Photo Credit: Inverse
On Thursday, February 11, 2016, Kanye West held a massive fashion show at Madison Square Garden where he debuted his new clothing line “Yeezy Season 3,” and showed off his latest album, “The Life of Pablo,” for audience members. Like many, I expected the album to be available immediately following the show. However, following the show’s closing, the album was nowhere to be seen and most of the Internet panicked. Three days, many incoherent tweets, and a meltdown on SNL later, Kanye stopped playing puppet master with his fans and released “The Life of Pablo” on Jay Z’s Spotify clone, Tidal. Regardless of the sideshow that was this album’s release, it was worth the wait. This album is lit.
I have listened to this album numerous times since its initial release and revisited my own writing of this article as a result. My perspective on certain tracks have changed, and thus influenced my view of this album as a whole. This album may not be Kanye West’s greatest album, but it could very well be his most interesting. While West initially built this project as a gospel album, I would have to disagree. While there are gospel influences throughout the track list, the only gospel-type song is the album’s debut track, “Ultralight Beam.” Nonetheless, religious influence is present throughout the whole album in the form of his internal questions.
Like most of Kanye’s work, “The Life of Pablo” reflects his current position in life. Kanye is now obviously the parent of two Kardashian spawns, and makes it clear at various points in the album that he wants a simpler life free of the parties, drugs, and women that made him famous. For example, on the track “FML,” he raps:
“God, I’m willing/ To make this my mission/Give up the women/Before I lose half of what I own.”
This makes it clear that he does in fact want to settle down, be faithful, and raise his family properly. On the other hand, songs like “Highlights” make it clear that he is still drawn by the temptation of his erratic lifestyle. On the track he explains that, “we the new Jacksons, I’m all about that action,” while also bragging about the extent of his sexcapades and how he should get a Go Pro for the bedroom.
This entire album is a reflection of Kanye’s inner turmoil, and perhaps that is why it seems so erratic upon the first listen. It really does seems as if someone who was incredibly sleep deprived made this, perhaps a response to the birth of his son or just his general craziness. However, where other albums would falter as a result, this album succeeds. The production values of this album are otherworldly, and there are many tracks that I see becoming hits later (or at least getting regular plays at the Tick Tock). With that being said, I feel like I have to draw attention to how much Kanye has regressed lyrically. Comparing lyrics on Pablo to that of “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” make this inherently clear six years ago I highly doubt the man who wrote these lyrics of “Blame Game”:
“With so much of everything, how do we leave with nothing. Lack of visual empathy equates the meaning of L-O-V-E/ Hatred and attitude tear us entirely”
would have ever lowered himself to rhyming asshole with asshole in 2016. Despite that, there are songs on “The Life of Pablo” for every type of Kanye fan or just casual hip hop fans. From the soul sounds of “College Dropout,” to the auto tuned screeching of “808s” and “Heartbreaks,” to the futuristic lyrics of “Yeezus” the album sounds very good.
Overall, the album is chaotic, eccentric, and laced with narcissistic; undertones, but it is also a deep and amazing self-reflection piece. Like “Yeezus,” this album will most likely only be appreciated after multiple listens, but I would say it is one of Kanye’s better ones. While he has made it clear that he will never stop boasting on Twitter or give up promoting Kimoji and Tidal, after this album I think he has certainly earned a Kanye Rest.