Kanye West: “The Life Of Pablo” album review



Eddie Brancale

Kanye West is many things, but first and foremost he is an icon. Mr. West may not have the best personality, but there is no denying his impact on the rap game and pop music as a whole. 

Bursting onto the scene as an in-house producer for Def Jam Recordings, West made his impact after producing four tracks on Jay-Z’s “The Blueprint,” including the smash hit “Izzo (H.O.V.A).” But it wasn’t until 2004 that West entered the spotlight he so craved, as he released his debut album, “The College Dropout,” to critical acclaim. 

What followed was one of the most impressive collections of studio albums ever assembled. His sophomore album, “Late Registration,” incorporated a more soulful, beat-driven sound into Ye’s music, and it remains a favorite among fans. “Graduation” allowed Kanye to embrace pop music and appeal to a larger fan base, producing hits such as “Good Life” and “Stronger.” His next project, “808s and Heartbreak” deviated from the bravado of previous works, as West traded rapping for auto-tune crooning in the wake of his mother’s death and the end of his long-term relationship. “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” has proven to be his most acclaimed work, bringing together West’s luxurious lifestyle and top-notch songwriting ability. His most recent and divisive work, “Yeezus” rose and took the music world by storm, bringing Kanye even further away from his roots while incorporating electronic and drill music into his sound. 

Recently, West has tried his hand at the fashion industry, launching various clothing lines and the ever-popular (and expensive) Adidas Yeezy Boosts. On social media, he remains a polarizing presence. He shocked the Twitter world by engaging in a beef with rapper Wiz Khalifa, and re-ignited his feud with Taylor Swift after many found a lyric on his new album to be offensive. All of this set the stage for his seventh solo studio album, titled “The Life of Pablo.” The album’s title has fluctuated ever since West announced the album in 2015. From “So Help Me God” to “Swish” to “Waves,” West finally settled on “The Life of Pablo,” a reference to the biblical apostle Paul. 

Here, West is able to incorporate the best parts of his previous releases into one, showing he has not lost his touch. West is far past the point of caring what anyone thinks about his music, and creates a space to shine not only for himself, but for the multitude of guests on the album. While it may not be as lyrically potent as “MBDTF,” the production of the album is unprecedented, as West is able to create a mood and style that is all his own and that no one can reproduce. 

The rollout for “The Life of Pablo” was tumultuous, to say the least. Initially, the album slated for release on Feb. 11, but was pushed back until after West’s Saturday Night Live performance on the 14. Impatient fans rejoiced, and the follow-up to “Yeezus” was finally here. 

The album begins with “Ultralight Beam,” an epic soul track containing a monster verse from Chicago’s own Chance the Rapper, who is quickly becoming one of the biggest names in independent music. Chance’s playful, confident flow throws it back to “Late Registration”-era Kanye, as he seems more than ready to share the light with one of hip-hop’s all-time greats. On “Father Stretch My Hands,” West calls on frequent collaborator Kid Cudi to deliver a satisfying hook, as West raps about his mother’s death, his father’s struggles, and his own life-threatening car accident. “Feedback” finds West embracing the “Yeezus” vibe, as Kanye spits his flow over a harsh electronic production. 

The best part of the album, however, lies in its abundant features. The guests read out like a list of A-list musicians, as Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean, Chance the Rapper, The Weeknd, Andre 3000, Young Thug, Rihanna and Kid Cudi all make appearances. Each artist’s feature flows beautifully within the album, as their respective tracks match their own unique styles. Chance the Rapper shines on the soulful “Ultralight Beam,” while Young Thug makes his presence known on “High Lights,” which could be at track straight off one of his mixtapes, while also evoking the vocal tone of “808s.” “FML” features the Weeknd, and features lyrics pertaining to self-acceptance and self-destruction, subjects he is all too familiar with. Frank Ocean makes an appearance on “Wolves,” and his cryptic, passionate outro reflects the nature of the singer himself. The real showstopper is Lamar, who seems to always be at the top of his game, delivering a massive verse on “No More Parties in LA” reminiscent of his finest “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City” tracks. 

With a significant amount of show-stealing features, at times West appears to be a guest on his own album. Acting as a godfather of sorts to his guests, West allows them to enter his world and do what they do best. Lyrically, West appears to be declining somewhat in his ability to write bars. All of his rhymes are solid, but there the album lacks the lyrical depth of previous releases, save for his monster verse on “No More Parties in LA,” which throws it back to his glory days of the “Graduation” era. While this may be the least Kanye-heavy album lyrically, musically and production-wise, it is his best, proving he is one of the best showmen in the music industry. 

“The Life of Pablo” is a true Kanye West album, as it will no doubt have its supporters and detractors. There is no denying, however, the depth of Kanye’s musical prowess. It should be said that no one can make an album like this. West appears to have transcended his role as a rapper, and has been reborn as a modern composer of some sort, crafting intricate melodies and lyrics into an unforgettable album. Love him or hate him, Kanye West isn’t going anywhere, so we might as well just enjoy the crazy ride. 

Rating: 5/5 stars

Best tracks: 

1.“Ultralight Beam (featuring Chance the Rapper, The-Dream, Kirk Franklin, and Kelly Price)”

2.“High Lights (featuring Young Thug and The-Dream)”

3.“No More Parties in LA (featuring Kendrick Lamar)”