Yeezus is back! After one of the most hyped up releases of the last 12 months, Kanye West has returned to the scene with The Life Of Pablo, a massive album with eighteen tracks clocking in just under an hour, as well as whole slew of notable guests. After the abrasive Yeezus in 2013, it was hard to predict where West would go next. Pablo brings back some of Kanye’s classic elements that made him so notable and also incorporates his current form and mindset, some tracks even being a considerate view of who he is.
The album kicks off with the massive, slow moving giant of a prayer, ‘Ultralight Beam’ which boasts brooding synths and a giant gospel backing it. The song, while absolutely huge, is relatively minimalistic in its execution, its layers and constant introduction of new elements making it the monster it is. Both ‘FML’ featuring The Weeknd and ‘Real Friends’ with Ty Dolla $ign have a similarly simplistic instrumental that Kanye manipulates in such a way that makes them sound grand. ‘Ultralight Beam’ has more guests than any other song on the entire album, boasting features from Chance The Rapper, The-Dream, Kelly Price, and Kirk Franklin. The-Dream’s clean vocals in the first verse at a lot of color and emotion to the song that’s already a heavy hitter. All of the guest stars add something to the song that make it the album’s masterpiece.
This album isn’t all about the slow moving heartbreakers, though. The album mostly consists of wild, jammable tracks with these little bursts of emotion in between. ‘No More Parties In L.A.’ featuring Kendrick Lamar in particular is a very “get up and move” track, with a strong verse from Kendrick and a funky instrumental. ‘30 Hours’ with André 3000 also has a driving beat, as well as ‘Facts’, which is perhaps the thickest and heaviest track on the record. The latter track is riddled with thick synths and a cinematic and evil-sounding backing instrumental that will definitely blow some speakers live. ‘Fade’ with Post Malone and Ty Dolla $ign has another funky instrumental, making the ending of the album just as triumphant as its beginning. Sampling ruins some tracks, such as in ‘Waves’ with Chris Brown where it immediately starts off and its disjointed and awful. ‘Wolves’ which features Frank Ocean and Caroline Shaw (and, in its superior demo form, Sia) has an interesting elephant sample at the end of it which adds a lot of flavor to it.
Lyrically, Kanye is either hit or miss. Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what he’s rapping about, though it’s not necessarily easy to understand what he’s saying on a regular basis anyway. There are some heart touching moments such as those found on ‘Ultralight Beam’, but Kanye goes pretty hard throughout the album, such as on tracks like ‘Feedback’ and ‘Facts’ where Kanye fires shots left and right at specifics or the industry. There’s also that line on ‘Famous’ with Rihanna that has a certain line regarding Taylor Swift that’s a bit questionable. Kanye’s flow is overall pretty consistent and fresh in each song. Songs like ‘Freestyle 4′ are hard to grasp - it’s literally just him growling - but get by by having some strong moments. ‘Father Stretch My Hands’, which features Kid Cudi, is a stranger track, ‘Pt. II’ which boasts a spot with Desiigner of the song being much stronger albeit shorter. ‘I Love Kanye’ is literally a satire of himself, which is good to see - someone with such a serious persona can let go and make fun of himself. Always refreshing.
The Life Of Pablo is now Graduation or Late Registration. Nor is it a sequel to Yeezus. It is its own work of art that takes Kanye too a new level, showing his growth as an artist and even as a person. Some lesser moments on the album make this album fall short of being a masterpiece, and unfortunately when these moments happen they may completely ruin one song. But Kanye has proven he is still an authority in the music world, and even though he may be a dick in his own time, his music is pretty good.
Favorite Tracks: Ultralight Beam, Facts, Wolves, Real Friends
Least Favorite Tracks: Waves, Low Lights, Highlights