The Life of Pablo is the seventh solo studio album from controversial rapper Kanye West. This is his first project since Yeezus, which dropped in 2013. Overall, it’s a very busy album, as we see shades of the old Kanye, as well as his newer, darker style of production, all with a mix of auto tune, which makes it one that cannot be neglected.
The album opens up with Ultralight Beam, which features Chance the Rapper, R&B sensations The Dream and Kelly Price, as well as Gospel singer Kirk Franklin. Essentially, this song represents Kanye’s faith in God. The song features very religious type chants, a Gospel like characteristic, which is the genre he wanted this album to be categorized as and made his thoughts public tweeting, “This album is actually a Gospel album”. Whatever you say Kanye, whatever you say. The title of this song leaves fans wondering what it means, but there is a logical explanation to it. Saint Paul the Apostle was blinded by a light beam from heaven on his journey to Damascus to persecute the Christians.
In early January, West released two songs that would later be released on T.L.O.P- No More Parties in L.A. featuring Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar, as well as Real Friends featuring Ty Dolla $ign. N.M.P.I.L.A. is produced by legendary producer Madlib alongside West. It gives fans a taste of the old Kanye as the beat was composed of many samples including Stand Up and Shout About Love by Larry Graham (Drake’s father) as well as Mighty Healthy by Ghostface Killah. It also features a simple bass line in the background and a consistent three cord bass guitar riff at the end of every beat loop.
The Life of Pablo is undoubtedly Kanye’s masterpiece, but he didnt do it all by himself. As a matter of fact, 14 of the 18 tracks on the album are features including the Silver Surfer Intermission, which is a phone call between Max B, who is currently serving a 75-year sentence for various crimes and French Montana. The intermission is essentially Max B approving and endorsing the wave movement (he was set to name his album “Waves” before changing his mind yet again). The feature list is quite incredible, ranging from legends like Andre 3000, The Dream, Kelly Price and Kirk Franklin to up and coming as well as already established artists like Chris Brown, Young Thug, Post Malone, Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper just to name a few. Despite this incredible list, the best feature was from Frank Ocean, who sang for about 40 seconds at the end of Wolves. It sent shivers down my spine, considering we haven’t heard from Ocean since he released Channel Orange in 2012; not even a single.
On the production side of things, the album features many influential beat makers including Rick Rubin, Madlib, and Swizz Beats. Toronto native Boi-1da is listed as a primary producer on the album. Needless to say, Kanye himself did play an important role in terms of sampling and beat mastering. Overall, it took 19 producers, 20 co-producers and 11 engineers to create this masterpiece of an album.
Although there are hardly any faults with this album, these are a few things that could have been improved to make the album perfect.
First, Kanye uses too much auto tune. After listening for a while, it appears he was using auto tune to reach certain notes that he couldn’t hit with his own voice, which made sense. But really, the T-Pain era is over. Second, what a shame to call this a Gospel album. There’s undoubtedly some Gospel inspired elements in his music like choirs and he may have features from Kirk Franklin and Kelly Price, but just because you have two Gospel singers doesn’t make it a Gospel album. Especially if you hear a reoccurring use of curse words. Finally, we see a major contribution from featuring artists, as only four of the 18 songs on the album are solely Kanye. Seventy-five percent of the songs have features… that’s a lot. I’m beginning to wonder if he’s a rapper or if he’s becoming like DJ Khaled; the guy who brings artists together to make amazing songs and simply takes all the credit.
Overall, I love this album. It features the old Kanye sound with storytelling and lyricism, but also has something for the new generation of fans, giving them music more focused on production, leaving the lyrics to take the silver medal. We also see a more arrogant side of Kanye in this album; even more than in his previous albums.
Kanye plans to release another album this Summer and I am curious to see if he decides to stay on the path he’s on right now or if he’ll change lanes musically and maybe test another genre of music to mix with hip-hop.