kanye-west-donda-1 kanye-west-donda-1

Kanye Has A Dream: Inside His Creative Agency DONDA

He wants to be a modern-day Renaissance man. And his latest quest for a legacy beyond hip-hop is a mysterious consortium named for his mother. Is this the movement that will propel Mr. West to the visionary status he so desperately wants? Or is this just a fantastical ego-filling dream? In a relentless search for answers, VIBE discovered it could very well be both

By Clover Hope

Illustration By Mat Maitland

BEFORE HANNA CHRISTIAN started working for Kanye West, she was a waitress at The Mercer Kitchen. The exclusive restaurant serves as the cornerstone of New York City’s Mercer Hotel, where West and Jay Z camped out in early 2011 to record their album, Watch the Throne. When West returned in October of that same year to take a series of meetings, Christian, then a 21-year-old college dropout and aspiring visual artist, struck up a conversation. For a week, West picked her brain about everything from architecture to fashion to art. He invited her to a Watch the Throne tour stop in New Jersey. She came back to work the next day raving about the elaborate stage design. Noted visual artist Es Devlin (a frequent West collaborator who’s also worked with Lady Gaga and Rihanna) projected video of sharks and Rottweilers onto enormous cubes that doubled as podiums for West and Jay Z during the show. After gushing about the design elements, Christian went for broke. “I love The Mercer,” she blurted out to Kanye. “But I want to work with you!”

Christian was hired on the spot as West’s personal assistant. And within 24 hours, she was attending the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show at the Lexington Avenue Armory in NYC. Three months later, he announced his latest venture, DONDA, an experimental design agency named for his late mother. Christian transitioned to office manager, interviewing applicants and helping to build the company’s early infrastructure.

She's bubbly and effusive when she talks about her big break into the entertainment industry. But when asked something seemingly as innocuous as where the DONDA offices are located, Christian shuts down. “I can’t talk about it,” she says firmly. “It’s in my confidentiality agreement.” A confidentiality agreement with a clause about office headquarters? Sounds ludicrous. But no one does private and mysterious like Kanye West. And for a potential entity born out of one of his legendary Twitter rants, it almost makes sense. Almost.

In January 2012, West laid out a series of tweets, highlighting his plan to create a firm with more than 22 departments staffed by a bevy of experts in divergent fields. He name-checked everything from architects, video game developers and nutritionists to doctors, lawyers and what he called “app guys,” plotting to house them under DONDA.

His master plan reads like a stream-of-consciousness riff that becomes an epically ambitious screed (think Jerry Maguire’s infamous manifesto). There will be summer school programs with filmmaker Spike Jonze! An overhaul of the prison system! Nutritional consultation on achieving energy balance! Amusement parks! West tweeted: “We want to create, advertise and produce products driven equally by emotional want and utilitarian need.”

The kicker was that he intends to not just turn a profit or join the billionaire’s club. He wants to change the world through design and fill the void of late Apple cofounder Steve Jobs. A bit extreme, sure. But Kanye’s bombastic statements are expected. And for a man who secretes naked ambition and pretentious overtones from his very pores, it almost makes sense. Almost.

DONDA may sound slightly absurd, but the idea wasn’t completely random. Even before his Twitter proposal, he fantasized about launching a creative clique to those in his inner circle. In 2008, during a New Zealand press conference promoting 808s & Heartbreak he talked about building art installations. Four years later, he aimed even higher. “I want to work on cities [and] amusement parks,” he said while premiering his short film, Cruel Summer, at Cannes Film Festival. “I want to change what entertainment experiences are like.”

NEXT PAGE

From the Web

More on Vibe

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Barack Obama Announces Release Date For ‘A Promised Land’ Memoir

Following the mega-success of his wife’s Becoming release, Barack Obama is poised to debut his own memoir, A Promised Land, this fall. The former president made the literary announcement on Twitter on Thursday (Sept. 17).

