How Kanye West ‘Donda’ Listening Parties Were Crucial To Finishing The Album

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Mike Dean has a long history with Kanye West — from working on 2007’s Graduation to 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and, more recently, Donda.

The veteran producer worked overtime to bring the final product to completion following three elaborate listening parties — two at the Mercedes-Benz stadium in Atlanta and one at Soldier Field in Kanye’s hometown of Chicago.

While speaking to Apple Music’s Zane Lowe about his latest solo album ECHOPLEX (Live 2021), Dean revealed just how crucial those public events were, while admitting each follow-up studio session was undeniably exhausting.

“It was interesting,” he said of the album process. “It was grueling, lots of hours, lots of changes. Came out great though. For this album, it was… I mean, Kanye had three listening parties. So each listening party was like a test kind of. And after each one, I think he wanted … I can’t talk too much about his process.

“He took all the information he got from everyone, including online reviews, personal friends’ reviews, and he just kind of digest it all and adjust the album the way he wants. I definitely looked at how the crowd moved to different songs … because I was up in the top of the stadium, deejaying the whole thing. I was up in a little circle. No, I was just up on a house, maybe four layers up, next to the top layer, running the songs off my computer.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Mike Dean talked about the origins of the ECHOPLEX (Live 2021) album, which came about after a night of taking hallucinogens at the Echoplex in Los Angeles.

“I decided I was going to do the show about two months ago, I think,” he explained. “My agent, Karen Lewis, hit me up. She was like, ‘Do you want to play a show?’ Somebody, they wanted me to DJ. And I said, ‘Yeah, but I want to play synths. I want to get up on stage and show my ass and improvise and just …’ And it was. It was an hour-and-a-half show. I’d say it was an hour of improvisations. I started with big bass notes to scare the shit out of everyone in the venue.

“I’ve heard reviews of friends that brought EDM DJs to the show and different people. And they were like, ‘We’ve never heard anything that loud.’ I used the Clair brothers sound people that do all the Travis [Scott] and Kanye shows. Mine was just as loud, but just in a small venue.”

He added, “It was nice playing a small venue because I could look right in people’s face and see what they were thinking, what they were reacting to. I think most of the people were on hallucinogens, probably. As was I. I took a couple of little squares of chocolates. Me and a couple of the people doing production with me, we were all kind of tripping together. It was fun.”

A rumor Mike Dean had quit working on the album started to float around online last month, but he told HipHopDX that couldn’t have been farther from the truth. After multiple delays, Donda was finally released on August 29 with features from JAY-Z, Lil Baby, Travis Scott and more. The project debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking Kanye West’s ninth consecutive chart topper.

Check out ECHOPLEX (Live 2021) below.