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  • Jaan Choudhri

The Story Behind Kanye West’s ‘DONDA’ Album Cover

Kanye West’s long-awaited album DONDA premiered Sunday night at ChurchLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, to some of the biggest hype in music this year. Prior to the exclusive listening party, snippets of Kanye and Tyler, The Creator were posted by Consequence, a close associate of Kanye, showing the two listening to music off of Kanye’s laptop with a whiteboard in the background showing a list of songs and sparking rumors of Kanye’s return. Days later, Kanye announced a listening party for DONDA occurring at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, along with the presumed cover of the album.

The cover art, originally believed to have been painted by North West, was actually a piece designed by Louise Bourgeois, a French artist known for her vivid paintings. The first thing that jumps out at you about the cover is the striking color grading and the harshness of the painting itself. Gone are the vivid album colors with bright blues and browns, and instead a cold grey and blood red cover West’s newest project. The album, said to be somber and deeply personal by listeners from Sunday’s listening party, can almost be felt by the striking artistry by Bourgeois. Bourgeois was best known for her famous sculpture "Maman," a massive iron spider.

The sculpture is a way of comparing spiders to mothers. Bourgeois, who had lost her mother when she turned 22, alluded to the strength of her mother using metaphors of spinning, nurture, and protection, while also admitting she sees herself in some of the spiders as well. Bourgeois eventually moved into painting, showing the harshness of motherhood with striking imagery of birth and raising a child. Many of these sentiments can be felt by Kanye, especially considering the loss of Kanye’s mother, Donda. West, who lost his mother to complications from surgery, actually visited the famed Maman in February which likely led him to choose the current album cover. The cover depicts a distorted, faceless picture of Bourgeois’ mother, depicting how she lost her mother at a premature age, and how all that remained were memories beginning to fade from trauma, another thing Kanye likely relates to, after having numerous mental breakdowns and taking mood stabilizers, something known to affect memory.

Kanye’s album covers have always been carefully crafted (yes, even Jesus Is King). Ye’s album cover was shot on the way to its initial listening party by Kanye himself. Yeezus’ jarring cover was meant to signal the end of the CD and used it as a metaphor for him attempting to change music. Kids See Ghosts’ cover was painted by Takashi Murakami, whom Kanye has collaborated with on various occasions, and spent time with to record parts of KSG. We’ve seen Kanye deliver interesting music almost regularly, while also managing to visualize the themes of his music with art that shares similar themes or feelings. Given the name of Kanye’s upcoming album, it would only make sense for Kanye to dive deep into his artistic bag and pull out all the stops in order to deliver something special. Given the amount of time West spent working on it and the depth of just the album cover, I’m sure we’ll all be in for a treat tonight.

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