After much delay, speculation, and Kanye-like controversy, we finally got The Life of Pablo, or #TLOP as it was introduced. As his 7th solo studio album Kanye is no stranger to the creative process that goes into making a fluid and satisfying project. The man has gone platinum each time before this so, I guess you can say it’s damn near expected. Okay, it is. Greatness is expected from Mr. West whether he likes it or not. I talked a lot with my friends and being the stan that I am, it’s safe to say that Kanye delivered. It’s like all the other Kanyes we’ve experienced in the past came together at a roundtable discussion and each gave a piece of their soul to create a work of art with no parallels. Kanye literally drew inspiration from himself in order to create. Sadly, it looks like Kanye got too much of Kanye and, well, let’s just say he’s going through right now. He has so much angst, confusion, anger, and even happiness and love pent up inside it just erupts out of him in twitter rants, SNL breakdowns, and weird public appearances. Anyways, much love to my man Kanye, and many thanks for this amazing project. He gave us exactly what he said he would: a sonic painting. Every song has such a clear motif and purpose if you really sit down and listen, the imagery is so vivid that you create your own experience. Not to mention we get bits and pieces of old and new Ye throughout. So let’s walk down #TLOP lane! So this is what I came up with like 100 listens later..
#1 ULTRA LIGHT BEAMS ft. Kelly Price, The Dream, Chance The Rapper, and Kirk Franklin
So the album’s opening was grandiose to say the least. Ye himself said that his new album was “basically a gospel album with a bunch of curse words.” The gospel feel is very evident, with a powerful sample of a young girl preaching cosigned by her loving mother to kick us off to some new Kanye. We get a beautiful chorus sampled in the back drop, accented by a basic yet fortifying bass beat. Now the most talked and tweeted about aspect of this track is that MONSTER Chance verse. I mean he referenced everything to his ex, his baby daughter (who we can’t see), his knack for not charging for his music, the show Martin, and his loyalty for those close to him. Chance goes with his signature unorthodox flow that dabbles between rapping and singing and even takes a couple of things from Kanye’s arsenal. First he does so by interpolating Kanye’s verse from Otis:
“I made Jesus Walks, I’m never going to hell.”
“I made Sunday Candy, I’m never going to hell. I met Kanye West, I’m never going to fail.”
Chance gives ode to his idol and feels invincible working with him. I mean, who wouldn’t? Chance later tributes Ye again with his “Let’s do a good ass job with Chance three…” and “This little light of mine, Glory be to God, yeah…” In the first line Chance refers to the “Good Ass Job” album from Kanye we never got. To me it’s sort of like Chance is taking the torch from Kanye and letting him know that the revolution is now falling on his own hands and that Kanye can step back whenever he’s ready. With all that Ye is dealing with internally I’m sure leaving the game in Chance’s hands wouldn’t be a problem. Chance is doing something new and innovative. He took this notion that labels are evil and charging for albums are a crime. He pokes fun at the Music Academy with “I hear you gotta sell it to snatch the Grammy. Let’s make it so free and the bars so hard that there ain’t one gosh darn part you can’t tweet…” Right before the Grammy line he refers to himself as Tubman of the underground. Here he charges himself with leading this free music revolution. Did we just forget the smooth and striking, Surf? That compilation was very formidable and they released it on iTunes for free. Enough about Chance! We know he is great and he is going to continue to kill the game one free bar at a time. Also, thank you Chance for adding your very own personal annotations to Rap Genius!
The other stunning and, possibly one of the most moving verses from the album, is Kelly Price’s verse on the very same track. I know I’m working a little backwards but, my GOD. This verse was so powerful and bone chilling. In an interview with billboard, Price said “I could hear people crying in the background after I sent the track back over.” Well Queen Kelly, I was too. I felt her voice pierce my soul. It was simply moving, and the fact that she said she “..just sang from the heart after feeling the beat.” Thank you Fonzworth Bentley for bringing this collaboration to light. Sprinkled by transition verses by The Dream, and a closing excerpt by gospel legend Kirk Franklin, Ultra Light Beams is THE intro to all intros that is Kanye. It gives us a fresh look at a new Kanye we are still getting used to.
#2 Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1 ft. Kid Cudi
Next we have a beautiful, long overdue reunion, by two of the most creative voices of our times. Ye calls on his ex-G.O.O.D Music signee, original black hipster himself, Scott Mescudi, a.k.a Kid Cudi. Cudi, fresh of his release of the erratic and stunning ode to punk rock Speeding Bullet to Heaven, lends his vocals to Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1. The simple cadence Cudi repeats captures the essence of the song, and captures so much happiness in so few words:
“Beautiful Morning, you’re the sun in my morning babe. Nothing Unwanted.”
