The curtain rises on The Life of Pablo like the sun on a Sunday morning as Kelly Price’s vocals serenade and transition us into Kanye’s hook on “Ultra Light Beam.” The background choir plays a heavy role in adding the spiritual touch onto this epic album. West recently commented that this was a “gospel” album and the first song exemplifies that notion, however did the rest of it?
Chance enters the song offering his quick and witty wordplay and bars. The organs begin to trail off, but not until Kirk Franklin gives his sermon on the track, which precludes the song post-choir.
TLOP feels like both a mixtape and the final piece of music that Kanye will ever release; he’s collaborated with a host of rappers and singers on this project, reclaiming his throne as the sampling master as the instrumentals on this album fuse together all the music from College Dropout to Yeezus.
Lyrically, West fell off as he is a clear example of how the artist thrives on pain. With his life reaching an unparalleled point of euphoria, the substance of his music has dwindled down to resurrecting moments and memories from his past along with the ones around him, like his wife’s claim to fame via a sex tape with Ray J, his mother’s unfortunate death, his father’s absence from his life, and the comments he made to Taylor Swift when he interrupted her speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.
The album follows a strict metaphor, as its name is The Life of Pablo, which could allude to a number of different characters named Pablo. One interpretation of the album or mixtape (whatever you want to call it) was that Kanye’s album title referenced Pablo Picasso, and that this album chronicled Kanye’s life as an artist, which is why we can sonically hear all elements from his previous albums.
“Father Stretch My Hands Part I and II” drew my attention, along with “Famous” and “Highlights” because the samples sounded relatable, like Future and Nina Simone. However, as a whole, this album did not have a cohesive sound to it.
This seemed like West’s exit from the music arena because it sounds like he threw songs, beats, lyrics, and samples together and expected people to listen and support his music because of his widely-recognized and popular name, and even though that is the case, this album is not at the level at which I have always enjoyed him.
I know I’m being harsh with this album review, but it’s only because Kanye West has a tremendous discography and legacy behind him, and this new Kanye doesn’t seem to be too interested in the concept of perfection like he was during My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy or his efforts to break the barriers of traditional rap and hip-hop like he did on 808s & Heartbreaks or Yeezus.
It seems that he put this out just as he is about to fully transition out of rapping and into the world of total creation with DONDA on his side. If this is his last album, then I am so happy to be here at a time where Kanye has surprised me yet again.
(Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Yeezy Season 3)