Arts

Just Like the Artist, Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo” Shocks and Surprises

West’s 7th Studio Album is Just as Bizarre as His Recent Tweeting Spree

By Clifford Michel

As The-Dream and Kirk Franklin crooned over gorgeous gospel vocals and Chance The Rapper rapped his—as always with Chance—lyrically challenging verse to the audience at 30 Rockefeller Plaza to those who gathered to watch the cast of Saturday Night Live; many began to think: “Oh, my, God…Kanye West’s actually going to do it.”

“It” meaning the making of another Hip-Hop classic and critically album where West pushes the boundaries of production; this time in the face of a wide range of scrutiny fueled by the star’s Twitter feed.

A Twitter feed filled with so many bombastic statements in recent weeks that Kanye’s proclamation that Bill Cosby was “innocent” was relatively swept under the rug.

But then the SNL performance ended and Kanye got up—he was lying on the floor for a brief period—and uttered a bizarre stream of phrases:

“Album in stores. KanyeWest.com right now. Tidal, streaming right now. Araaghhhhhhhhhhhhhh.”

The beautiful performance followed by the bizarre and completely unprompted turn off that is West’s stream of consciousness is more or less an encapsulation of “The Life of Pablo.”

West’s seventh studio album doesn’t come with a steady production style such as his famously sampled soul beats most prominently featured in “College Dropout,” or the blues-like way he used auto tune in “808s and Heartbreaks,” or even the sonically assaultive and experimental sound of “Yeezus.”

This project is simply all over the place. Not just in production, but stylistically, emotionally, and even quality wise (which is especially surprising, considering that the artist once ripped apart an entire album and redid the beats from scratch with legendary producer Rick Rubin over the course of four days, resulting in “Yeezus”).

But Kanye West fans will love this project for the same reason they love Kanye West: for his flaws.

His flaws range from his narcissism and privilege to his stubbornness and “I want to have my cake and eat it too” attitude.

All of these have made West controversial, perhaps even hated, amongst the mainstream public.

Throughout tracks in “The Life of Pablo” beautiful production is often rivaled by cringe worthy lyrics that give the most hardened gang-banger a run for their money.

This unfortunate choice of verbiage happens entirely in the second track of the album, “Father Stretch My Hands,” where a bombastic banger-esque beat paired off with pleasant vocals from Kid Cudi arethen immediately followed with Kanye singing about a model he’s about to have sex with.

In this situation the model bleached her bum and West sings of his concerns of getting bleach on his tee shirt, which would in turn make him feel like an “asshole”.

Riveting.

Many tracks have a version of this problem, such as the would-have-been-guaranteed-hit “Famous.”

Rihanna’s vocals hit the mark as well as contributes a perfect beat, which changes in the second half of the song, giving it much more texture and nuance than your standard radio hit.

But because of the now infamous line “For all my Southside niggas that know me best / I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that bitch famous (God damn).”

T-Swift blasted Kanye at the Grammy’s after winning album of the year in February, calling the rapper out for misogyny; all due to a throwaway line.

In the track “Freestyle 4,” West repeatedly and frighteningly screams “What if we fucked right now?”

While several tracks on the album are hit and miss, Kanye does come through on many tracks in this sporadic record. He gives the listener a rollercoaster like experience that changes themes, ideas, and melodies in as little as half a song.

It’s Kanye’s world and you’re just there for the ride.

The track “Real Friends,” incorporates a slow and steady beat, which gives West much needed breathing room to contemplate his shortcomings as a companion and gives an earnest, frustrated portrayal of the difficulties of balancing fame and “keeping it real.”

“30 Hours” and “No More Parties in L.A.” are more on the funky side and unravel West as a person, which, despite the Twitter fodder and drama, still remains fun, listenable, and even surprising at times.

The twisted vocals and sinister beat on “FML” literally causes goosebumps, especially as the Weeknd’s verse kicks in. It is by far the most complete and listenable track on the album.

Typical braggadocios Kanye paired with—and this cannot be understated—beautifully diverse and overall fun beats, pop up all over this records. From “Facts” to the “I Love Kanye” freestyle.

“Feedback” tops all of these as Ye boasts “Ayy, y’all heard about the good news?/ Y’all sleeping on me, huh? Had a good snooze?”

Concluding the verse, saying “Wake up, nigga, wake up.”

Well, we did. For better or worse, we’re awake.

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