After three long years, Mr. West is back. Kanye West released his newest album, The Life Of Pablo last weekend, and, in turn, broke the internet for an entire week. Casual fans and Hip-hop heads alike were going wild just prior to the album’s release, because the actual release date kept getting change, and Kanye was renaming tracks, renaming the album, and recording last-second tracks. Since the release, fans have been going full-throttle on an off-the-rails hype train that only the eccentric Mr. West could fuel. Kanye released his album ‘exclusively’ on Jay-Z’s new streaming service Tidal (it’s also available to stream on his website), and sign-ups for the site and downloads of the album flooded in immediately. I type ‘exclusively’ with quotations, because, as the week has gone on, multiple reports have come out stating that Kanye’s new album has been being illegal pirated at a ridiculous rate. Along with these reports, Kanye’s twitter has been an absolute rollercoaster (more so than usual), with Kanye making it known to the world that he is fifty-three million dollars in personal debt. He then followed this up by pleading to other millionaires, the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page, for donations in support of ‘Kanye West ideas’. Regardless, the mess of a release, the tirade of piracy, and Kanye’s inherent social media ridiculousness doesn’t change the truth.
Kanye West’s new album is great.
That’s what matters, right? The music? Yea, he says and does all these things, that people love, hate, or don’t care about, but in the end, Kanye knows how to make music. The Life Of Pablo touches base with the varying flavors of his past albums. It has gospel insets where Kanye’s flows seem reminiscent of The College Dropout, trance style rhythm’s the likes of 808’s and Heartbreak, and a few heavy hitting song’s similar to tracks from Yeezus and Watch The Throne. I, like many others, have been playing this record all week, and here are my thoughts, track by track.
1. Ultralight Beam – Score: 5/5
With Ultralight Beam being the first track of the album, I carried a certain expectation for it. I was ready for something heavy hitting, something similar to the bangers on Yeezus and Watch The Throne. I expected some trap-type song that would start out the album like, “HEY IM KANYE AND THIS IS MY NEW ALBUM WOOOOO”, but Ultralight Beam ended up being one of the calmest rap songs that I have ever heard. Kanye’s verses come across more like a prayer, he keeps a low tone, takes it slow, and is more so working his lines in with the chorus than actually rhyming lyrics. He delivers gospel-like lines such as, “Deliver us peace”, “Pray for Paris”, and repeats “This is a God dream”. The only aspect that makes it reasonable to considered this as a “rap” song is Chance The Rapper’s verse at the end of the song. He comes with his signature flow and blends it perfectly into the song’s overall tone. His world play is on point and he flawlessly incorporates in clever religious references without missing a beat.
Favorite Line: Know what God said when he made the first rainbow? Just throw this at the end if I’m too late for the intro. – Chance The Rapper
2. Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1 – Score: 5/5
This is another relatively calm song on the album, the intro leads in with a sample of Pastor T.L. Barrett before Kid Cudi cruises in with a pre-hook. On this track, Kanye reflects on meeting Kim and arguing with her. Which would ultimately be a rather sweet song, but he leads in with these lines about a model and bleach that kind of wakes you up with its vulgarity, especially since it comes right after such a calm hook. Kanye raps with just a hint of autotune, but the song’s overall rhythm and layers have it all rolling together smoothly. My main disappointment with this song was that just the sheer presence of Kid Cudi makes me want to here him have a verse, and I think he would have fit in perfectly to this fairly short song. It is still a great song, but lacks a little substance.
Favorite Line: Beautiful morning, you’re the sun in my morning babe. Nothing unwanted. -Kid Cudi
3. Pt. 2 – Score: 4/5
As soon as this song starts you can tell the albums turning into a different beast. With fast-paced claps and hi-hats, Pt.2 of Father Stretch My Hands rides out a higher bpm and more rap-song atmosphere, compared to the gospel undertones of the album’s first two songs. Kanye has some decent rhymes for the first time on the album, with his verse in this song talking about his father’s absenteeism and money issues from the market crash back in 1987. His verse also mentions his mother’s death and Kanye’s 2002 car accident (the one that spurred his Through The Wire track). Again, Kanye rhymes with just a hint of autotune that he could have definitely done without, but it was nice to finally hear Kanye come with some substantial lyrics. Desiigner’s verses on this track are my favorite part, because his thuggish tone mixed with the heavy beat turns the song into something to rock to. However, the last twenty-seconds kind of kills the vibe by cutting of the beat with a robotic bridge and then a screeching outro.
