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Kanye West claims Universal released Donda without his approval

By | Published on Tuesday 31 August 2021

Kanye West

Kanye West’s ‘Donda’ finally came out on Sunday, but if you thought that would finally end the long-drawn out saga that has been the release of this album, well, you were wrong. Despite the 29 Aug release date having been settled on for at least a few days before the album came out, West now says that he did not give final approval for Universal Music to put his new record live.

After the 27 track, nearly two hours long album hit streaming services, West posted on Instagram: “Universal put my album out without my approval and they blocked ‘Jail 2’ from being on the album”.

‘Jail 2’ is an alternate version of the first proper track on ‘Donda’, which sees a verse by Jay-Z replaced by one from DaBaby and also features Marilyn Manson. The new version was unveiled at the third listening event for the album in Chicago last week – where both recently controversial artists were in attendance – but it was not available to stream for a time after the album was released.

There was speculation that the major label had pulled the track from the album to avoid a backlash over the guest acts’ inclusion. DaBaby was recently criticised for homophobic comments made on stage at a festival, while Marilyn Manson has been accused of sexual assault by several women, four of whom are currently suing him.

However, later West posted screenshots of two text message conversations claiming that the issue with ‘Jail 2’ was in fact that DaBaby’s team had not given clearance for the track to be released. Although that’s something DaBaby’s manager Arnold Taylor has denied.

In his own Instagram post, Taylor wrote: “This is [a lie], I woke up this morning to this social media bullshit. I never got a call or email from Kanye West [or his managers Bu Thiam and John Monopoly]. I just received [the track] today and cleared it in two seconds. Why wouldn’t I want a hit song out when [my company South Coast Music Group] is all about the growth and culture of hip hop and my artist! To all of the media blogs and outlets don’t believe everything you see in a post, thank you!”

‘Jail 2’ was one of several last minute tracks to be added to ‘Donda’, of course. Originally scheduled to come out last year, it was announced in July that the album would finally be released after a playback event at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium that month. However, although the event went ahead, the album release did not, and it then emerged that West had set up a makeshift studio backstage at the venue in order to continue working on the record.

A second listening event was then scheduled two weeks later with a new promise that a release would happen the following weekend, but again the album did not appear.

Finally, that third event took place at Chicago’s Soldier Field stadium last week and the frequently updating expected release date on an iTunes pre-order page finally settled on 29 Aug. So it should have been no surprise really – not least to Kanye himself – when the album came out on that day. I mean, presumably he delivered the most recent version of the record to his team at the Universal. What did he think they were going to do with it?

The good news is that all the drama around this album, which has had us all gripped over the summer, is finally over. Although, it has to be said, the album itself does not make a satisfying conclusion. Straining under the weigh of its lengthy tracklist and runtime, it takes considerable stamina and dedication to get through it all – or even just the first ten tracks (if you want to pretend it’s a normal album).

Repetitive and aimless, West could really have done with spending more time editing rather than adding to the album over that extra month or so.

Who knows, having already focus-grouped the album with the three playbacks, maybe he’s going to monitor reactions now it has a global audience and then whittle it down to the best 45 minutes. Probably not, but are we really ready for this story to just fizzle out now?