Kanye West is. . . well if you ask him: the greatest. There is no denying Kanye West’s impact on pop culture as a whole and there is no denying his force in the music industry. We all just wish he didn’t try to reinforce that into our brains every day of our lives. He is what he is though. . . for whatever that’s worth. To criticize his accomplishments because of his abrasive personality is tempting but it wouldn’t be fair. This is Kanye’s first album since 2013 and it was supposed to be named “Swish” and then it was supposed to be named “Waves” and for some reason he decided to go with “The Life of Pablo.”
Right off the bat, the good news about “The Life of Pablo” is that it didn’t include the two boring tracks with Paul McCartney and it also doesn’t include the lack-luster “All Day.” Thank, God. And that’s who Kanye seems to be thanking for the majority of the album, God. Not Yeezus, but the actual God. On “Ultralight Beam” which features The Dream, Kelly Price and Chance the Rapper, Kanye confesses his appreciation for the higher power and does so in his broken down singing, which could’ve honestly been assisted with some kind of vocal plug in during the recording session. Chance the Rapper gives a good verse, almost blatantly stealing Kanye’s flow but it’s kind of out of place on this track.
Rihanna is featured on the hook for “Famous” and the track is everything you’d hope it would be. Swizz Beatz plays the hype-man role to a Kanye who isn’t saying anything quotable per-say, but his energy is in a good place and even shows the pettiness we kind of love him for by taking an uncouth shot at Taylor Swift. The song has a nice break with Sista Nancy and Swizz Beatz but it’s followed by the song’s outro instead of going back to the hook which is where all the listener’s would beg for it to go back to.
For fans of the “Yeezus” album (that’s like all ten of us), “Feedback” has that same raw and stripped feeling with Kanye finally getting back to his bragging ways: “I know I know, I shouldn’t even bother/With all these gossiping, no p*ssy getting bloggers/Fashion show in Gotham, I need another costume/PETA’s mad cause I made a jacket out of possum/Awesome, Steve Jobs mixed with Steve Austin/Rich slave in the fabric store picking cotton.”
Kanye dusted off El Debarge and threw him on the hook for “Highlights” in which West throws more jabs at folks: “I bet me and Ray J would be friends/If we ain’t love the same b*tch/Yeah, he might have hit it first/Only problem is I’m rich.” Explaining the reasoning for those lyrics to his wife at night must’ve been a fun conversation. . .
“Real Friends” is an easy listen with Kanye (along with Ty Dolla $ign) explaining Ye’s relationships with friends and family in respect to his fortune and fame. The back and forth between Kanye and Ty is an interesting look at an actual conversation between the two sides of the coin. “Fade” is one of the better tracks on the album and it isn’t anything close to hip hop. “Fade” is a break into smooth house music, and it’s definitely the type of song Kanye wants to see used in fashion shows, because that’s the other industry he’s tapped into. The bass guitar and repetition works well with each other and it’s a song that one can easily see being remixed by house and techno DJ’s in the industry.
“No More Parties in LA” is a snoozer track which features Kendrick Lamar. Both men are spitting aimlessly in their verses and Kanye at points doesn’t even try to stay on beat. There are times on this album, like on “30 Hours” where the actual track sounds like a “practice track” where Kanye is just trying to catch a flow. It’s an embarrassment to himself and a discredit to his fans.
If you noticed, there hasn’t been much spoken about production and that’s because that’s what’s most disappointing with the album. We can at times forgive a lack-luster verse from Kanye or stomach his verbal “over-glorification” for the sake of great production – but he falls flat this time around. As mentioned previously with “Famous” there are just points in the album when he has the listener all about the ride he’s taking you on and then decides to take a sudden left turn and drop you off in the wrong neighborhood.
It says a lot when one of the best tracks is an acapella, forty-five second long interlude with Kanye just saying his name to rap every line. . . seriously, it’s clever but. . .
For an album that’s been nearly three years in the making and has brought itself the hype that comes with a Kanye West album, the final product seems incomplete. It seems Kanye wants to flash his “genius” around, without understanding a simple rule to life and at times art: sometimes less, is more.
Rating: 5 out of 10