Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Fair Shake Review: The Life of Pablo

The Life of Pablo - Kanye West
(Genre: Rap/Hip Hop/Experimental Rap)

"What if Kanye made song about Kanye called 'I Miss the Old Kanye'? Man, that'd be so Kanye! That's what it was Kanye. We still love Kanye. And I love you like Kanye loves Kanye!" This quote from the album sort of sums my feelings on Mr. West. I've been a Kanye West fan from his start as a rising rapper with "Through the Wire". I dug him throughout his college series and even loved his emotional switch with "808's & Heartbreak". "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" was a grower on me and everything after that has been hit and miss. As an artist, I appreciate his attempts to expand his art, but I can't stand when it hinders his lyrical prowess. Surprisingly, I felt that happened with the collaborative effort "Watch the Throne" and especially "Yeezus". He's been able to have good featured verses here and there which still gave me hope with this ever-changing album.

This ever turbulent quality of Kanye's music career is the very definition of The Life of Pablo. The production side of the project truly mixes everything that Kanye has dabbled with before: boom bap sampled rap, current trap infused hip hop, & experimental beats. On the lyrical point of view, there are glimpses of his clever flows and wordplay, but far more groan-worthy punchlines. Therefore, what you get is a product that is, for the most part, sonically pleasing to the open-minded, but terrible to the trained ear. This will be, without a doubt, one of those divisive albums of the year.

From here on, I must be much more subjective than I've already presented when breaking down the "themes" of Pablo. Going into listening to the album, I had in mind what Kanye has tweeting to describe what he was crafting. Many people feel the Pablo in the title refers to Picasso, since in interviews West has compared himself to among other historical/influential figures. Yet, Kanye actually has tweeted to debunk that line of thinking by explaining Pablo is Paul from the Bible. Later, he explained that TLOP is supposed to be a gospel album. Hence, when I pressed play to hear "Ultralight Beam", I began to take his word for it as it is a song dedicated to God. Once "Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1 & 2" came in, I tried to my best to fit them in the theme by possibly attributing the bad things Kanye West gets involved with to the sins Paul committed as Saul before he believed in Jesus. It was stretching in my mind already, but I was ready to drop it completely as soon as I heard "Famous" & "Feedback". Next, I'm hit with the possible return to the theme with "Low Lights" and I'm inclined to believe "Highlights" is his celebration of his supposed blessings. "Freestyle 4" thoroughly made me give up trying to connect an overall theme on the album, though. So when I was treated to the interlude that is "I Love Kanye", I almost agreed with the song's initial sentiment until the closing statements I quoted at the beginning of this review. Following that, I just took everything by a song by song basis since, to me, there's no real concept to the project.

There are some good songs, some duds, and then just moments that spoil great songs. This created an okay album in my opinion. I will exit this with some gems like "Real Friends", "30 Hours", & "No More Parties in LA" as well as decent tracks like "Ultralight Beam", "Highlights", "Famous", and "Feedback". The rest are songs that I have to block out parts that ruin the vibe or just wish it was written better, for example "FML", "Wolves", "Pt. 1 & 2", & "Fade". To be honest, I find that I return to this album quite often because, from a production standpoint, I'm kept engaged throughout with a couple song skips which is an easy deletion from the queue on Tidal. I agree with a thought mentioned in a review that I'll link below that this is what "Yeezus" could have sounded like: Weird & Listenable. In conclusion, I would advise everyone to give it at least a listen to see if it works for you. Though, I like to support artists, I don't blame you if don't listen through the "only means" being Tidal. But "So Help Me God", that's just the "Waves". "SWISH"!

Related Recommendations:
"I Love Kanye" on SNL (Well, kind of...)
Smuckers by Tyler the Creator feat. Kanye West & Lil Wayne (A recent feature verse that I liked)
Us Placers by Child Rebel Soldier (Who wishes they'd make a full project?)
City of Stars by Logic (Reminds me of Kanye)
Get Up by Clipping. (Good Experimental Rap)

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