Never, ever, in my entire life has there been an album that could possibly make all reviews useless. This review may prove to be useless because it appears The Life of Pablo isn’t an album, but a constantly curated playlist via Tidal. Well, Mr. West, I’m not superseding this review, I’m discussing what I’ve heard thus far.
I’d also like to warn the readers that I’ve been day-drinking on a Sunday, so all thoughts and opinions expressive are not shared with sober Ron and the rest of the Kids Wear Crowns crew. They are solely possessed by evil Ron who has had way too much whiskey + ginger beers today.
During the rollout of Yeezy Season 3, where Kanye introduced the public to his new Book of Eli clothing collection, he also premiered his “album”.
Then, it hit me. Holy crap, Kanye has absolutely no interest in being a rapper ever again. Here’s a guy having a fashion show and an album listening party simultaneously. Just a laptop and an aux cord. It all began with Yeezus, but Kanye has slowly been transforming himself into hip hop’s first legit rock star. This album doesn’t serve as a rap album because Kanye isn’t rapping himself, he’s providing instruction. He’s Quincy Jones making a ratchet “Secret Garden“. Like most Kanye albums, he shoots straight for the spectacle. This album contains a lot of big names and a few head-scratchers. Nonetheless, it’s quite impressive how he can put people in a room knowing good and damn well they have no business ever crossing paths, and bring out what they all do best.
The album booklet reads like opening credits of a Star Wars movie. There’s: Chance the Rapper, Mike Dean, Kirk Franklin, Plain Pat, Rick Rubin, Cyhi the Kid, Kelly Price, El Debarge, Kid Cudi, Kid Capri (joking, just making sure you’re still paying attention), Drake, Future, Low-fat/gluten free Future, Bhris Brown, Ty Dolla Levert, The Weeknd, The Weekday, Metro Boomin, Boi-1da, Kendrick, Madlib, 808 Mafia and wait…
Fam, is that Fonzworth Bentley!!?!!?!?!
Yes, Mr. Derek Watkins has a production credit on this album.
This leads right into the first major point about The Life of Pablo–this album is the culmination of everything Kanye has learned thus far. Although he’s crazier than a shithouse rat, what we could never question about Kanye is his skill for production. And no, not beat making alone, but dumping a lot of different puzzle pieces of sound on a table and putting them together to make harmony. He’s taken everything he’s learned from Jon Brion to Rick Rubin and put it into this album. Although I hated Yeezus (and still do FYI), I do admit that it had to happen in order for him to move forward creatively. That album was a 40 minute Kanye twitter rant. He wanted to yell at us all because he thought we weren’t listening. Well now that he has our attention, he’s telling us that he’s (relatively) ok. Life’s hectic, but the creative juices are flowing more than ever now.
This album sounds way more fun and triumphant than Yeezus. While they both took about the same amount of time to complete, I imagine that the former was a more exhausting album. This time around, he seems to be all smiles. You hear the gospel choruses about riding his “Ultra Light Beam” and you see the genuine joy on his face as he watches Chance the Rapper take over the stage. Even during the Yeezy season show, he seemed so excited to show this album off. This album takes a lot of different sounds because well, Kanye is in a lot of different places in his life right now. He’s surrounding himself with youth, and that’s where we get tracks like “Father Stretch My Hands”. He’s working into really kicking in the door of the fashion industry, that’s where we get songs like “Fade”. He’s becoming an old curmudgeony family man, that’s where we get tracks like “No More Parties in LA”.
The genre blending of this album kinda threw me for a loop initially. When you see a rapper say he received six beat cds from Madlib, you’re expecting a boom bap hip hop album. Well I had to take my hip hop lenses off to realize that Kanye constructed a pretty good pop album. I know, I know, this is the part where you say “How can this be considered pop with such a strong gospel influence?”
Well turn this track on and I guarantee you see 100 white guys dressed in skinny jeans and hi-top chucks appear out of nowhere and turn up at a level you’ve never seen before.
Nothing makes you want to turn up more than simply being happy to be alive. And to me, being appreciative of that is gospel. Gospel influences have been present in many different genres and Kanye sure does love to blend different sounds into his album.
I would like to think that’s the space Kanye’s currently in.
One of my favorite lines from the album comes from the previously mentioned “No More Parties in LA”:
I feel like Pablo when I’m working on my shoes
I feel like Pablo when I see me on the news
I feel like Pablo when I’m workin on my house
Tell em ‘party’s in here, we don’t need to go out’
For the first time ever, it’s quite apparent that music isn’t the number one priority in Kanye’s life now. Also why there have been so many different titles to this album. He’s doing different things daily. Surrounding himself with so many different people. There’s no one label you could apply to that. Well, except for the Life of Pablo. He’s a father, husband, fashion designer, desinger of exclusive spaceboots for Adidas. Not saying he’s not focused on music anymore, just saying this is an older, evolved Kanye.
While these different interests make for very fascinating album, there’s also times where it’s REALLY apparent he may not have time for music anymore. He literally takes a younger rapper’s song and just adds adlibs to them. He doesn’t have very many verses on this album. Actually, he doesn’t appear on this album very much at all. This album is basically Kanye La Familia, word to @CheesusSlice on that description. There’s time where this album will throw things at you that are totally unnecessary. There’s simply too much untrimmed fat on this album. A lot of songs aren’t needed at all.
In my opinion, this was the best tracklisting
Although transitions are jerky, they somehow they still work well within the framework of this album. Yet it sounds rushed and not as glossed over as previous albums. By all means, it totally was rushed. He was still laying vocals days before the release. It’s also too tied to current times to be an album that has longevity. Silver Surfer Interlude, really? That Wiz Khalifa “beef” literally just happened. Black Rob started dating Rob Kardashian like three weeks ago.
But that’s also the brilliance of this album. This album will serve as a Polaroid of Kanye’s mindstate in 2015-2016. Much like Yeezus did at the time. Same as My Dark Beautiful Twisted Fantasy. If you want to know what the hell Kanye was on in this time of his life, play this album. This is yet another chapter in the autobiography of Kanye West. A man with a beautiful, yet tormented mind.
So as Kanye works on his shoes, clothes, house and music, one can ask “Which Pablo is he?” The answer is all of them.
While this album isn’t essential listening, we will at least be able to dance to it for the unforeseen future.
Favorite tracks: “Ultralight Beam”, “Highlights”, “No More Parties in LA”