Album Review: The Life of Pablo

Infamous rapper and producer, Kanye West, has finally released a new album after three years of silence. The Life of Pablo follows up his very polarizing 2013 project, Yeezus, a record that galvanized hardcore Kanye fans while simultaneously turning off a great number of listeners who miss Kanye West’s College Dropout era.

Leading up to the release of the album, Kanye dropped two singles, which reference his recent writer’s block. It suggested to fans that there was a return to form forthcoming with The Life of Pablo, possibly sounding more like Kanye’s earlier work. However, all bets were off completely as the final weeks leading up to the release date saw Kanye drastically change the title of the record as well as the track-list and cover art. The final product that we are left with is just as chaotic and unpredictable as the days leading up to the release of the project.

When you listen to this record all the way through, you will hear sporadic features, abrasive sound changes, and an overall impression that Kanye couldn’t decide what direction he wanted to take his project. This record will rush you from one sound, one idea, one tune to the next, creating an overall confusing sonic experience. It feels like Kanye didn’t give himself enough time to flesh out a full record and the creative process saw him taking risks by leaving tracks unfinished. This record is all over the place stylistically, emotionally, and quality-wise as well.

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However, fans are going to love this project for its flaws just like how they love Kanye himself for his flaws. The way that his baggage and public persona play out in this record really depends on what track you listen to. Sometimes Yeezy is able to connect to the listener emotionally in deep and powerful Gospel and old school hip-hop inspired moments, but there are also tracks where his ego and narcissism create ridiculous lyrics that leave listeners wondering why he would sink so low.

In my eyes, this record is an artistic failure but a commercial success. It is an artistic failure because enjoying The Life of Pablo the whole way through is simply a difficult task. Also, when you know an artist is not producing to their fullest potential it’s upsetting for fans. He failed to live up to his potential on this record which is evident especially on tracks like “Famous” and “30 Hours”. This record, however, is a commercial success because Kanye was able to put out a number of songs that are stand alone amazing tracks. The songs, which I highly recommend for a listen, include: “Ultralight Beam”, “Real Friends”, “No More Parties in LA”, and “Fade”. Kanye’s fans will cling to these songs and use them as a justification for the weaker moments on The Life of Pablo like the uninspired lyricism and weirdly self-indulgent skit tracks that serve no real purpose. I think we should take this record for the mediocre half finished album that it is but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the handful of great songs that “rock the boat, work the middle until they hurt a little”.

- Nicholas Blasiak

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