This song is so important because of the elements is combines to make such a beautiful sound. It combines a Metro Boomin’ beat, with Cudi vocals, and Kanye style. This could have been the best song on the album, but I believe Ye had something different in mind. He added that semi relatable verse about fucking a model and bleach in her asshole, which kind of devalued the song a bit in my opinion. The song is about love and cherishing your loved ones despite what they put you through. In the verse he basically feels like if he cheats he’s going to feel bad, and after the fighting he will still love his wife/significant other. Pretty easy to grasp once you listen over a couple of times right? He could’ve done so much more with pt.1 but he had other plans for the album. And we all know Ye, he creates with a purpose and that purpose was to have other songs be more meaningful than this one. It’s safe to say this is a mix of Old Ye and New Ye.
#3 (Father Stretch My Hands) Pt. 2 ft. Desiigner a.k.a NOT FUTURE
Now on Pt.2. While Pt.1 was about loving your significant other, here he pays tribute to his father. In his verse he reflects on his father’s actions hoping he doesn’t do those things as a father as well. Here we also get an introduction to the newest G.O.O.D music member, Desiigner. Yes, many thought this was Future, it being talked about still. But, unfortunately it wasn’t Future, so we can take a breath from all this Future hype. Desiigner, is a rapper from Brooklyn, whom Kanye actually signed on 2.11 the release date of TLOP. Desiigner released his single “Panda” on December 20th, 2015. That was his only traction and two months later, he’s with G.O.O.D. Music. Crazy right? His debut mixtape is due out at the end of the month, so we’ll see what he really is about soon. Oh, and he’s only 18.
#4 Famous ft. Rihanna and Swizz Beats
Moving on, we get (standard at this point) another controversy track with Famous. Yes it has my man Swizz Beats, and vocals from Rihanna, who’s newest album is great and should be listened BTW, but of course Kanye has to be Kanye. He immediately states him and Taylor (Swift) might have sex because he made her famous. Whewwww. I’ll take this as either an innocent joke at himself and her, or he really doesn’t give a damn anymore. Not that he ever really did right? Regardless, this sparked #TLOP’s first bit of controversy calling him the typical names of arrogant, asshole, misogynist, yeah the list goes on. Anyways, the song isn’t necessarily about Taylor Swift, but about Ye’s relationship with fame. He mentions the Taylor Swift incident because it was talked about and replayed so much, its almost an incident that sparked his fame? Possibly, but he did go through YEARS of scrutiny. In his MTV Video Vanguard acceptance speech Kanye reminisced on “Getting boo’d at baseball games…” and getting hated because of it. Well, he’s over it. This track is stating he doesn’t care if he’s good famous or bad famous because he straight up doesn’t need fame to do what he wants to do. Which is create. I also want to shout out the sample breakdown towards the end with Sister Nancy’s “Bam Bam/” SO DOPE. This is definitely a showing of #MBDTF Ye.
The next track, Feedback, is Kanye’s statement that he’s back to music. He references how he’s still a “Chicago Southsider,” and is still successful. He basically tries the whole rap game with the hook as well! I mean..
“Ya’ll sleeping on me, huh? Had a good snooze? Wake up, nigga, wake up. We bout to get this paper.”
This tells me that yeah we all thought the musical Kanye was done for, then he blessed us with #TLOP. This is definitely shades of the Yeezus Kanye.
#6 Low Lights and #7 Highlights
Low Lights to me is like a prelude to Highlights. In the skit there is a woman is talking about her daily struggles as a woman/mother. Even though it gets hard though, she knows that God will have her back and push her through day in and day out. Kanye even tweeted on V-day that “I put Lowlight on my album just thinking about all the moms driving they kids to school then going to work…” He misses his mom of course, but hey who wouldn’t from time to time. Again we see Ye pouring his own life into his art.
On Highlights Ye shouts out himself, in very familiar Ye fashion. He shades Ray-J, his wife’s ex. He also proclaims his Christianity again, name drops Farrakhan and his Fruit of Islam, and reminds us of his 21 Grammys. I mean we all know Ye is great, but sometimes he just has to remind us right? This song also has a nice variety of features with Young Thug, El Debarge, and The Dream. I mean this feature list is something only Kanye could pull off in my opinion. Nonetheless, this to me sounded a bit like Graduation Ye didn’t it?
