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Fans Are Still Waiting For Kanye To Release 'Donda'

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, HOST:

Kanye West fans have been patiently waiting for the release of his new album, "Donda," named after his mother who passed away in 2007. But in true Kanye fashion, after three missed release dates, multiple listening parties and even moving into a stadium to finish the project, still no "Donda."

Our colleague A Martinez talked to Elamin Abdelmahmoud, a culture writer for BuzzFeed News.

A MARTINEZ, BYLINE: This album was supposed to come out in late May. What happened?

ELAMIN ABDELMAHMOUD: (Laughter) Well, what happened is Kanye happened. The typical workings of Kanye West have happened. So Kanye and his camp set up this big listening party at the Mercedes-Benz Arena (ph) in Atlanta. And they said, OK, this is the day that the album's coming out. Kanye came out. And he played what sounded like an album. And then the album didn't come out.

Instead, what actually happened is Kanye moved in. So he moved into the arena. And he has been living there supposedly to complete this record. We got another listening party on August 5. This time, a much more complete product we heard. It sounded closer to maybe being released - and still no release.

MARTINEZ: Now, I realize it's probably difficult to critique an album that hasn't officially been released.

ABDELMAHMOUD: (Laughter).

MARTINEZ: You know, songs sometimes are put in a specific order where things make sense. There's a narrative. But based on what you've heard so far, what's your impression of the album?

ABDELMAHMOUD: I - listen, Kanye is making absolutely some of the best music that he's made in about a decade. It's just a beautiful, beautiful record. At this point, I have to wonder if the delay isn't a part of the process itself. I mean, if you are making an album about grieving your mother, does it not make sense for you to very publicly say, I'm not sure I'm ready to put out this album 'cause I'm not sure I'm ready to acknowledge that this has happened?

It's not even a metaphor at this point. It's like, how could "Donda" the album be finished if you're having a hard time acknowledging that Donda the person is finished? But I'll tell you this - there's no other artist in history who might miss a deadline and then people go, well, maybe that's part of the point. Like, this is something that - this is the kind of grace that people, I think, grant to Kanye that they maybe not other artists.

MARTINEZ: One more thing on this - there's a lot of people, Elamin, that dipped out when he told TMZ about slavery sounding like a choice or when he aligned himself with former President Trump.

ABDELMAHMOUD: Yes.

MARTINEZ: ...And the MAGA movement. I mean, what do you say to those people who have dipped out maybe permanently and don't want anything to do with him anymore because of that?

ABDELMAHMOUD: I would never tell anybody that's a wrong position to take. But I would say, you know what? - the couple months - maybe it was a month after the slavery is a choice comment at TMZ happened. Kanye West was on radio in Chicago. And he talked about how during that period of time he was abandoned by a lot of really close people in his life. And he was going through this really difficult period.

And he broke down crying on the air. And he said, look, if I had those people around me, that wouldn't have happened because I had built my life in such a way that those people would have stepped in and said, no, Kanye, you're going through something, and you need to go through it publicly.

This is a person who has openly talked about his mental health issues, openly talked about his bipolar disorder and openly talked about his struggles with taking Lexapro, for example. I mean, listen, we are free to assess all the parts that he makes public because that is what we do with an artist. But it does get a little bit messy when we assume that the mental health part doesn't play a part in this at all.

MARTINEZ: Elamin Abdelmahmoud is culture writer for BuzzFeed News. Elamin, thank you very much.

ABDELMAHMOUD: Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND")

KANYE WEST: (Singing) He's done miracles on me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.