Kanye West: The Life of Pablo (2016)
-Tyler Tippin @richie_crush 02/17/2016
At long last, Yeezy season is here. Beyond being a mass pop culture figure and beyond the immense anticipation, Kanye West is one of the most iconic and prolific artists of the past two decades and finally released his follow-up to 2013’s Yeezus. With this album, ‘Ye took his time to perfect the craft of his current vision, which has evolved over the last three years. Even though the album has been released, it still seems like a mystery. With all of the untamed hype and rumors for so long, it didn’t seem strange to believe the thing would’ve never been released. The reality is that it is indeed here, and Kanye’s legend has reached new heights. However, what is ultimately more important than Kanye’s legacy is his music. The Life of Pablo does not disappoint in regards to West’s discography and now 2016 has been handed one of the greatest releases of the year so far.
TLOP starts off with the shining “Ultralight Beam” where we see a departure from the angry, egotistical Kanye to a more mature, gospel-influenced producer. The heavenly choruses are sprinkled through the album but are in full bloom in this first track. He sings of themes of faith, loss, and peace. Kelly Price also plays the role of Kanye’s mother in the song and adds a new dimension of nurture and grief to the whole track. Also Chance the Rapper comes in with arguably one of the strongest verses on the LP (and possibly career?). Gospel moments are revisited in other tracks such as “Low Lights” and “Waves”. Kanye does an amazing job of splitting up songs reminiscing on his hectic days on his own and his new life as a husband and father of two. West also cleverly delivers his special way of sampling on many of the songs; with slices from Nina Simone to Ghostface Killah used in a subtle, but significant manner. Some of his most meaningful moments are “Real Friends” in which ‘Ye takes an introspective step and notices the drifting apart of him and many of the people around him. “Wolves” follows in which Kanye confesses some of his deeper thoughts of losing control, danger, and all in-tact with tasteful biblical references. Frank Ocean also comes out of the shadows to provide a dark, closing verse on one of the most memorable features on The Life of Pablo.
It may also be safe to assume Kanye West has really lost his mind. Even on “Feedback” he spits “Name one genius that ain’t crazy?” TLOP takes a couple listens to fully absorb, due partly to the insane variety of sounds that are scattered throughout it. In “Freestyle 4” Yeezy spazzes out like he’s on an intense MDMA trip, but leaves everyone questioning what’s actually going on. Also the addition of “Low Lights” is strange because after hearing it two or three times, it becomes pretty skippable. One of the most controversial instances on the album is on “Famous” where he spews a misogynist line about Taylor Swift that has received public backlash, and wasn’t too cool of ‘Ye if we’re being honest. There are odd quirks throughout the whole thing that make it flawed but also rawer in return. The Life of Pablo is by no means a perfect album and honestly it is hard to compare to his other releases because it incorporates many of his past elements along with new ones. One thing it does achieve though is the capturing of passion in his music that was lost under the anger of Yeezus.
I felt very skeptical about TLOP in the weeks leading up to it. It started to dawn on me that perhaps Yeezy really did sell his soul to the devil and traded his passion for power. I was relieved to find out that I was wrong, and in fact Kanye sheds some of his most passionate and relatable tunes throughout this release. All of the features on here are jaw-dropping as well (Rihanna, Kid Cudi, Young Thug, Frank Ocean…). Speaking of Kid Cudi, it felt like something magical has happened to see them working together again and making great tracks, even in light of his disappointing 2015 release Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven. The Life of Pablo has been on repeat since I got it a few days ago and has been slowly growing on me more and more with each listen. So far 2016 has been gifted with great releases early on including Rihanna’s Anti and Roly Porter’s Third Law, but Kanye may have just claimed the top until someone else has something more powerful and genuine to offer.