#8 Freestyle 4
Alright, probably the biggest Yeezus-like track on here is Freestyle 4. I had to listen to this song more than a couple of times before fully getting what’s going on here. I’m not going to lie, at first listen it seems like Ye got drunk and did some molly, snorted some coke, and got in the booth. Then I thought about it again, and thought hmmm…why not? Or at least why not at least create that notion. This song is Ye’s consciousness when he’s LIT. Man. So not only is he relating to people and their religion, their love and family relationships, but their lit state of minds as well! How many of you all have gone back and thought about what you were thinking when you were inebriated? If you have you probably think to yourself “OMG I was buggin.” Seriously though, the human brain under the influence of drugs and alcohol make people think and do some off the wall things. Here in this song Ye is talking to himself about his heightened libido when he’s high. The first half of the song he’s confused, then he’s horny. As an Uber driver by night, I encounter tons of horny and confused people , so Ye is hitting on the nail with this one. Now I can’t say for sure if Kanye is actually messed up when he recorded it, but he is capturing the essence of it for damn sure. We all know drugs have served as a catalyst for art for many people. Here Ye uses it to facilitate a conversation with two parts of his being. Crazy to see it that way right? Oh, and let’s not forget the Desiigner aka I Can’t Believe This Isn’t Future verse at the end of it all. Freestyle was one of those tracks that had to grow on me but it did. I appreciate it for what it is, and as a lover of Yeezus I couldn’t help it.
#9 I Love Kanye
I had a conversation with two of my best friends the other day. I started off with “Kanye knows what he’s doing.” He isn’t always sporadically just lashing out, at least when it comes to music. Like I mentioned before he wanted to put certain emphasis on certain songs. Pt. 1 could’ve been the best song on the album with some serious lyrics, and a little more thought. Now when it comes to “I Love Kanye” by Kanye, produced by Kanye, I see a couple of purposes with this track. He’s unapologetically speaking to all his fans. He knows he how he used to be and he knows how he is now. He is conscious of his actions and like he said in his 2013 Kimmel interview; “So you’re gonna love me or you’re gonna hate me, but I’m gonna be me.” He is expressing his appreciation to that group of fans who admire the “Old” Kanye. The mid 2000’s Kanye that wore the pink polos and the backpacks. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I can pop in The College Dropout or Late Registration at any moment and vibe but would he still be the Kanye we know today if he never made 808’s, MBDTF, or Yeezus? No. Kanye isn’t Kanye without the EVOLUTION of Kanye. In his In Camera: Live interview he told us that 808s and Yeezus were his greatest works. This is very contrasting to the one million times someone has said their favorite Ye album is literally any but the two he mentioned. My personal favorite is Late Registration, but I understand the importance of 808’s and Yeezus very clearly actually. So although this is just a 44 second a Capella track on an epic album, it speaks miles about his evolution as an artist and person. He wants his fans to understand that throughout all the personal struggles and growth he still loves his fans no matter what version of him they love back.
#10 Waves ft. Chris Brown and sort of Kid Cudi
Now on to Waves. The alleged reason we had to wait a few days to get the CDQ version of TLOP. I for one was most excited to hear this song because Chance “fought for it” to be on the album. I’m assuming Ye wanted to make this the headlining track since at one point the album was going to be called WAVES. Per Ye standards, he did what he wanted and changed the title again, etc. You know the deal. So the track itself was good, solid track. Solid message and metaphor. A little scientific fact, when waves crash they always come back, essentially. So what we get here is a metaphor of waves to feelings. No matter how long removed someone is from your life they will always trigger some type of feelings if they were important to you. This doesn’t necessarily apply to a significant other, but family too. So the waves of feelings could also be applied to the late Donda West, Ye’s beloved mother. Much like when someone loses a loved one, certain things always remind you of them, etc. So yeah, “Waves don’t die.” Like Chris Brown said. So yes we got blessed with a Kanye, Chris Brown, and Kid Cudi combo. It was a little underwhelming due to the lack of bars (much like the whole album) but a solid solid track. I see why Chance fought so hard. This track was his baby. I’m glad it wasn’t cut, but did it HAVE to hold up the album? Who knows.
#11 FML ft. The Weeknd
Moving on, let’s backtrack to The Weeknd’s springboard 2015 album Beauty Behind the Madness where we heard Tell Your Friends, an amazing track produced by Kanye himself. That’s where this track’s history comes from. When I first heard the Weeknd almost 5 years ago his different sound was something that made me ponder about collabs he could do. I knew what he could do with Drake and he also ventured into the trap sound with Juicy J and Future. But I didn’t know what to expect from both of them actually on a track. Tell Your Friends was great, but we didn’t hear both artists on it. So the following year we get FML. Now in our world we think FML means fuck my life right? Ye starts the song off:
“ I been waiting for minute. FOR MY LADY. So I can’t jeopardize for one of these hoes.”
