New album leaks are par for the course. But it’s not every day that an artist alleges that his label released an album without their consent—let alone one of the most anticipated and delayed records of the year. Still, if it’s going to happen to anyone, it might as well be Kanye West because the tale of Donda’s tortured release never ends, just as it never began. Time is a flat, vinyl copy of Donda.
Following three stadium-sized album listening parties, Universal finally released Kanye West’s Donda this morning, so of course, that’s not the whole story. Hours after the album dropped, Ye posted a message on Instagram accusing the label of distributing the album without his consent and blocking the song “Jail 2,” which features controversial rapper DaBaby, from appearing on the final product. “UNIVERSAL PUT MY ALBUM OUT WITHOUT MY APPROVAL AND THEY BLOCKED JAIL 2 FROM BEING ON THE ALBUM.” Sources at the label told Variety that the allegations were “prepostrous.” Nevertheless, “Jail pt 2" wasn’t on the initial morning release. Instead, it was added to the album at 1 p.m. ET. According to Variety, songs that have not “been cleared legally because of a copyright conflict or similar issue” may not appear on streamers like Spotify.
The story only gets stickier from there. Last night, before the album’s release, West posted screenshots of a text conversation between himself and his manager Abou “Bu” Thiam. In the messages, Bu tells West that “DaBaby’s manager isn’t clearing ‘Jail’” without explanation. West replies, “I’m not taking my brother off. He was the only person who said he would vote for me in person.” Making matters more confusing, DaBaby’s manager, Arnold Taylor, disputed West’s story, saying that he never got a call or email from West nor his co-managers Thiam or John Monopoly. “I just received it today and Cleared it in 2 seconds,” he wrote on Instagram. “Why wouldn’t I want a hit song out?” For what it’s worth, Monopoly and Bu also posted about Donda being available.
West had previously used embroiled musicians DaBaby and Marilyn Manson for a lukewarm criticism of so-called “cancel culture” at his third listening party. DaBaby was kicked off Lollapolooza last month after going on a homophobic rant at a concert, and Marilyn Manson stands accused of domestic abuse and sexual assault. They aren’t the only guests on the Donda, which includes appearances Jay-Z, The Weeknd, Young Thug, Ty Dolla $ign, Travis Scott, Kid Cudi, and more. There’s also a feature by domestic abuser Chris Brown, a name that just slots into the tracklistings of massive albums as if to prove that “cancel culture” doesn’t actually exist.
Nevertheless, Donda is finally out, but maybe not for long? If Ye never approved its release, was the album technically ever out? Maybe Donda was the friends we made along the way.