“The Life of Pablo” by Kanye West was released as West’s seventh studio album on Feb. 14. The album itself fights cohesion wherever possible, reflecting West’s confused creative process. Angry Kanye, Publicity Stunt Kanye, “Sweet” Kanye and even the elusive Emotionally Intimate Kanye are constantly fighting for creative control. This struggle the artist faces to reveal intimate details by compensating with a misogynistic, angry, attention-seeking persona is put at the forefront of this album. The beats and overall vocals are excellent at points, but this confusion is largely present in West’s lyricism; the lyrics themselves are particularly weak in comparison to his past work. The sound of “The Life of Pablo” even alludes to “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” at many points, but fails to live up to the sharpness West displayed in that album’s bordering-on-genius lyricism.
West himself proclaimed “The Life of Pablo” as gospel album. At some points, West does in fact achieve this goal. The opening track “Ultralight Beam” discusses his Christian faith. It opens with a particularly eye-opening sample of little girl Samoria Green preaching against the devil and for God. While the track itself is catchy and largely positive, with some impressive vocals from West, it is Chance the Rapper’s verse that really owns the track. Chance brings in an excited vibe, almost like a kid version of Kanye himself. West goes so far as to compare himself to the biblical Joseph and Kim Kardashian to Mary in the track “Wolves.” West continues to mention his faith in “Father Stretch My Hands Pt.1” and “Pt. 2,” discussing his struggle with balancing fame, materialism and his faith and even referencing the death of his mother. Here, Kanye finally gives intimate details of his life among all the flashes of fame.
Immediately after giving listeners a brief look at the raw emotions going through his head, West dons his publicity mask once again with “Famous,” inciting controversy in the lines, “I feel like me and Taylor may still have sex/ Why? I made that bitch famous.” The track itself is quite catchy with Rihanna bringing her star power and a killer hook. However, these lines seem to be West’s desperate plea to maintain unnecessary publicity and a false image compared to certain glimpses we get into his mind.
West seems obsessed with former and current relationships with women in many tracks, such as referencing former girlfriend Amber Rose as well as rekindling a feud with Wiz Khalifa. He often mentions his current relationship with Kim Kardashian, and his often intense need to bring up women seems to be a result of wanting to maintain a former image despite being married. West actually realizes this about himself in the song “FML,” a song about “fucking” his old life. One of the first lines is actually “For my lady,” providing an alternate meaning on the title.
Lyrically and musically, West delivers his most powerful rap verse in the track “No More Parties in LA,” along with rapper Kendrick Lamar. West delivers amazing and introspective lines reminiscent of the lyricism in “Yeezus” and “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”: “a 38-year-old 8-year-old”; “When I get on my Steve Jobs, somebody gon’ get fired/ I was uninspired since Lauryn Hill retired” and “My psychiatrist got kids that I inspired/ First song they played for me was ‘bout their friend that just died/ Textin’ and drivin’ down Mulholland Drive.” Many lines in the album show a vastly different West from his early career. West holds a legacy in hip-hop and rap for changing the industry and inspiring new talent.
“The Life of Pablo” is not a technical masterpiece, but it is a vastly different work than we’ve seen from Kanye before. It is extremely disorganized but contains enticing vocals and raw tracks along with continued experimentation. He does not play it safe with any of these tracks, and many stand far above the rest. “The Life of Pablo” is definitely worth a listen to get you inside the head of the “mad genius.”