Favorite Line: Man I’m the macho like Randy, The choppa go Oscar for Grammy. – Desiigner
4. Famous – Score: 5/5
Famous is the first song on the track that feels like it’s all Kanye, rather than him taking a backseat to another rapper or rapping so minimally that the rapper on the hook overshadows him. Rihanna is an absolute talent, so it’s no surprise that her beautiful voice is great on the hook, and Swizz Beatz, on top of his raw ability to produce hits, is always a great choice as a hype-man. Kanye departs from his gospels and self-reflection rhymes, and moves onto rapping about sex, money, cars, and the general awesomeness of a rapper’s rich and famous lifestyle. This isn’t a bad thing of course, a good ol’ fashioned ‘I’m awesome’ rap song is sometimes just what you need. However, really listening to the song shows how Kanye’s lyrics are intended to separate himself from the exuberant ridiculousness of fame, and he works off of Rihanna’s contrasting hooks to reflect on that. Sister Nancy and Swizz Beats on the long outro actually work well with the overall song, as the outro maintains the upbeat tempo and rolls out smoothly. Overall, a reflective and feel-good song where Kanye displays his classic lyrics and flow.
Favorite Line: I be Puerto Rican day parade floatin’, That Benz Marina Del Rey coastin’. – Kanye West
5. Feedback – Score: 5/5
Ah, yes. Here it is, the “HEY IM KANYE AND THIS IS MY NEW ALBUM WOOOOO” song, and, surprisingly enough, it’s my favorite track on the album. Kanye starts off immediately with the hook, “Ayy, y’all heard about the good news? Y’all sleeping on me, huh? Had a good snooze?”. He touches all bases of his success, his money, his discography, his partnership with Jay-Z, and his genius mind, claiming that money doesn’t make him who he is and that he’s crazy but challenges listeners to name a genius who isn’t. The track title plays into the foundation of the beat, which is a resonant tone similar to that of microphone feedback. While that may sound horrible, Kanye made the track work great with it. Its beat, hook, lyrics, and overall flow make it a great song. It reminded me of Champion from the Graduation album mixed with Black Skinhead from Yeezus, and I loved every minute of it.
Favorite Line: Awesome, Steve Jobs mixed with Steve Austin. Rich slave in the fabric store picking cotton. – Kanye West
6. Low Lights – Score: N/A
Low Lights is essentially a two minute long declaration of love for God, accompanied by light piano chords and a subtle beat. After the high intensity of Feedback and the flashy subject matter of both of the last two track, this screeching halt back to the gospel theme of Kanye’s album comes as a bit of a surprise right in the middle of the record. Kanye claimed to have added this track for “all the moms driving they kids to school then going to work”. Regardless of how ill-fitting the track seems in this particular place on the album, it’s still rather moving, and isn’t like most skit-type tracks rappers tend to just throw on their albums.
7. Highlights – Score: 5/5
Kanye’s career long infatuation with all things light-related continues on TLOP. On this track, Kanye touches on all the highlights of his career, including his awards, his girl, and his status as a juggernaut in the rap genre. This ego-stroking song takes a different tone than Feedback did, and plays more like a celebration of life than a testimony of “YO, I’M BETTER THAN YOU AND THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT”. Kanye has always been a master of having humor in his rhymes without making the song corny or have it look like he’s trying too hard. This is sprinkled throughout the album, but Highlights has some of the best, even a line about Kim Kardashian’s infamous ex-boyfriend, Ray-J. Highlights also has a few hard change-ups to its beat and tempo, and they flow together perfectly, making this one of my favorite beats on the album.