So yeah it doesn’t necessarily mean fuck my life, does it? But in the hook, The Weeknd sings;
“They wish I would go ahead and fuck my life up, can’t let them get to me. And even though I always fuck my life up. Only I can mention me.”
So, we have ourselves a little play on words here! The song goes into the sometimes troublesome aspect of a relationship that involves temptation and dealing with internal struggles while being in one. Something the Weeknd talks about all too much in his music. Ye even mentions his struggle with depression and his run in with Lexapro, an anti-depressant. So in a fluid river of music, Ye tells us how he manages himself for the sake of his relationship, so he can make it work. In addition he reflects on how the media criticized his relationship. “They don’t wanna see me love you.” So in essence the duo is also telling everyone else to fuck off while they do themselves. They can be with whoever they want to be and they can love whoever they want to love, and if in the off chance they do fuck up in life or in their relationships it’s their business and no one else’s.
#12 Real Friends ft. Ty Dolla $ign
Real Friends reeled in so many “Old” Kanye fans it was crazy. So many tweets when Kim dropped the G.O.O.D Friday tweet and the internet went crazy.
“Old Kanye back.” “Yaaas thiss that good Kanye!!” “This that gold digger, slow jamz Kanye! Whew!”
After some heavy eye rolling and scrolling down my TL, I took a gander at this rebirth of G.O.O.D Fridays. Yes solid track, for sure. I, for one, am a big Ty Dolla $ign supporter. So hearing his voice and Kanye’s on the same track was a good feeling for me as a fan of music. Although not very relatable to my life in the way they commented on friendship, I have experienced “that friend who only hits you when you need something,” or that ‘fake friend.” All these complex and fragile friendships have entered and exited our lives at least once. We’ve all had that awkward moment where we realize “Yeah, I don’t fuck with them anymore.” So even though he’s talking about some more celebrity type problems, the essence of them can be relatable to many people. So yeah another taste of Graduation Kanye never hurt anyone did it?
#13 Wolves ft. Vic Mensa, Sia, and Frank Ocean all at some point
So Wolves is a little hard to do. I didn’t know which version to really analyze, so I’ll do a sort of umbrella overlapping of both. So anyone that knows me knows I don’t really like slower music because it bores me easily. But because of that sometimes I overlook the complexity of these slower songs with probably simplistic beats, but deeper meaning and lyrics. So Wolves was just a normal beat, with a distorted wolf howl, but after listening to the lyrics I was like a hah! So both versions did their own thing. Yeah we never got a CDQ of wolves till after the album, so the first CDQ version was just Kanye…AND FRANK FUCKING OCEAN. Where the hell has he been, and how fatally inconsiderate can he be to just promise an album LAST JULY? HOW FRANK, TELL US!? Any who as a Ocean supporter as well, I was pleased to hear his voice. But the final version of Wolves was damn near perfections. He needs to combine all the guest verses and his verses to make possibly the best song on the album. I mean C’MON YE. This song talks about fears, and not thinking you’re good enough for someone, and just self shame. All topics we can relate too, or at least I can. The possibility of us being eaten alive by the bullshit around us can be very frightening, and those are the Wolves can eat you. So mind blown when I heard the latest CDQ version. So again Kanye thought, hmm can Wolves be the greatest track on this album…nah not today.
#14 Silver Surfer Intermission
Wavy baby. Keep it loopy son. ←- That’s the gist of the Silver Surfer Intermission. It’s proof that Ye was blessed to be “Wavy” by the Waves Originator himself, Max B. Funny story, French Montana told XXL that Ye didn’t not know who Max B was lol. This was also a friendly middle finger to Wiz Khalifa.
#15 30 Hours sort of ft. Andre 3000
Yeah after finding out Drake was a writing credit on this I had high expectations. The song is solid. It can definitely fit on The College Dropout or Late Registration. Very classic Kanye. Also, after the whole album of melodic flows of music and underwhelming bars we transition to the last part of the album where, besides, the last track, we actually have Kanye rapping lyrics. I like the story behind it. The only thing? The annoying adlib part. I guess Kanye tried to awkwardly be mid 2000’s Ye again. That’s all fun and dandy, but how are going to declare you won’t put your album on Apple, but CLEARLY an iPhone rings on the track when “Gabe” calls. C’mon Ye. Thank you for the dope song, but don’t be contradictory! Normal I know, let me stop complaining. Some more things on the track though. So, Andre 3000 getting a feature for saying two words is borderline funny, but also borderline WTF. Imagine this song with a 3k verse? Again, potential to be the best song but nah. Lastly, I do love that “Whoop him after school just to show I got class.” Call it corny, but I like it. Cheers to 2000’s sound though.
