Review | Kanye West – The Life of Pablo

If 2013 was the year of YEEZUS, 2016 might just be the year of The Life of Pablo.

Kanye West debuted his 7th studio album last week during his YEEZY Season 3 MSG show and made it available via TIDAL after his Saturday Night Live performance. It was noted that The Life of Pablo was to be exclusive to the streaming service for 7 days, but Kanye West announced he would not sell his album outside of TIDAL for another week. This announcement might have played a role in making TIDAL the #1 app in the iTunes store.

Shockingly, shortly after the album officially released on February 14th, there were many blatantly dishonest reviews cranked out by well-known publications. To fully take in what a new album has to offer, multiple listens are needed. Without it, mistakes are bound to happen. Which would be the case with these well-known publications citing Mary J Blige as appearing on Ultralight Beam and Highlights, when in fact it was Kelly Price. The credits for the album were available day one when the album dropped, so there shouldn’t have been any problems with fact checking, but when there is a dislike for a particular artist, none of this matters. It’s not fair to the artist and their art.

Whenever an artist drops a new album, too many people are concerned about the artist returning to their roots or releasing a sequel to a past project. Those who feel that way need to get over it as some music artists sound tends to evolve with each release. So to answer some questions regarding The Life of Pablo – Is the YEEZUS sound gone? Not entirely. Are there soulful samples like College Dropout? Yup. Is this really a gospel album?  It does have gospel elements. What “Kanye” do we get on this album? What you get is the Louis Vuitton Don, YEEZY, Kanye To The, YEEZUS – in short, you get Kanye West on this album.

The Life of Pablo is a plane heading out on a spiritual venture with no destination in sight, takes a creative and dark nosedive and then comes right back up, making no stops. You never know where this album is going to take you.

Each guest feature on this 18 track album brings such a diverse sound to the table. From Rihanna killing it with her vocals on Famous to relatively new-comer, Desiigner bringing the hype and turn-up on Pt. 2 and Freestyle 4, The Life of Pablo is bursting with sound.

The album opens with the very spiritual Ultralight Beam. The track features The-Dream, Kelly Price, Chance The Rapper, and Kirk Franklin. The track fades in with horns and a pipe organ with the young Samoria Green preachingWe don’t want no devils in the house/God (Yes, Lord)/We want the lord”. On this track, Kanye professes his love and endearment for God. No matter when he feels down and can’t it take anymore, he searches for the lord’s light, the ultralight beam. This can also be traced back to the story of Apostle Paul (Pablo in Spanish), where he was blind for three days until his sight returned and then dedicated his life to serving the lord. Chance The Rapper delivers one of the realest verses on this track and album. Kirk Franklin comes in on the end of the track to deliver a powerful message.

Father Stretch My Hands Pt.1 & Pt. 2 are two tracks that will get anyone out of their seat with movement and dabbing (the dance) – It’s also the first time we hear Kanye spit on this album.

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Live reaction to Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1 & 2

The production on this is insane, with a sample coming from Pastor T.L. Barrett’s Father I Stretch My Hands. When you hear Future shout out “If young Metro don’t trust you I’m gon’ shoot you”, you already know you’re in for a wild track. Kid Cudi handles the hook with the catchy “Beautiful morning, you’re the sun in my morning babe/Nothing unwanted”. The first time we hear Kanye rap; he drops a line that can only be summed up as “did he really say that?”. The beat switches up on Pt. 2; this is where Kanye goes deep and talks about his father absence in his life, mother’s passing, and his car crash. The track then takes another sharp turn with Desiigner coming in blaring “I got broads in Atlanta” (this will get stuck in your head). It’s scary how Desiigner almost sounds exactly like Future.

The track Famous features Rihanna on the hook and Swiss Beatz on production. This is also the track that features the so-called controversial Taylor Swift line. Listen, the rap game is a never-ending war of sick jabs and sigging (the dozens, jokes, etc). Meaning no one is safe and off limits. The main context of the track is that Kanye goes off on the people he feels that he made famous and no matter how hard they try they can’t and won’t be as fresh as him. This has a very arrogant College Dropout Kanye esque to it. Swizz Beatz even brings back “Wake up, Mr. West”, a line that hasn’t been heard on a Kanye West project since his third album, Graduation.

Feedback is where Kanye is reminding those who thought he was done with the one thing that brought him to where he is now, rapping. In which he was criticized for not doing enough of on YEEZUS. The track has that loud warped sound found on YEEZUS’s On Sight combined with deep bass. During the track, he states he’s “Steve Jobs mixed with Steve Austin”. What this could mean is that he’s a smart guy, but can snap at any moment. The end of the track finds Kanye calling himself the “Ghetto Oprah”, giving out furs and jets. Sticking with the YEEZUS sound, Freestyle 4 opens with this eerie horror/Alfred Hitchcock sounding instrumental with Kanye shouting he’s on his “Rap God shit”. The premise is just that – a freestyle. Desiigner makes another appearance towards the end.

When the final tracklist was revealed, I now see why Kanye decided against having Waves on The Life of Pablo. He’s hardly on it. The opening is good, but somehow the track immediately turns into a Chris Brown song. Kid Cudi is also featured but it’s just his signature humming.

The show-stealer and personally my favorite track is FML. It’s an emotional piece on how a man faces many distractions and temptations, but through it all stays committed to his wife and children. The Weeknd does an outstanding job on the hook. The hook is amazing –

“They Wish I would go ahead and f*** my life up

Can’t let them get to me

And even though I always f*** my life up

Only I can mention me”

This is the exact track I pictured when these two would collaborate – great writing, production, and chemistry. The ending with the dark sample of Section 25’s Hit makes FML perfection.

One of the best and realest Kanye West songs, Real Friends makes it onto The Life of Pablo. Released as a G.O.O.D. Friday track, the album version is altered a bit with added echoes on the second verse.

The Life of Pablo Wolves has a very different sound from the Wolves heard at the YEEZY Season 1 show. The differences are not major but the new version does not feature Vic Mensa or Sia who were on the original. Instead Frank Ocean is featured, but it doesn’t sound as if he was in a studio booth. What is the same is on Wolves is the message – Love, depression, hope, and addiction. I always found Wolves to have a Lost In The World vibe to it. One line that sticks out to me is the line where Kanye states “You tried to play nice, everybody just took advantage/You left your fridge open, somebody just took a sandwich. It just goes to show that all “Wolves” are not out there to cause harm; there are some are that just want to be spiteful.

Bonus tracks include 30 Hours, No More Parties In LA (featuring Kendrick Lamar), Facts (Charlie Heat Version), and Fade (featuring Ty Dolla $ign). Facts has a new beat, I might be the only one who enjoyed the original beat. Fade is the one track I was looking forward to hearing again after I first heard it when attending the YEEZY Season 2 show. It did not disappoint, it’s phenomenal. Maybe we can get the new version of All Day on the final version of the album.

The Life of Pablo is a wild & distorted self-portrait masterpiece. This album is not cohesive in the slightest, and that’s what makes it a great album. Kanye does return to his roots with upbeat tracks such as Father Stretch My Hands Pt.1 and 2, Famous, Feedback, and Highlights. Kanye also doesn’t stray too far from the sound heard on YEEZUS as it is showcased on Freestyle 4, FML, and Wolves. The album is like a good movie you get lost in and boom it’s over. On my first listen, not keeping count, I was on track #11 already. I didn’t want it to end.

This album is not a continuation of any past Kanye West projects – no, it’s an up close look at the hectic and emotional life of man who just wants to create, it’s The Life of Pablo.

– Journalist Without A Beat… Out!


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