Kanye West has confounded his audience since the beginning of his career. From his comments on President Bush, marrying into the Kardashian clan, and his erratic Twitter presence these last few weeks have all contributed to illustrate an image of a man who speaks his mind no matter what the consequence.
Now, after months of hype and mystery, Ye has has finally dropped The Life of Pablo. Ultralight Beams opens the album with Kanye praying for Paris, praying for the parents. Behind him a gospel choir echoes his prayers, along with a swirling church organ. Chance the Rapper steals the song here, delivering the verse of his life. On Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 Ye delivers the raunchiest, dirtiest opening verse on the album all while lamenting his father’s work ethic and hoping to not repeat the mistakes his father made. The track Low Lights features a woman professing her faith in the Lord driven by a pulsing bass beat every few seconds, segueing into Highlights where Young Thug warbles and croons along with West about the whole Ray J thing, how the Kardashians are the new Jacksons, and the equinox. The song Famous might be known for that infamous line on Taylor, but it also features the most infectious bridge on the album. A sample of Sister Nancy’s “Bam Bam” that bounces and sways the track blissfully. Feedback blares with dissonant feedback from a mic and Ye trashes his haters and proclaims his return to the game.
There are two freestyles here. One set to a sample of some haunting strings where Kanye rants feverishly on sex in the middle of a Vogue party. The other is a tongue-in-cheek rap on how Kanye misses the old Kanye. FML is sombre and he muses on his role as a husband and father featuring a hook by The Weeknd. The song gets even more interesting after Kanye’s second verse where the song breaks down into a heavy and murky bass guitar with whispery vocals reminiscent of some spooked out late 70s Fleetwood Mac. On Wolves, Kanye explores his fears and relates his family to the biblical story of Mary and Joseph. The version of Wolves here has Sia and Vic Mensa’s contributions removed and features an outro by Frank Ocean. 30 Hours, No More Parties in LA, and Facts had all been released on Soundcloud prior to the album. 30 Hours is beautiful and mysterious, it also has a few minutes of Ye throwing on adlibs and Andre 3000 sings a part of the hook. No More Parties hasn’t changed much from it’s original release; the production done by Madlib here is funky and refreshing and Kendrick swaps anecdotes with Ye on LA culture and the celebrity lifestyle. Life of Pablo finally comes to a close with a house beat and a gospel choir on the song Fade.
The Life of Pablo is a fragmentary album, littered with fresh ideas but, at times, it’s purpose can’t be felt. Although the gospel presence is here there doesn’t seem to be a central theme to the work. Each track changes and flows, as Kanye and his huge team of collaborators guide the frenetic mess. Lyrically, Kanye doesn’t really hold up and some of the most memorable lines are delivered by the features here. He is more of the orchestrator here, making the vision and look of the album his own. The Life of Pablo feels alive and captures Kanye’s current state of mind like his previous albums successfully have. If there is one thing we can all appreciate about Ye is that his audience will always get an unfiltered, raw and authentic image of him. I’ve gotten tired of angry Kanye, anyway. I’m ready for crazy Kanye.