Album Review: The Life of Pablo, Kanye West
By Evan James
W/ Contributions From Connor Kirst
As Kanye West himself once said on Tyler, the Creator’s 2015 song “Smuckers,” “They say I’m crazy but that’s the best thing going for me.” If this statement is true, then The Life of Pablo should have been his greatest album to date, because the promotion of this album has been a year-long roller coaster ride that only sped up in the past two months.
After constantly changing the album’s name, revising track lists, changing the songs around, tweeting short bursts of nonsensical rants, and being vague on the album’s release, many fans are wondering if the album they have is even the final product. Whether it is or not, what was released this past Sunday (exclusively on Jay Z’s mess of a streaming service, Tidal), is a sound representation of this decade’s biggest musician going through a midlife crisis.
Many of the songs on the album show Kanye reflecting on his past relationships, romantic or otherwise. “30 Hours” talks about a friend with benefits he used to have, many songs pertaining to his marriage to Kim Kardashian and his two children, North and Saint, and even more about his mother, Donda, who passed away in 2007 from elective surgery.
The simplistic, heavy in reverb, piano ballad “FML,” a collaboration with popular R&B singer, the Weeknd deals with the media’s desire to see Kanye fail and be embarrassed, much like the buzzing “Feedback.” The somber “Wolves,” and a collaboration with Ty Dolla Sign called “Real Friends” are also an expression of West’s inability to trust people because everyone wants something from him. Seeing as this is just the tip of the iceberg, this is clearly a man with issues that run deep.
Sonically, this album continues Kanye’s trend of never making the same album twice. Working with producer Metro Boomin, a producer who has made beats for popular hip hop artists like Future, Drake, and Migos, gives the album a trap sound that’s just unique enough to not sound like what every other rapper is doing now.
Much like the modern day sequel to your favorite 80’s/90’s movie, the featured artists are almost better than the content itself. Frequent collaborators Kid Cudi, Rihanna, and Frank Ocean return, but so do newer artists like Desiigner, Kendrick Lamar, and the 23-year-old Chance the Rapper.
Born Chancelor Bennett, Chance the Rapper has what many consider to be the best verse on the album on the gospel influenced “Ultra Light Beams.” This song (along with “Highlights”) was played on Saturday Night Live this past weekend, when at the end, in an unintelligible mess, Kanye grabs the microphone and tells the audience the album was then out on his website and Tidal, a move he would later retract, announcing the album would never be for sale or streaming anywhere but Tidal.
The Tidal move worked, getting it to the number 1 spot on the Apple Store, but not for long. The service has been described as broken and problematic to put it nicely. Many fans are upset, especially with Kanye tweeting out he was $53 million in debt, and the album has allegedly been pirated over half a million times now. Due to Kanye’s erratic nature, even his most loyal fans can’t tell if he’s going to stick to his guns or not.
All controversy aside, this album is enjoyable and holds his own with anything else he’s ever released. If you can look past West’s ridiculousness, its undeniable. Kanye West is the truest definition of a rock star in 2016. Many may say that he has an ego, but if you listen to the music, he definitely backs it up.
Standout Tracks: Ultra Light Beams, Waves, FML