#16 No More Parties in LA ft. Grammy Winner Kendrick Lamar
Alright, the biggest reminder or the “Old Kanye” fans won’t let go is No More Parties in L.A. The most bar heavy son on the album delivers. I understand why he left it off MBDTF. I was talking to my boy the other day and he said that the Madlib beat does a little too much, like too much is going on. I feel where he is coming from a bit. It’s like 4 songs in one right? I also think the substance is a little lacking it’s just about being rich, and leaving behind the hectic celebrity life. I do appreciate the bars on here though. Kendrick spazzed on the 20 second preview we got when Real Friends dropped, so hearing his whole verse I wasn’t surprised. Afterwards Ye went in for like 4 minutes. Good to see he can still rap a little!
If you haven’t figured by now I am a huge Kanye stan. I appreciate what he has done for music, fashion (sort of), and most importantly, culture. But this track right here? Yeah it was bold, but after doing research, right after the Metro version dropped first thing, I found that Ye leaving did nothing for Nike. They are still boomin, Under Armour is super boomin (thanks Chef Curry), and Adidas is just….straight. After the song dropped Complex dropped Christmas numbers, and they kind of made Kanye looked dumb. Yes Yeezys are dope, they were sought out heavily throughout 2015, but I mean at the end of the day Jordan’s and LeBron’s shoes were too. We all get he’s still salty at Nike, but I think this is one fight you should sit out of Ye, seriously. Keep doing what you do, but leave Nike alone they are simply not worried about you Ye. As for the song, the lyrics were very spur of the moment, he did some recent references that at first listen made me go ok he’s funny. Over all just a hype song, props to Ye for crediting Drake and Future for basically taking the song and making it his, which is all he really did. Changing the beat didn’t do much for it either. Sorry Charlie Heat.
#18 Fade ft. Ty Dolla $ign and Post Malone
One last song. Fade, the most jiggy sounding shit on here. Yeah we get like half a verse from Ye but I really like this beat. Like I mentioned before, I will always prefer an upbeat tempo versus a slow one. I know a lot of people have their shit to talk about Post Malone, and that’s ok. But this dude is out here. White Iverson was like a song you heard everywhere and you can’t even front. He showed his appreciation for Ye on his official Genius annotations, “…Ye was like ‘ lets make something ‘ so we did.” I love that Kanye is putting on people. It0’s what I talked about before the album came out. He wants to spread the creativity. Yeah the song lacks substance, and any overwhelming lyrics to be the finale to the album, but here we remember what The Life of Pablo is, a sonic painting. It’s a collection of sounds that evoke different feelings and emotions, all being guided by West himself. I love the song and couldn’t stop playing it when I heard it, just because of the jiggy ass beat. My boy J. Varina said it sounds like the opening song for like a Sega Genesis game. Who cares, the song is friggin jiggy even though it shouldn’t have been the last song on the album.
SO now that that is out the way, I just want to say thank you to whoever is reading this. This is my first official album review. I listened to this damn album like 100 times over since it came out. At first listen I was like OMG this is like perfect, but as I went back and picked things out, it still was amazing but different. I appreciate the imagery in each song, the unorthodox formats, and the assortment of production and features. I am not going to lie I expected more, but it isn’t the end of the world if our expectations aren’t met. The music still speaks to me, and i can appreciate the painting the album paints. I could’ve done without the dramatics leading up to it, but it got everyone listening. I do wonder why we heard no Jay-Z, Pusha, Big Sean, or John Legend/Common. Actually, thinking about it, it’s probably because he wants to be this guide for newer artists, and I don’t mind it all. Kanye is out here living life as a breathing functioning SOCIAL ID . At the end of the day celebrities are people too and they are entitled to do as they please like the rest of us humans right?
I really wrote down all my feelings song per song. So If you appreciate it thank you, if you don’t who cares. I did this for me and my fellow Kanye stans. We understand that it isn’t the easiest thing to be a Ye fan these days. So hang in there guys, as of Wednesday we will be getting a new project from Yeezy in the summer so le’ts hope he’s taking note of what people are saying and he brings some heat in the summer. My man Big Ghostface said is best in his review, “This is the most Ye has complied with his fans…he added tracks when we complained…he added tracks we wanted…etc. “ Overall I give TLOP a solid 8.5 out of 10. I think this is fair especially coming from a less harsh Ye critic, and someone he doesn’t just listen to rap and hip-hop. I am a fan of art and a fan of music and that’s what Ye gave us.
Thanks for listening.
Under-promising and over-delivering,