“There’s no feeling like finishing a book and I’m proud of this one,” Obama tweeted while explaining that he tries to give an “honest account” of his presidency in the book. The release will also touch on “the forces we grapple with as a nation, and how we can heal our division and make democracy work for everybody.”

There’s no feeling like finishing a book, and I’m proud of this one. In 'A Promised Land,' I try to provide an honest accounting of my presidency, the forces we grapple with as a nation, and how we can heal our divisions and make democracy work for everybody. pic.twitter.com/T1QSZVDvOm

— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) September 17, 2020

The highly anticipated and introspective release takes readers on a “compelling journey” and details Obama’s “improbable odyssey from a young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world.” Included in the memoir are striking personal details about his political education, as well as landmark moments from his first term presidency.

The Obamas secured the reported $60 million book deals around a year after ending their tenure in the White House. Michelle Obama’s book became the best-selling memoir in history.

A Promised Land is currently available for pre-order at Obamabook.com. The memoir will be released on Nov. 17.

Continue Reading
David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Fendi

Big Sean, Jhene Aiko Working On Follow-Up To ‘Twenty88’ Debut

It’s the super group that Big Sean and Jhene Aiko’s fans have been patiently waiting to return. Sean and Aiko are indeed working on a follow-up to their Twenty88  debut, the Detroit rapper confirmed during a Reddit AMA with fans on Wednesday (Sept. 16).

When asked about the possibility of new music from Twenty88 Sean coyly replied, “It’s in the works.”  Twenty88 recently reunited for “Time In” off Sean’s Detroit 2. Aiko is also featured as a solo artist on Sean’s album on the track “Body Language” featuring Ty Dolla Sign.

Twenty88 dropped their debut self-titled album in 2016. The self-described “passion project” was recorded in secret and features only eight songs. The album has been streamed more than 8 million times since its release.

“We were making music and the chemistry was undeniable,” Sean explained of recording Twenty88 in a 2017 interview. “We had so many songs we did that I wouldn’t use for my album and she probably wouldn’t necessarily use them all for her album. It was like, we’re not just going to hold on to this, so we figured out a way to give it to the fans and create a whole other world in our universe, aside from me and aside from her, so we decided to make a group.

“It’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever done. It’s one of the coolest experiences to be in a group, especially with somebody you care about. It reminds me of Marvel comic books, like Iron Man, Captain America movies and stuff like that. I think it’s cool to create all these different worlds in your own universe. I was really excited that she wanted to do it too.”

Continue Reading
Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

Rihanna Taps Travis Scott, Ella Mai, Miguel For Savage x Fenty Fashion Show

Rihanna is gearing up for a major fashion moment! The beauty and fashion mogul announced her Savage x Fenty Show Vol. 2 on Thursday (Sept. 17), which is set to stream on Amazon Prime next month.

The unique fashion experience will showcase a combination of models, actors and dancers, and features performances from Travis Scott, Ella Mai, Bad Bunny, Miguel, Mustard and Roddy Rich.

Additional featured appearances include Lizzo, Demi More, Normani, Rico Nasty, Big Sean, Gigi Hadid, Willow Smith, Chika, and more. Rihanna serves as executive producer and creative director of Savage x Fenty Show Vol 2.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

❗️#SAVAGEXFENTYSHOW VOL. 2❗️It's going down OCT 2 on @amazonprimevideo! @savagexfenty

A post shared by badgalriri (@badgalriri) on Sep 17, 2020 at 10:37am PDT

Following last year’s groundbreaking, star-studded event, this year’s fashion show hopes to raise the bar debuting a bold and fearless Fall 2020 line, which features sizes ranging from XS-3X, and bra sizes from 30A-42H/46DDD.

Savage x Fenty Vol. 2, will stream exclusively on Amazon Prime Video in more than 240 countries beginning Friday, Oct. 2. Additionally, the line will be available to shop on Amazon’s Fashion Store  and Savagex.com.

 

Continue Reading

Top Stories