After several delays, name changes and additions to the track list, we finally get into the psyche of Kanye West. His seventh album, “The Life of Pablo,” is a testimony to his ego and an account of his ascent to hip-hop stardom.
In an interview he did with radio personality Big Boy, West claimed his latest album was a gospel album. While the album is not necessarily gospel, the opening track, “Ultralight Beam,” certainly is the closest the album gets to the genre. After all, the first words of the track are a sermon lifted from a Natalie is Great Instagram video.
The church-like feel is reminiscent of West’s “The College Dropout” days. Yet the features, especially the journey Chance the Rapper takes us on in his verse on the track, make it seem as though the track belonged on the critically acclaimed “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” That is the beauty of “The Life of Pablo” — each song is definitive of a distinct era in West’s musical career.
“Wolves” could have been on “808s & Heartbreak,” and “Freestyle 4” sounds like a “Yeezus” cut — every album is represented. This new era of Kanye is the all-encompassing era of Kanye. Sound wise, it is his entire discography in one package.
Lyrically, it is a complete and utter disappointment. Lyrics about having sex with Taylor Swift and making her famous, as well as ones saying that he and former Kim Kardashian-beau Ray J would have been friends if they had not loved the same woman, seem crass and very much unlike West. The lack of imagination on West’s part is surprising, seeing as he prides himself on his creativity.
While his creativity is lacking, his bravado is as present as ever. West calls out his critics for their many complaints of his pettiness in an a cappella freestyle called “I Love Kanye.” Later, West proclaims victory for Adidas in his Nike diss track “Facts,” after Adidas gave West a product line.
The album shines in its production. West, Mike Dean, Metro Boomin and several other star names had their hands all over the beats on “The Life of Pablo.” Metro Boomin stands out especially due to his beat for “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1.” A soulful sample of Pastor T.L. Barrett and an upbeat synth is uncharted territory for the usually heavy-handed producer, yet he does upbeat masterfully.
A large portion of the album included featured artists. Each of them pour out their soul for West. Newcomer Desiigner plays his part, as does rap legend Andre 3000.
Yet, some of West’s feature choices are questionable. When first performed on the “Saturday Night Live” 40th Anniversary Special, “Wolves” featured Vic Mensa and Sia. On the album, he got rid of both performers and added Frank Ocean.
Also, West originally cut “No More Parties in L.A.” from the album. The Kendrick Lamar-assisted song landed back on the track list right before the release of the album.
When utilized, each feature seems to speak for West similar to the way Dr. Dre uses his featured artists. West may not have the best lyrics, but he does not need to. His featured artists speak for him.
West’s best move with album, is perhaps his most controversial. “The Life of Pablo” is technically an unfinished album. A day after the release of the album, West tweeted out “Ima fix ‘Wolves.’”
Surely enough, a CD-quality version of “Wolves” was leaked onto the internet—this time with Vic Mensa and Sia’s verses intact. Chance the Rapper also leaked an alternate version of “Waves” on his Snapchat.
From “The College Dropout” to “Yeezus,” West has evolved. His seventh album shows that evolution in its crassness, beauty and ever-changing nature. “The Life of Pablo” is perhaps the most Kanye album Kanye West has ever put out.