Kanye West‘s The Life of Pablo is like the album’s cover art: evocative and expressive yet terribly all over the place.
It’s understandable why West called this the “album of the life.” The 18-track project is like a collective sum of every album Yeezy ever released. It has the soul and electronica samples of The College Dropout, Late Registration and Graduation, Auto-Tune laden verses of 808s and Heartbreak, the epic grandeur of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and the layered experimental textures and flow of Yeezus.
With The Life of Pablo, the Chicago native seems to be at peak Kanye — for better and worse — as he pulls from his various personas. He even speaks on it in the very enjoyable freestyle track “I Love Kanye.”
“What if Kanye made a song, about Kanye? Called ‘I Miss The Old Kanye,’ / Man that would be so Kanye / That’s all it was Kanye / We still love Kanye / And I love you like Kanye loves Kanye,” he rhymes in the track.
“I Love Kanye” isn’t the only standout track on the album. As many fans and non-fans have pointed out, “Ultralight Beam” sets an evocative and inspiring tone, a musical home run. The track also features a dope verse from Chance the Rapper and a surprise feature from gospel superstar Kirk Franklin. “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” continues that vibe as he sings “I just wants to feel liberated” and continues with an apology — “if I ever instigated I’m sorry.” Afterwards, ‘Ye shows off his knack for bringing funny anecdotal stories to life through rhyme.
“If I just f—- this model and she just bleached her a–hole and I get bleach on my t-shirt, I’m gonna feel like an a–hole,” he rhymes. (He also does something similar in “Freestyle 4” as he proposes a perplexing question: “What if we f—– right now?”) Unfortunately it doesn’t continue in part two of the track as the album takes a left turn though with choppy Auto-Tune verses on the subsequent “Pt. 2.”
The controversial “Famous” also starts off promisingly with some notes from Rihanna before ‘Ye heads into his infamous rhyme about Taylor Swift. The jarring Swift line notwithstanding, it’s easy to see the track getting play in parties as listeners bop their collective heads. “Feedback” sounds like a lot of songs that have been released already. It’s not bad per se but for West, who always seemed to be ahead of the culture, it’s disheartening to hear him following a trend rather than setting it. The track does include the famous quotable: “name one genius who ain’t crazy.”
The feature-heavy album has a guest artist on just about every song, which often leaves ‘Ye’s awkward rhymes as the worst part of the The Life of Pablo.
But above all, The Life of Pablo is fun and amusing if you don’t take it too seriously. Tracks like “Fade” immediately make a listener want to dance while the Kendrick Lamar-featured “No More Parties in LA” and the Ty Dolla $ign-assisted “Real Friends” go for more of a “rappity-rap” style for the hip-hop heads.
What happens when Kanye West becomes aware of all that is Kanye West? You get The Life of Pablo. This album is an ode to narcissism in many ways, but for Kanye, that’s par for the course these days and not at all surprising. And while this is not West’s worst album, there is one thing that’s certain: the album cover is his worst yet.
‘Ye announced that the album will not be for sale but stay tuned in case anything changes. In the meantime, TIDAL subscribers can stream the album here.