By: Ben B.
Though this is not his best album, and is not equal to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo” is a gem full of the struggles of temptation. On February 14th, 2016, the album dropped, making it the first project by Kanye West in almost three years. It seems that everything about the album; from the name, to the release date, to the track list, to the features and even the album cover art was surrounded by controversy.
When Kanye West first announced this album was coming, the name attached to it was “So Help Me God”. Kanye then later changed it to “Swish”, and some time after that it was called “Waves”. Waves had the shortest lifespan out of any potential title, as it only lasted a week or two. When the name was announced there was so much backlash towards it that West went back and announced a new name. The name was announced as T.L.O.P., which later was confirmed to stand for the Life of Pablo.
Fans of Kanye had been waiting on a new album since June of 2013, when Kanye dropped the polarizing project Yeezus. Fans had been listening to promises after Kanye, who said that the album was set to release in 2014. In early 2015, three singles from Mr. West were released and fans were buzzing with speculation over release dates. However it took an additional year, but it is here and was worth the wait.
There has been much criticism over the lack of cohesiveness about the album. Critics complain about the lack of an overarching theme, and rebel in the idea that album is scrambled. This criticism has a point, as it does seem as if “Pablo” is just a collection of songs that Kanye just threw together on a project.
An example of this lack of cohesiveness can be exhibited in the very beginning of the album. The first song to be heard, “Ultralight Beam” is incredible, and is basically a gospel track in which Kanye reaffirms his faith in god, and Chance the Rapper drops the best verse of his career. It’s an amazing song.
The album immediately cuts to “Father Stretch My Hands”, in which the opening lines of Kanye’s first verse is a vivid description of him cheating on his wife with a model in New York City… While stylistically there is perhaps no cohesiveness between the two tracks, they show Kanye’s struggles with temptation of women while trying to be a religious family man.
But it isn’t just in the beginning. There is multiple times on the album that Kanye discusses the apparent possibility of him cheating on his wife, Kim Kardashian. The album cover features the very real question of “which one?” The question is in-between a picture of a random woman, and a wedding, which suggests the temptations of women and misogyny versus monogamy and a family.
While the songs do appear to be vastly different in style, and lyricism. However the criticism is unjustified when it comes to complaints of a lack of a theme. For those who have listened to the album fully, or even just seen the original album cover upon release, a theme becomes clear… This album is all about temptation.
The theme has been touched upon by Kanye before, however it has never been like this. In arguably Kanye’s best album and magnum opus, ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’, Ye addresses temptation and fame. This time he addresses temptation through not fame, but friends and family.
In terms of features and production, the album is amazing. In traditional Kanye albums, he handles the production and much of the vocals himself, however this is not the case here. The album has over 15 producers, and a grab bag of fresh new talent, and classic Yeezy contributors.
The classic producers include the likes of Swizz Beatz, Mike Dean, and Rick Rubin and the fresh faces are Metro Boomin, Southside, and Charlie Heat. And while it seems like all of the contributions made by the individual producers are just thrown together on tracks, they often gel nicely and help create an interestingly fresh Kanye sound.
Another criticism that is completely justified is the notion that Kanye allows the features to do the majority of the heavy lifting. This does seem to be true, but if this was to be the case at least Kanye picked some incredible features to do the work.
The features are incredibly diverse, and include Chance the Rapper, The Weeknd, Andre 3000, Kendrick Lamar, Ty Dolla $ign, Kid Cudi, Rihanna, Young Thug and Frank Ocean among many others. Even Post Malone shows up on the album, and, surprisingly, he actually delivers a pretty good verse on the song ‘Fade’.
There is some hope for fans that aren’t pleased, though. Fans who didn’t like ‘The Life of Pablo’ can look forward to later this year because Kanye has already announced that he has another project in store. If Yeezy is a man of his word, then look forward for Turbo Grafx 16, which is set to drop just in time for summer.