The Life Of Pablo is finally here, so the big question is — does it live up to all of Kanye’s hype?
Chicago-born rapper/producer/fashion designer/Beyonce stan/Taylor Swift arch-nemesis, Kanye West, has finally released his eighth studio album, the much anticipated follow up to 2013’s Yeezus, titled (at this moment), The Life of Pablo. From album-to-album, Kanye has proven himself as one of the most influential artists in recent history, reinventing himself upon each release and polarising hip hop fans, while still maintaining his signature unpredictability and sonically impeccable production.
Upon looking at the album cover of The Life Of Pablo, you may be taken aback. It genuinely looks like someone copy and pasted word art from Microsoft Word 2003, and Google image searched ‘old wedding’, and ‘phat ass’, but alas there is more to it than that. The repeated symmetry of the title, and the words ‘which/one’ are examples of cubism, a form of abstract art popularised by, you guessed it, Pablo Picasso. The words ‘which/one’ also carry some meaning behind them also, as there are three ‘Pablo’s’ referenced throughout the album; Pablo Picasso, who is representative of Kanye’s abstract artistic endeavours, be it through fashion, or music, Pablo Escobar, who may reference the villainous perspective that many people have of Kanye, and Apostle Pablo, a figure who travelled the world spreading the teachings of Christ, as well as writing many parts of the New Testament. As the listener, it is up to us to choose which Pablo we want to perceive Kanye as; the misunderstood, eccentric artist; the criminal, and inexcusable monster; or the man on a mission for the greater good, trying to spread his message anyway he can, in hopes of enlightening the world.
Standing at 18 tracks, this is Kanye’s longest release since Late Registration, however it remains questionable whether all 18 of these tracks should have made the cut. Tracks like ‘Fade’, and ‘Facts’ stick out of the track listing for all the wrong reasons, and there is definitely an overall lack of cohesion throughout the album. This point in particular may be the most jarring to devout West fans, as a strong, meticulous emphasis on tracklisting and play order had previously been a large part of Kanye’s projects, which is evidently not the case here. The songs are cohesive in small chunks; the first four tracks flow fluidly into one another, then the next three tracks will make sense together, and this pattern continues throughout the album’s entirety. There also seems to be an unfinished quality to the way some of the songs progress, in particular ‘Fade’, ‘Wolves’, and ‘FML’. By no means are these songs necessarily bad, but they just seem like they were not executed as well as the rest of the album. The filler songs toward the middle of this album are painfully obvious, bringing the overall quality of this album down, and it may have been prudent for Kanye to trim down the fat on this release.
In saying this, The Life of Pablo features some of the best production heard on a hip-hop/rap release in a long while, and from Kanye himself. The opening five tracks share a gospel-esque aesthetic in very open, breathing soundscapes, showcasing fantastic sounding production. Whereas Yeezus had instrumentals that were cluttered and hectic, the samples and beats in this album can be just as abrasive, but are stripped back, and slightly reserved at times, sounding like an amalgamation of 808s & Heartbreaks, Yeezus, and Graduation.