Favorite Line: 21 Grammys, superstar family. We the new Jacksons, I’m all about that action. – Kanye West
8. Freestyle 4 – Score: 2/5
Freestyle 4 is my least favorite track on the album. First off, titling a song “Freestyle” makes me expect a fast-paced, cypher-esque, track filled with witty wordplay and rhymes. This song was not that. On a synth-heavy electronic beat, Kanye raps with a distorted voice about being on drugs and having sex. The whole thing just sounds like a mess. I appreciate the sentiment, but it’s just not a pleasant listen. Kanye’s great at making a track invoke emotion, whether it makes you reflect on yourself, nod your head, or just feel awesome, but this track just feels empty.
Favorite Line: Lil Boosie with the wipe down. A little woozy but I’m nice now. – Kanye West
9. I Love Kanye – Score: N/A
This song is perfect. Well actually, it isn’t really a song, as much as it is a display of how self-aware Kanye is about his public image. His rapping from a fan’s point of view is hilarious, explaining how he misses the old happy Kanye and hates the new rude Kanye. He’s just spot on. The majority of fans hate his public image and behavior, and would rather it not be such a gimmick that undermines his music to so many others. Kanye making light of the situation is priceless though, with the song being a meta show of ego, with him saying “Kanye” twenty-five times in just over a minute.
Favorite Line: What if Kanye made a song, about Kanye? Called “I Miss The Old Kanye,” man that would be so Kanye. – Kanye West
10. Waves – Score: 4/5
Waves is a high-spirited, upbeat, and overall great song. The beat is smooth and maintain a sort-of floating pace throughout the track. Chris Brown fits into the track well, singing more so than rapping, in a way that reminded me a lot of Bruno Mars on the Bad Meets Evil song Lighters. Kanye’s verses and tone set the song’s overall mood similar to that of Heartless from the 808’s & Heartbreak album, which is a good thing. Waves is another song on the album where the weight of the song falls more on the beat, hook, intro, and outro, rather than the core being Kanye’s verses, but it all comes together perfectly, never feeling empty or coming up short.
Favorite Line: Even when somebody go away, the feelings don’t really go away – Kanye West
11. FML – Score: 5/5
A noticeable trend on this album is that the collaborations on all the songs play into the tracks perfectly. The Weeknd is featured on FML, and he fits right into the song’s tone and theme. Actually, although Kanye commands all the verses, I would have believed that this was actually a track on The Weeknd’s album, because the song is so similar to songs like The Hills and In The Night from his Beauty Behind The Madness album. Kanye raps about his relationship with Kim, and his verses are on point, some of my favorite on the album actually, without a single line seeming like it was just a lazy way to fill a bar. His first verse carries an even and slow pace, building into an eventual hook followed by a dope drop of the beat, which then feeds into his heavy hitting and faster-paced second verse. The change of pace, The Weeknd’s feature, the trance-like vibe, and Kanye’s lyrics are packaged together nicely, making FML one of the album’s best songs.
Favorite Line: But I’mma have the last laugh in the end. Cause I’m from a tribe called check a hoe. Yeah, I’mma have to laugh Indian. – Kanye West
12. Real Friends – Score: 5/5
Real Friends made me realize that this album has a song for almost every mood, which is rarely done, let alone done well. The tone of Real Friends is sad, but in a way that invokes reflection on oneself, their friends, and their family. It’s relatable to Family Business in that way, but is more so about his personal business. Kanye vibes through his lines, with his emotion really coming through. That, combined with the calm beat and how relatable the lyrics are, makes it hard not to bob your head throughout the song.
Favorite Line: Who your real friends? We all came from the bottom. I’m always blamin’ you, but what’s sad, you not the problem. – Kanye West
13. Wolves Score: 5/5
Kanye kicks back to his gospel theme with Wolves, and his lyrics touch base on a variety of emotions. The beat is heavy, with long drawn out tones accompanied by an almost symphonic chanting that sets scene of being in an old, dimly lit church. This song has my favorite flow of the entire album. Kanye’s verses are so smooth you can really get lost in the song. Frank Ocean closes the song out really well too, calmly singing the outro to a comfortable close. I love this track, but Kanye stated on Twitter shortly after the album’s release that he was going to “fix” Wolves. I don’t really see what needs fixing, but he is the musical genius, not me.
