new uniform: unreleased Yeezy (in the form of boots and a puffer from his upcoming Gap collab) and full face mask. And while he never ended up actually speaking over the course of the performance, West still ended up making waves. His latest lyrics are deeply personal, as is to be expected from an album titled after his late mother, who died at 58 following complications from plastic surgery in 2007. West paid homage to Donda from the start, playing a recording of her voice after beginning by repeating the line “we’re gonna be okay.”

“He vowed that he will never walk away from his family and he never has,” Donda could be heard saying on the recording, apparently referring to West. “No matter what you never abandon your family.” The clip foreshadowed the most emotional portion of the evening. Repeating the words “I’m losing my family,” West at one point fell to his knees. (Kardashian West, who matched him in head-to-toe red, has yet to comment on anything related to Donda, though she did share a short clip of the performance on her Instagram Stories.)

On a much, much lighter note, some of the lyrics came courtesy of Jay-Z (also via recording). And from the sound of the lines “this might be the return of the throne / Hova and Yeezus, like Moses and Jesus,” the pair may soon again collaborate like they did on the 2011 album Watch the Throne. Those who missed the performance, which streamed on Apple Music, can listen to another brand-new Yeezy collab while waiting for the official release: West served as a producer on Lil Nas X’s single “Industry Baby,” which dropped right on schedule on Friday morning.