The Life of Pablo – Review


As one first lays eyes on the minimalistic and crude cover of Kanye West’s newest project The Life of Pablo, they will instantly find themselves trapped in the questioned posed by West on the album cover: “Which one?” Who exactly is the ‘Pablo’ that West is referencing? Is it renowned artist Picasso, feared drug lord Escobar, or perhaps the Apostle Paul whose name translates to Pablo in Spanish? Perhaps it is all three. Pablo did not come without its share of drama as after the official listening party at West’s Yeezy Season 3 Fashion show and album premiere at Madison Square Garden the album’s release was delayed by West multiple times as he was “perfecting” it. Whether or not it’s the final version: here’s what we think about the album.

Ultralight Beam (Scroll’s Choice Best Song) – Before the release of the album, West took to Twitter to categorize his newest work. “[It’s] a gospel album with a whole lot of cursing on it,” he described Pablo. This is more apparent in “Ultralight Beam” than any track on Pablo. Assisted by The-Dream, Kelly Price, Kirk Franklin, and Chance the Rapper, West opens Pablo in perhaps the most beautiful and meaningful fashion found in his entire catalog. The bulk of the beauty is arguably is provided by Chance’s the Rapper’s signature sloppy, yet focused flow; Ultralight Beam is worth a listen for the 22 year-old Chicago-based rapper’s additions alone.

Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1 – While “Ultralight Beam” provides Pablo’s most significant message, the second track “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” provides the most enticing production. It opens with a melodic soul sample that quickly transitions into one of the most creative trap beats that Metro Boomin has produced to date. Unfortunately, this brilliant soundtrack is accompanied by the less coherent lyrics of a more Yeezus-esque West that fail to live up to the expectations set by the album’s opener. However, the lack of lyrical content is easily overlooked as the underlying Metro Boomin track is quite distracting and pleasing to the ears.

Pt. 2 – “Pt. 2” is everything that “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” is not. West delivers a beat similar to the one found in the preceding track, along with more discernable and poetic lyrics. In addition to West’s short verses “Pt. 2” samples the track “Panda” by recent GOOD Music signee Desiigner, known for his Future-esque content and delivery.

I Love Kanye-  The 44-second freestyle by Kanye is as laughable as it is euphonic; everyone should enjoy the 14 bars spit a capella, each one ending in “Kanye”.

FML – “FML”, which features The Weeknd, continues the feeling set forth by “Waves”. More closely resembling the Weeknd’s style than that of West’s, Kanye feels like a guest on his track, rather than the creator. That’s a position he finds himself in on quite a few tracks on Pablo. However, for anyone who enjoys The Weeknd hooks and Yeezus style bars, “FML” provides a solid listening experience.

Real Friends – As the second single from Pablo and the first of West’s recent GOOD Friday series on Soundcloud, “Real Friends” set the internet on fire. Many self-proclaimed “old Kanye” fans took to Twitter in awe to say the rapper might be back for another round of fantastic lyrical delivery. “Real Friends” is undeniably one of the more emotional tracks on Pablo. Over a dreamy beat, West dives into his personal life and speaks on the many ways fame has estranged him from his extended family.

Wolves – “Wolves” is one of two songs of the album that differs significantly from its original release. The original version of the track included features from Vic Mensa as well as the talented Sia. Their verses, however, have been replaced by an additional verse of rapping from West. “Wolves” is one of few the tracks on Pablo that has very clear religious undertones as West raps about Mary, Joseph, and immaculate conception. The internet was sent into an uproar when it was revealed at the Season 3 event that the song would be closed with achey vocals by the recently the elusive Frank Ocean. “Life is precious, we found out. We found out,” Ocean belts. West is currently withholding Pablo from widespread release in order to “fix Wolves”. It is anticipated that Mensa and Sia will be added into the track once again.

No More Parties in LA– Originally recorded in 2010 during the studio recording of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye teams up with Kendrick Lamar in a song describing the lifestyle of the mega-rich.

Facts (Charlie Heat Version) – Released on the first day of 2016, Ye’s Nike diss track seemed to be a perfect fit for SoundCloud and was generally speculated to not appear on Kanye’s seventh studio album; However, a remixed version of the song was included. The original instrumental, almost identical to that of “Jumpman,” was replaced with a new, more thumping one. The spinoff is filled with a visceral flow and ad-libs that resemble West’s many rants, and make for an bumping, head-bobbing track. Celebrating the overwhelming success of the Adidas Yeezy Boosts, Kanye makes various claims about Nike, including that they “gave LeBron a billi not to run away,” “treat employees just like slaves,” and that they “wouldn’t have nothin’” without Drake. “Acts of Kanye” are seemingly splattered onto a lyric sheet, with mentions of the alleged $20K dropped on a coat for his 2-year old daughter, the success of his wife’s Kimoji’s app and aspirations of building hotels.

Pablo feels just as sporatic and chaotic as its Twitter top-trending and Tidal rage-inducing release. The album appears hasty, and is in stark contrast to the methodical, precise My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy or the consistently-themed Yeezus. Its more modern production is reminiscent of that of Yeezus’s, yet Pablo is all over the place and differs from Yeezus in that its mood is not homogeneous throughout the album. While older 2000’s Kanye fans may be turned off by the album’s less traditional production, they are sure to enjoy Kanye’s inclusion of skits and freestyles. The 18-song tracklist is rejuvenating for previously disconnected fans who “miss the old Kanye,” while it may be frustrating to modern listeners who enjoyed the cleanness of Yeezus’s ten or MBDTF’s thirteen-song tracklist. It is near-impossible to guess where The Life of Pablo will rank on a list of Kanye’s greatest albums, and even more challenging to tell how it will be remembered. Let’s wait for the dust to settle.

Not Listed: Famous, Feedback, Lowlights, Highlights, Freestyle 4,Waves, Silver Surfer Intermission, 30 Hours, Fade