If Kanye West‘s Donda rollout felt messy and hurried, there’s a good reason for that.
According to legendary rock musician Todd Rundgren, who recorded a ton of material for Donda, Kanye rushed his tenth solo album purely so he could release it before Drake‘s Certified Lover Boy.
Dondahit streaming services by surprise on August 29, followed by Certified Lover Boy‘s arrival less than a week later on September 3.
Rundgren, whose compositions have been sampled by everyone from J Dilla and Madlib to Frank Ocean and Fetty Wap, made the claim in an interview with Ultimate Classic Rock published on Tuesday (September 14).
“I realized why they hurriedly wrapped the whole thing up and put out what is obviously really raw, unprocessed stuff,” he said. “It’s because Drake was running the whole process. He was too afraid that Drake would one-up him, so he hurried up and released the album the weekend before Drake could get his out. And in the end, Drake ate his lunch anyway.”
Todd Rundgren isn’t the only insider to suggest Kanye West was keeping tabs on Drake while recording Donda. In July, Consequence claimed in a since-deleted tweet Yeezy was “looking for [Drake’s] drop date” before releasing Donda — perhaps explaining its multiple delays and sudden release.
Whether Kanye’s strategy (if Rundgren’s claim is indeed true) paid off is up for debate. Donda currently holds a 53/100 score on Metacritic, tied with Jesus Is King for his lowest-rated album.
Even though it earned Kanye his ninth consecutive No. 1 album with over 300,000 first-week sales, Donda was swiftly blown out of the water by Drake’s Certified Lover Boy, which shot to the top of the Billboard 200 after moving 613,000 units in its opening week — the biggest sales week of 2021.
Elsewhere in his Ultimate Classic Rock interview, Todd Rundgren explained that he was drafted into work on Donda by Kanye West’s close friend and collaborator 88-Keys, who’s a big fan of his music and wanted to see the two musical greats work with each other.
Rundgren said he accumulated “three album’s worth of Kanye stems” over a year-long period and was happy to contribute to the record any way that he could.
“I didn’t mind working on his gospel stuff,” he said. “If you want to sing about Jesus, go ahead, I don’t care. I’ll help ya do it, you know? If you want to sing about your troubles with your wife, go ahead and do it. I don’t care.”
"Nobody would regularly make records like that unless they had stupid money to throw around": https://t.co/jWAAQBYytS
— UltimateClassicRock (@UltClassicRock) September 14, 2021
However, Todd Rundgren ultimately grew frustrated with Kanye West’s creative process and doesn’t know if the material he worked on made it onto the final version of Donda (Rundgren’s name doesn’t appear anywhere in the album’s credits).
“When it got into the homestretch in July, I just said, ‘That’s enough for me. I have no idea whether any of this is being used,'” he explained. “There is a possibility that I’m actually in there somewhere. There’s so much junk in that record!”
He added, “[Kanye West] is a shoe designer… He’s just a dilettante at this point. Nobody would regularly make records like that unless they had stupid money to throw around. Nobody rents a stadium to make a record in. Nobody flies in the entire world of Hip Hop just to croak one syllable, just so you can say that everybody was on it.”