I love Kanye West. Say what you want about him as a person. I won’t argue with you on the subject of his personality and his ego. But I will argue with you on the subject of his music. I grew up listening to “College Dropout” and “Late Registration.” 808’s & Heartbreak helped me get through a breakup during my early years of high school. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy changed my perception on what truly makes up a masterpiece in the art of music. West has been with me my entire life and his music has undeniably changed the rap game more than once.
After days of delays and several title changes, we finally get to listen to what is now “The Life of Pablo.” And let me tell you, Mr. West may have another classic for you to add to your Kanye collection.
Right out the gate, it is clear West and his friends have been hard at work. The opening track “Ultralight Beam” practically sounds like the Holy Spirit coming right through the speakers. The song itself feels like a carefully crafted work of art, with the powerful voices of The-Dream and Kelly Price, the glorious gospel chorus of Kirk Fraklin, and the unique style brought only by the fellow Chicago native Chance the Rapper. This seems like a track Kanye West dreamt of making. In fact, the whole album actually feels like a project Kanye was longing to create.
We get all different forms of Kanye in “T.L.O.P.,” keeping listeners on their toes for what is to come next. “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” feels like a daylight daydream and finishes “Pt. 2” with a startling mental breakdown detailing past struggles with his mother’s passing. It is one of the best listens on the album, and though they are separate tracks, I cannot listen to one part without hearing the other.
Then we are immediately treated to a bass-heavy, absolutely magnificent Swizz Beatz production on “Famous” accompanied by a cringe worthy introduction from West, where he has some choice words about Taylor Swift. And we do not cringe because the line is bad. We cringe because we know nothing good can come from it (whether or not he previously ran the line past Swift, as he claims on Twitter). Me? I love the line; not because I agree with him and not because I do not care for Taylor Swift. I love the line because it represents what I love about West most. He is fearless. He is going to express himself in ways he sees fit. Nobody is going to dare tell him what he can and cannot say on his album.
In the middle of the album, we get entertaining glimpses of West’s best past work. We get a bit of that 2013 Yeezus sound with “Feedback.” Then we are treated to the amazing intro “Lowlights” to my personal favorite track “Highlights” that immediately struck me as reminiscent of when Kanye made the absolutely beautiful intro to “All of the Lights” on “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.”
“Freestyle 4” is an interesting track, coming off as Kanye staggering out of the club with a bottle of Hennessy in hand, reciting lyrics that are unapologetically bombastic. That is followed by the skit “I love Kanye,” where ‘Ye addresses the public in the most Kayne way possible ending the track saying, “And I love you like Kanye loves Kanye.”
“Waves,” the track Chance the Rapper fought so hard to be on the album (so hard in fact that the album was delayed because of it), does not even include Chance at all. It is a solid track with great production and a nice hook from Chris Brown, but I would not have cared if it had been left out.
The conclusion of the album is deep and self-reflecting. “FML” is all about the negativity surrounding West and his goals. “Real Friends” exposes the loyalty of West’s family and friends, even questioning his own loyalty as well. And “Wolves,” arguably the most powerful and moving track of the album, compares the negative influences around him and his family to wolves going after lamb; the lamb being his own children. It is a perfect end to the album, if it actually ended there.
Now, I end “The Life of Pablo” at “Wolves” by choice, but I also truly believe it is meant to end at track 13 rather than 18. Kanye added some last minute tracks, but they are all treated like bonus tracks even though they are not properly labeled as such. We all got to hear “30 Hours,” “No More Parties in LA,” “Facts” and the highly buzzed about club production “Fade” before the album released. “30 Hours” offers a classic Kanye flow as well as the Kendrick Lamar featured “No More Parties in LA.” “Facts” now has less imitating production, and “Fade” is a bit disappointing as I like the original unreleased version without all the background noise better. All tracks are great listens for any West fan, but they add little to nothing to the overall package.
Putting the added tracks aside, I am incredibly satisfied with how “The Life of Pablo” turned out. It is an album that has been building hype for a long time now, and I could not be more confident in saying it lived up to it. With all the features (there are a lot of them on here), West knows exactly how to use the artists to the best of their abilities. Whether he is writing up some dope lyrics or working on a sound nobody has heard before, he is always perfecting the art. “The Life of Pablo” is further proof that there are not many artists today who know how to craft an album better than West.