Favorite Line: What if Mary was in the club, when she met Joseph around hella thugs? -Kanye West
14. Siiiiiiiiilver Surffffeeeeer Intermission – Score: N/A
Silver Surfer Intermissions is a skit track, a phone conversation between Max B and French Montana where Max B mentions Kanye at the very end. Compared to Low Lights, Silver Surfer Intermission is just a run of the mill rap album skit track. Nothing Special.
15. 30 Hours – Score: 4/5
As soon as this track begins you start rocking to it. Kanye’s verse picks up quick and immediately got me excited for the song. He slows it down when the full beat comes in, but his lyrics come with the classic Kanye delivery and style, where you can just picture him jamming in the studio. The Arthur Russell sampling mixes into 30 Hours seamlessly, and the whole ride through the song is smooth and calming. Kanye raps about how dedicated he was to a past relationship, only to have it fall apart on him. He keeps it vague enough so listeners can easily tweak the message to be relatable in their own way, which gives the song even more substance.
Favorite Line: My ex says she gave me the best years of her life. I saw a recent picture of her, I guess she was right. – Kanye West
16. No More Parties in LA – Score: 5/5
No More Parties in LA has become a crowd favorite, being heavily talked about and getting solid radio play. I can see why. A new Kanye West track featuring Kendrick Lamar? I was on board from the start, and this song does not disappoint. As I said earlier, all of this album’s featuring artist fit in perfectly to every track, including Kendrick on this one. Also, just like FML seemed like it could be The Weeknd’s song featuring Kanye, No More Parties in LA seems like it came straight off of Kendrick Lamar’s last album. I think this shows how good Kanye and his team are at choosing collaborations, and how Kanye can create so many different type of rap songs and have them all be great. Ultralight Beam, Feedback, FML, and No More Parties in LA all have such different themes, beats, and styles, and it is amazing that this album ties them all together so perfectly. Also, Kendrick’s been so hot lately and Kanye’s been so dormant that it was wild to see Kanye and Kendrick both kill it. Who had the better rhymes? I’d call it a tie.
Favorite Line: She said she came out here to find an A-list rapper. I said baby, spin that round and say the alphabet backwards. – Kendrick Lamar
17. Facts (Charlie Heat Version) – Score: 3/5
Facts is one of the few tracks without a feature on the album, but Kanye never has a problem carrying that weight. Overall, Facts seems like just a fun track, where Kanye brags about his Adidas shoe line and his overall success in general. Kanye’s lyrics sound like classic Kanye, but, since the track seems to play like such a brag party, they don’t carry much weight. The Nike v. Adidas trash talk just makes me laugh, and the fact that he does this all off of the foundation of Drake and Future’s Jumpman track makes it that much better. I’ll take any kind of rap beef, no matter how corporate or mild.
Favorite Line: I stuck to my roots, I’m like Jimmy Fallon. I ain’t dropped the album but the shoes went platinum. – Kanye West
18. Fade – Score: 5/5
I love this track, because it isn’t like any other song you’ll find on today’s rap albums. It carries this, 1960’s Harry Belafonte, 1970’s rock, and1980’s Motown vibe, all while still being easily recognizable as a Kanye track. This just goes to show that Kanye is still the master of sampling, and also making creative music, not just rap songs. There actually isn’t even really any rapping on this track, everything flows together like a collection of hooks and choruses, rather than playing out in a traditional rap song format.
Favorite Line: I’ma rock the boat, Work the middle ’til it hurt a little. – Kanye West
The beats, the features, the lyrics, and The Kanye can not be denied.
The Life Of Pablo: 4.5/5
So, what did you think of Kanye’s new album? Is it everything you wanted it to be, or is it a let down? Or, does his public persona turn you off completely? Let’s start a discussion in the comments down below!
Author: Alex McNeal
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