By Wes Clary
Artist: Kanye West
Album: The Life of Pablo
Release Date: February 14, 2016
Kanye West is a man that needs no introduction. His new album The Life of Pablo is out after keeping the public waiting in the dark for over a year. Before its release, The Life of Pablo went through numerous tweaks and changes. The album at first was titled So Help Me God, proceeded by SWISH and Waves. The track listing also went through various changes all the way up until the very day of release. With every one of his releases, Kanye seems to follow a specific theme or idea. His first three records followed a college theme, 808’s and Heartbreak highlighted his emotions after the passing of his mother and the most recent Yeezus incorporated minimalist production and was very anti-mainstream.
Kanye has chosen the gospel/church theme for The Life of Pablo. “Ultralight Beam” sets the tone immediately. A very slow soulful track that has a gospel church choir singing the chorus, “I’m tryna keep my faith, but I’m looking for more”. Kanye never seems to come up short when it comes to expressing his personal demons. The tracks come quickly with most of the songs not breaking the three and a half minute mark. Some of the colorful production is reminiscent to 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Pablo has glimpses of Dark Fantasy in tracks like “Pt. 2” and “Waves” where the production is very extravagant and majestic. Kanye will then immediately go the opposite direction with stripped down, very minimal production on the tracks “Feedback” and the closer, “Fade”. This combination is a good example of how abstract and different Pablo is compared to any of his other releases.
Despite his ever changing themes, Kanye always has his signature moments. On the track “Real Friends” Kanye depicts his struggles with his relationships with friends and family: “Real friends/ how many of us/ how many jealous”. His braggadocios ego stands out on the track “FACTS”: “I’ve been trending years/ y’all a couple days”. The chorus on “Famous”, West calls out Taylor Swift and claims that it was himself that made her famous.
Kanye has brought together quite a large supporting cast for this release. Among some of the producers credited include Rick Rubin, Madlib, Swizz Beatz and Hudson Mohawke. Kendrick Lamar delivers a stellar guest verse on “No More Parties in L.A” and Chicago MC, Chance the Rapper, also shines on “Ultralight Beam”. Rihanna, Frank Ocean, and The Weeknd also make appearances but it is Yeezus himself who is in complete control. Perhaps Kanye was referring to Pablo Picasso when titling Pablo. Being abstract, scattered, and colorful, the album plays out to reflect a modern day Picasso painting.
Without any radio friendly singles, we can assume this is the direction Kanye will be going for in the future. Kanye over the years has become a household name and he is at the point in his career where he can afford to take risks. He has already practiced his mainstream abandonment with Yeezus and it seems to be working out just fine for him.
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